February 14, 2013

Study: Social Mediation Contributes to Successful Slum Relocation Projects

Highlights

  • Study by RTI International found social mediation could offer a successful approach to implementing slum relocation programs
  • The paper describes the effective use of social mediation in a slum relocation project in Morocco
  • Social mediation enables residents’ participation and engaging them in conflict resolution during the relocation

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RTI implementing social mediation in a slum relocation project in Morocco
RTI implementing social mediation in a slum relocation project in Morocco

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – As urbanization continues to drive up the value of available land in cities, social mediation could offer a successful approach to implementing slum relocation programs around the world, according to a study by researchers from RTI International.

The study, published in the February issue of Cities, discusses two common slum relocation approaches and describes the effective use of social mediation in a slum relocation project in Morocco.

In recent years, slum relocation projects have typically relied on one of two approaches: authoritarian, a top-down approach that prioritizes engineering and urban planning goals over residents; and empowerment, which includes residents in all aspects of the relocation process.

According to the authors, social mediation occupies a middle ground between the two by enabling residents’ participation and engaging them in conflict resolution during the relocation. 

“Social mediation directly acknowledges power relations, which are often ignored in relocation plans and development projects,” said Christian Arandel, a senior municipal management specialist at RTI and co-author of the paper. “Authoritarian approaches assume that control rightfully rests with the state, while empowerment efforts often fail to recognize that strengthening the role of residents challenges existing power relations.”

The study illustrates the potential of social mediation through a case study of the Ennakhil slum relocation project, which took place in Morocco between 2006 and 2008. The project involved moving 5,200 individuals (approximately 1,000 families) from their homes in Ennakhil to a nearby apartment complex. 

A critical aspect of the social mediation approach is creating opportunities for dialogue between residents and the local agencies involved in the relocation. 

The relocation plan recognized and accounted for the fact that residents had no influence over certain aspects of the project, but encouraged them to have a voice in others. For example, while the location and size of the new apartments had been pre-determined, residents were able to negotiate equitable prices and ensure housing rights for family members.

The authors note that two years after the relocation project was completed, the apartments and common spaces were well tended, co-owners associations were active, and loan payments were being made regularly. These signs, they said, indicate that residents had adapted well to their new location. 

“This case shows that the social mediation approach has clear advantages over authoritarian approaches, and is also better suited than the empowerment approach for projects that, like involuntary resettlement, inherently generate conflict and limit the opportunities for disadvantaged groups to control decisions,” said Anna Wetterberg, social science research analyst at RTI and co-author of the paper.