The development of federations of urban poor dwellers for settlement upgrading is outlined. Federations now exist in a number of countries in Asia and Africa. Commonly used elements of the approach of federations include the development of savings and credit groups, carrying out enumerations and settlement mapping, housing and toilet exhibitions and festivals, exchange visits and small pilot projects. The focus of federations is to build up the knowledge capital and institutional or political capital of community groups. Gender as a key question in the development of homes and settlements is also a priority. Issues of constraint and difficulty become the challenges for the federations. Among these include the need for acknowledgement and recognition and the setting of precedents for change where existing regulations are a barrier or inappropriate. Examples are presented of cases where federations achieved changes in responsiveness of institutions to poor people, ways of working of institutions or in policy approach. These have taken place within land allocation and security of tenure, planning and building standards, managing risk, and financing, procurement and maintenance agreements - being made with communities. A brief outline of guidelines and recommendations for facilitating communities to access more secure and improved shelter are outlined. These consider the importance of precedent setting, generating momentum and city-wide action, learning through exchanges and dialogue, ensuring security of tenure, developing multi-level working relationships, using local action to change national frameworks and policies, managing political risk, accessing appropriate finance, new and special purpose organisational forms and transparent and accountable procurement procedures. Though the sustainable livelihoods framework provides some insights into the basis of the work of federations, a more fitting representation is through the work of Sen and the notion of the five freedoms - political, economic, social, transparency and protective security. An appendix presents an overview of the key events in the development of shelter federations in India, elsewhere in South East Asia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia, and Kenya and Uganda.
Paper presented at the Third RGUU International Workshop held 22-24 September 2003, UK, 28 pp.