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Conferences and Workshops

Decentralization and Urban Transformation in Asia Print
Date: 10 Mar 2011 - 11 Mar 2011
Venue: Asia Research Institute
469A Tower Block, Level 10 Bukit Timah Road
National University of Singapore @ BTC
Organisers: Dr MILLER Michelle
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This conference is organized by the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore in collaboration with The Asia Foundation.

This multidisciplinary conference explores the relationship between different forms and degrees of decentralization and urban change in Asia. Recent regional trends toward the devolution of state power and resources have implications for the emergence of city-regions as important actors within and beyond nation-states, and as sites of innovation in addressing challenges related to urban growth, public service delivery, community building, and the management of resources for livable and sustainable cities. The shift in responsibility from central governments to the local level also has import for internal migration flows from rural-to-urban areas (and vice versa) and for the changing material fabric of urban centers, both in their built environment and in the lived spaces of city residents.

The nexus between decentralization and urban transformation in Asia may take on various practical permutations and function at different levels. Decentralization may achieve its normative goal of encouraging city administrations to be more responsive to the needs and aspirations of their constituents by bringing government ‘closer to the people’. Conversely, decentralization within the contexts of globalization and privatization may circumvent critical aspects of democratic procedure if city administrations use their increased access to state power and resources to nurture clientelistic networks of patronage and/or to tap into wider circles of regional or global economic activity at the expense of local development. Decentralization may also operate at multiple levels as both an agent and consequence of urban transformation. For instance, decentralization to cities may contribute towards decentralization within cities in a process of ‘urban decentralization’, otherwise known as ‘suburbanization’ or ‘urban sprawl’.

We invite submission of papers from young and established scholars, policymakers, planners, legislators, architects and development practitioners on the interplay between decentralization and urban change in Asia. In this, we encourage applicants to consider empirical case studies and theories within comparative Asian contexts, and what lessons might be learned from Asia for urban transformations in other parts of the world. Questions that will guide the conference proceedings to speak to related themes across disciplinary and geographical boundaries include:

  • How has decentralization changed the role and functions of local administrations in Asian cities?
  • In what ways has decentralization transformed the built environment of urban spaces and the lived environments of city residents?
  • How have the processes and structures of decentralization empowered cities to emerge as new centers of innovation in responding to localized challenges (such as conflict management, rapid urbanization and issues of livability, sustainability, public service delivery and community building)?
  • What networks of governance and inter-city cooperation have emerged between cities within and beyond national borders since the initiation of decentralization?
  • How has decentralization reconfigured relations between cities and between cities and their surrounding hinterlands (that is, urban-to-urban and rural-to-urban linkages and networks)?
  • To what extent are cities in Asia seen as models of best practice in the governance of decentralization? Does this portend for the travel of Asian city models of good governance and urban sustainability within and beyond the region?


Admission is free, however, seats are limited. Do register early as seats are available on a first come, first served basis. We would gratefully request that you RSVP to Valerie Yeo at Tel No. 6516 5279 or e-mail indicating your name, email, designation, organization and contact number.



Dr Michelle Miller
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

Assoc Prof Tim Bunnell
Asia Research Institute and Dept of Geography, National University of Singapore


Ms Valerie Yeo
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
469A Tower Block, Level 10, Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 259770
Tel: (65) 6516 5279
Fax: (65) 6779 1428

Contact Person: Mdm Valerie YEO