UPCA - A Platform for the Grassroots in Asia

A New Regional Platform for Aisa's Urban Poor Community Movements

One of the most exciting developments of the past year has been the emergence of a new initiative to bring together Asia’s urban poor community networks and organizations into a new region-wide platform of sharing, linking, learning and support. In a development process dominated by professionals, even a program like ACCA, which is trying to build more equal working relationships between the poor and their support professionals and local governments, the poor can sometimes find their primary voice being drowned out by their more talkative and more confident professional partners. The launching of the Urban Poor Coalition Asia (UPCA) is an attempt to remedy this imbalance and to create a new space for the urban poor - at community, local, national and regional levels - to strengthen themselves, support each other, and bring their voices and ideas with greater strength into making the ACCA Program a better tool to support their own change process.

"We, the urban poor communities of Asia, want to declare today that we are ready and able to make change to our lives. We want to be active actors and participants, not just recipients, in all development relating to our lives. We want to be active partners in all development activities of government and development agencies."

From the Declaration of Commitment and Action of the Urban Poor Coalition Asia made on the last day of the UPCA launch event, March 16, 2012, in Quezon City, Philippines, by the representatives from Cambodia, Indonesia, Korea, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Declaration of Commitment and Action of the Urban Poor Coalition Asia was made on the last day of the UPCA launch event, March 16, 2012, in Quezon City, Philippines, by the representatives from Cambodia, Indonesia, Korea, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.


1 Sept UPCA Meets in Sri Lanka

The Urban Poor Coalition Asia (UPCA) decided to take advantage of so many urban poor groups being together to organise a parallel UPCA forum on August 30th. All the groups gave presentations about the work they are doing in their countries and Ruby Papeleras, from the Philippines Homeless People's Federation, led a discussion about future UPCA activities and the UPCA fund. There is still a lot of excitement about setting up a regional UPCA fund, but since the logistics of sending money back and forth between countries is still quite complicated, they decided that initially, the money that community networks are gathering for the UPCA fund will be used to establish national funds, and that money will be used for exchanges and special UPCA initiatives within the country. Women's Co-op offered to organise 2-week training courses on community savings for interested community groups from other countries, and agreed to pay all internal expenses and housing and food for the visitors, if ACHR could pay for the airfare. Inspired by this idea, the Thai team offered their colleagues in other countries a similar training course on community mapping in Thailand.

March Poverty Lines in Bangkok

Asia’s urban poor from Vietnam, Philippines, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia and Sri Lanka have completed their own surveys to enable international development agencies develop deeper understanding of What is Poverty? 
Bangkok 21st March 2014 …. results of the meeting … below in thePoverty Lines Newsletter ….. from the Urban Poor Coalition Asia - UPCA. 
One page of background information - an extract from Dec 2013 ACHR E-News

The final study report - a 28-page newsletter-style publication - can be downloaded below. 3.1 Mgbs

Since it was launched in March 2012, in Quezon City, Philippines, the Urban Poor Coalition Asia (UPCA) has been active through several regional activities and loan proposals. Here are some notes from Ruby Papeleras, who is part of the team within the Homeless People's Federation Philippines which is helping coordinate this important new regional platform for sharing, learning and mutual support among Asia's community networks and federations. 
One page Extract from E-News October 2012.  
Read about the UPCA LAUNCH,  and dialogue with key development agencies;and UPCA's next steps; plus news on UPCA's Fund First $6,000 loan capital that comes from Asia’s urban poor . . .
 An extract from the ACCA 3rd Year Report Dec 2012

Message from UPCA ........

One Voice, Strong Presence

About forty percent of the population in Asia live in slums. Yet the poor people’s voices are rarely heard by governments and decision-makers.
UPCA’s Aims:
  1. To create space that makes poor people more visible, their voices stronger, and their presence
    felt at the international level. 
  2. To serve as the poor people’s platform in the Asian Region to help urban poor communities get together and better communicate among themselves. Stronger ties among the countries means information is disseminated to national platforms resulting in strengthened national processes. This makes way for real and concrete action such as pushing constitutions and policies to become pro-poor and effecting genuine social
  3. T o facilitate information dissemination and sharing between communities. Especially learnings on the impact of government policies on poor
  4. To demonstrate that communities with access to finance can manage their own development. That with the proper management of a demand driven revolving fund, they will be able to leverage more
    funds to help even more communities. 
The UPCA Fund
One important activity of the UPCA is the creation of a regional fund with starting contributions from ACCA communities to run the regional network and provide loans to more communities.
The UPCA Fund will serve as a financial mechanism wherein more community fund networks will be set up and City Development Funds are strengthened to get more support from other sources.

“We’re telling our leaders and the whole world, Asia’s poor have converged. In one voice we’re all saying - we’re taking ourselves out of poverty and inequity!”

Uniting the Urban Poor of Asia towards development and self sustainability.

Where we’re coming from
For the past three years, our urban poor communities and people’s organizations, in cities throughout Asia have been leading and managing the upgrading of our communities through big and small projects. With the assistance of the Asian Coalition for Community Action (ACCA) program of the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR), these projects have helped alleviate the lives of people and have provided tangible hope for their futures.
It is the experience and formation of our people’s organizations and urban poor communities in the 130 cities in 16 Asian countries, that the Urban Poor Coalition Asia (UPCA) is born.

16 Countries
At present, 16 member countries compose the UPCA. These countries include: Thailand, Lao PDR, Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Fiji, Mongolia, Korea, Myanmar, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Japan, China and the Philippines.
These are the countries undertaking the ACCA Program of the Bangkok-based ACHR. ACCA is a city -wide community upgrading program currently being implemented by poor communities now in 130 cities from across Asia. Community people involved in this community-led program will represent their respective countries in the UPCA.

Making Bigger Change
The ACCA program has been helping build partnerships between community people and other city stakeholders especially the local governments. It has brought about some big changes in poor communities in all participating countries in Asia.
But while the poor are doing things on the ground, it is important that their work is not done in isolation. It is imperative that a regional process links community activities across Asia to create bigger change and impact

Regional Teams
A regional core team, represented by three community people from each of the member countries, will manage and coordinate the UPCA process.
These representatives have a clear understanding of the poor in their countries. As a team, they will work to identify and nurture their strengths, and use these to mitigate challenges and issues they face in their localities.
The team will draw up a concrete structure for national and regional action by the network and undertake planning for a clearly timetabled plan to manage activities efficiently.

A Learning Platform
Different countries have different levels of knowledge and experience and they can help each other where knowledge/experience is lacking.
A database on the key “specialty” or strength of each country will be created which can be used as basis for exchange and networking. UPCA provides a venue for communities to teach and learn from each other. Community people with certain specialisation and skills can lead workshops and exchanges based on a particular topic.

Emerging voices
The UPCA is seen to function differently from urban poor networks. It is community-led and owned. The people will do the proposing and negotiating themselves. This is the only way to strengthen changes in our cities and countries stronger.

Jan 2014: Here's a note on one of the latest UPCA acitivities in Cambodia:

Notes from Ruby Haddad, Philippines Homeless Peoples Federation
Happy New Year to all,
I would like to thank the Cambodian Communities  for their successful  Community Development Fund (CDF) event, They released funds about $160,000 for 17 communities to fund their fish business. Their CDF process really helps the poor communities directly,there are a lot of things to be learned from their  process and the energy of the community is really alive and well
The most inspiring in their work is that all their programs and project are linked with the local authorities which is  a big challenge to us. I also asked the community how they make the authority be involved their activities and they  simply told me that they regularly make a report about   the survey , projects and programs  and  they  present these to the  whole city. They also asked the authorities to support the process and that’s how they  become partners and were able to expand this initiatives to other districts and provinces.
I  will really recommend to UPCA members to continue sharing these process and make these events very useful to others . I also shared in this meeting that as UPCA member, we should strengthen our process so that when funding for  ACCA  program  eventually ends, we can still continue these  initiatives and make this platform really bind us in Asia and Pacific.
I hope that  2014 will  gave us more success and opportunities. Thanks
regards,   Ruby

Ruby (center) with with UPCA friends from Sri Lanka and Myanmar