background image
You can find
everything here
[India], the best
of everything,
and the worst
/ 9
espite the goodwill of aid organizations and millions in
funding, attempts to help people in developing coun-
tries frequently fail. Part of the problem lies in the fact
that oft en the people they are trying to help are not consulted.
International relations student Rebecca Anne Dixon is looking
at this problem for her honours project and spent this summer in
Delhi, In researching what platforms exist for public consulta-
tion in urban development projects.
Dixon's interest in urbanization in developing countries was
sparked by a course taken while on exchange at American
University in Washington, D.C., which she attended on a
Killam Fellowship. Back at Mount Allison, Dixon found the
perfect supervisor in Dr. Leslie Kern, whose own research
interests -- urban geography, urban political economy, and
environmental justice -- are very similar to her own.
India was a natural choice for Dixon. She loves the place, now
used to the chaotic traffi c, the noise, and the heat, things that
can make Indian cities quite overwhelming on a fi rst visit. She
loves especially the sense of humanity, because, as an Indian
friend's father told her, "you can fi nd everything here, the best
of everything, and the worst."
Dixon fi rst travelled to India in high school, volunteering in a
government public school in Mumbai. Th e project focused on
children's rights, something she has cared deeply about for some
time. At the age of 10 she won a UnESCO award for her work
to help children in Ukraine aff ected by fl oods.
More recently, she won a coveted Canada's Famous Five Award
for a project to educate children about their rights.
"India is fascinating from an urban point of view because,
although we tend to think of the megacities of Delhi, Mum-
bai, and Calcutta, most of India is still rural. It is transitioning
quickly, so this means that there are lots of opportunities to learn
from the problems of the other cities and to plan and anticipate
the problems in smaller, tier-two cities," says Dixon.
Dixon found she had to adapt her research plans along the way.
"Delhi has a complicated governance structure and it can take
years to get approval from all involved. Th e actual planning is
done by the central government of India. While preparing for
my trip, I read about some really amazing consultation policies
that the government created. But once in India, I began to talk
to people about these policies, and the general response was `yes,
well it is not quite happening like that.'"

"Th ere are so many problems, it is easy to get discouraged,
throw up your hands, and say that it is impossible. What really
impressed me were the people who said, `no, we are going to chip
away at this piece by piece, keeping the whole vision in mind.
Th e more people we can get involved and inspired to care about
their city and their space and recognize that they have a role in
improving it and maintaining it, the better.' Th e people who had
those attitudes were quite inspiring."
student sPOtLiGht
by Raine Phythian