Engaging the ‘Ungovernable’: Urban Informality Issues and Insights for Planning

Redento B. Recio


Over the years, studies have noted the prevalence of urban informality in many countries in the Global South. Yet, despite its pervasiveness in poor and developing countries, urban informality has often been associated with ungovernable practices. Ungovernability, however, is never devoid of state intervention. The literature demonstrates the importance of looking into formal-informal nexus in relation to planning and policy-making. This amplifies the need to analyze how formal and informal arrangements interact to manage informal economic activities.


This paper examines the interaction of formal governance mechanisms and informal grassroots collective action initiatives as a way to grapple with urban informality. The discussion of how an informal vendor organization engages with different stakeholders demonstrates the complexity of informality as a planning and governance concern. The article thus underscores the critical role of planning, as part of governance processes, in shaping socio-spatial relations and in managing multiple arrangements, including informal economic activities, in shared urban spaces.


Urban Planning, Informality, Governance, Collective Action