Exploring Colombo: A Journey of Urban Inclusion and Academic Collaboration

In early May, we embarked on a journey to Colombo, the vibrant capital city of Sri Lanka. Our purpose was to attend the 3rd Annual meeting of the Inclusive Urban Infrastructure (IUI) project, a multi-country initiative is leading by the University of Sussex. The 3rd Inclusive Urban Infrastructure (IUI) annual meeting was held on 8-10 May 2023 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The annual meeting was hosted by the Centre for Migration Research & Development (CMRD) in conjunction with SEVANATHA. The ‘Towards Trajectories of Inclusion: Making Infrastructure Work for the most Marginalized’ (Inclusive Urban Infrastructure) started in September 2020. It is a 3-year research project being implemented in Zimbabwe, Somaliland (Africa), Bangladesh, and Sri-Lanka (Asia). The research project builds on a previous GCRF funded research in the same four African and Asian cities (the Unknown City Research Project). Implemented between 2016 and 2018 the Unknown City Research Project highlighted the overwhelming significance of housing tenure for marginal urban residents.


Reflection from partner countries and discovering Colombo’s Inclusive Urban Landscape: Upon our arrival, we were warmly greeted by CMRD, who hosted us and facilitated our stay in Colombo. All the partners, including the host team, delved into a series of captivating activities. The first three days were dedicated to reviewing the project’s findings from the four participating countries. Additionally, we had the privilege of visiting Salamulla and Nawagampura, where we witnessed the commendable field activities and community consultations conducted by our Sri Lankan partner, the Center for Migration Research and Development (CMRD). In these areas, we encountered low-income families residing in both settlement and relocated areas. We were impressed by the well-managed and organized informal settlements of Sri Lanka, with their inclusive infrastructure and clean environments. The relocated settlements particularly stood out for their efficient distribution and management.

The Power of Words – Writing Workshop: Following the comprehensive review of project findings, we transitioned into a two-day writing workshop. This workshop aimed to shape the key discoveries into scholarly papers. With seven topics identified for publication, the team split into smaller groups based on individual expertise and preferences. The fruit of our labor materialized in the successful submission of one paper to a renowned journal affiliated with the World Bank. This achievement signified a significant milestone for the project, highlighting the caliber of research conducted. The team has set its sights on submitting the remaining papers by the end of this year, ensuring the comprehensive completion of the project’s research and documentation.

Upcoming The Journey Continues: Our endeavors are far from over. The main findings of the research will be shared with UN HABITAT, Kenya July 2023. In the country context, Bangladesh research team will share the findings with National learning hub event in August 2023.   An abstract of our findings has been accepted for presentation at the upcoming IIPPE conference in Madrid. September of this year, we will reunite as a team to present our insights, particularly focusing on the system of water provision in the global south. This exciting opportunity underscores the project’s international recognition and showcases the invaluable contributions made by our collective efforts.

Weekend Retreat at Anuradhapura – A Cultural Odyssey: While our primary focus revolved around the project’s objectives, we also took advantage of the opportunity to immerse ourselves in Sri Lanka’s rich cultural and historical heritage. A weekend visit to Anuradhapura offered us a glimpse into the country’s past, with visits to revered Buddhist temples and the iconic Lion Rock of Sigiriya. This captivating experience not only enriched our understanding of Sri Lanka but also fostered a sense of appreciation for the nation’s remarkable history.

Leisure Day in Negombo; A Tranquil Respite: As the meeting drew to a close, we embraced a well-deserved leisure day in the charming beach town of Negombo. Here, we reveled in the golden sands, indulged in local culinary delights, and explored the town’s unique transportation systems. This day of relaxation provided a perfect opportunity to unwind and reflect on the progress made during our time in Colombo.

The Way Forward: An End and a Beginning: As the meeting concluded, we were left with a sense of accomplishment and a myriad of ideas for the future. The fruitful discussions led to the formulation of several promising avenues for further exploration and action. These outcomes will undoubtedly shape the project’s final months and lay the groundwork for future research and collaborations, aiming to foster more inclusive urban infrastructure across the participating countries.

Conclusion: Our journey to Colombo for the 3rd Annual meeting of the Inclusive Urban Infrastructure project was a resounding success. From engaging with local communities to submitting papers and planning for future conferences, we have deepened our understanding of inclusive urban development. Moreover, our cultural excursions and leisure activities served to rejuvenate our spirits. As we bid farewell to Colombo, we eagerly anticipate the next phase of our project, where we will reunite in Madrid to share our findings with the global academic community.

About the Authors:
Juel Mahmud works as the project lead and Lutfor Rahman is the Communication Lead of IUI, Bangladesh Team.