Social capital and cohesive urban communities : examining the impact of culture, religion and other lived experience on community development processes in informal and squatter settlements in Fiji : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters degree in Philosophy at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Urbanisation of Pacific cities is causing substantial growth in squatter settlements, particularly in Fiji. This growth in squatter settlements is placing government resources under stress in terms of affordable housing solutions and extension of essential services on government capacities. Furthermore, unregulated urbanisation processes are leaving many squatter settlements living below the poverty line and placing settlers increasingly under survival pressures. Many have studied the various poverty and social dynamics affecting squatter settlements in Fiji as well as the government and non-government institutional responses to these situations. This thesis addresses how the urban poor in settlements marshal the necessary resources to organise inclusive and effectual communities that can influence public policy directions on issues that affect them. The assumption in this thesis considers that squatters face significant cultural and ideological barriers that either support or block their ability to function adequately in their challenging settings. Furthermore, this thesis explores the impacts of culture, religion and lived experiences on urban community development processes and how these experiences may affect the socio-economic well-being of community members.
This research was based on primary data collection from a sample of eighteen householders across three contrasting squatter settlements in Suva, Fiji, during 2008. Householders were surveyed with application of a structured and internationally authenticated social capital-integrated questionnaire. The survey
was used to investigate settlers‟ perceptions of the various organisational and social cohesion indicators in communities considered necessary to support community functioning. Of particular interest was the relative significance and importance of key social capital indicators. Social capital was seen as prerequisite for community development in a Fijian, Indo-Fijian and an integrated settlement. This thesis investigated how people might work together to sustain socially cohesive communities. The community organisational and interactive data indicators were analysed to compare the capacity assessment results and presented in a visual format to provide a „snapshot in time‟ of the status of community relations in the squatter settlements studied. It is contended that this approach could present a potential application for communities, government institutions and development practitioners to employ as an instrument to monitor the progress of community capacity development in future.