**Cross-posted from MuST Blog**
By Shaddy Mbaka, Muungano Support Trust (Kenya)
NAIROBI, 18 APRIL 2013 | SDI has officially joined the World Urban Campaign, a lobby and advocacy platform on sustainable urbanization for “Better City, Better Life,” coordinated by UN-HABITAT.
The World Urban Campaign brings together partners from across sectors. It is designed to facilitate international cooperation, and acts as platform to converge organizations in order to collaborate on solutions and build consensus towards a new urban agenda for the Habitat III conference that is expected to take place in 2016.
SDI, now a partner in the World Urban Campaign, will help engage cities around the world through the I’m a City Changer campaign, aimed at raising awareness on urban issues and to include the voice of the people to propose positive solutions to urban challenges.
SDI will also have an opportunity to represent the voices and interests of the poor, and thereby engage slum dwellers as city changers, while working closely with key World Urban Campaign partners around the world to ensure improved cities and to integrate poor communities in the management and development of their cities.
UN-HABITAT runs a series of strategic programmes designed to help make cities safer, to bring relief in countries suffering the aftermath of war or natural disasters, and to promote sustainable cities and good governance. Under the Urban Management Programme, an initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN-HABITAT, the World Bank and various bilateral donors, the agency fosters urban management in the fields of participatory urban governance, urban poverty alleviation, environmental management, and the dissemination of this information at the local, national and regional levels.
UN-HABITAT also develops indicators of good urban governance with two principle aims. The first aim is to help cities identify urban governance priorities and assess their progress towards the quality of city-life and the second aim is to develop a global Good Urban Governance Index. The agency has a Training and Capacity Building Branch which works at national and local levels in various countries to strengthen capacity building through high-level policy dialogues seminars, consultations and expert workshops.
The SDI team, led by Jockin Arputhum, Sheela Patel, Rose Malokoane and Joel Bolnick, expressed enthusiasm for continuing to collaborate with UN-HABITAT and use the campaign platform to work with other organizations in order to improve urban life for all.
In her speech to the press, Rose Molokoane one of the SDI Coordinators said;
“We feel really honored for the recognition by UN-HABITAT as a partner in World Urban Campaign. It is the basics of engaging the communities that has brought us this far, through savings and placing the women at the centre of collective community leadership, has created engagements with governments and local authorities. This has set precedent for government and other stakeholders that organized communities can bring about transformation.
Slum dwellers know how settlements can be planned. This can only happen by involving the poor in the planning process, deal with slums not slum dwellers. The urban poor are the only ones who can open up cities for development; therefore they should be seen as partners who are well able to change the cities, to achieve this, governments should give the urban poor security of tenure to witness urban development”.
SDI Chairperson Sheela Patel acknowledged that it was indeed a special moment for SDI. She said that change requires transformation, and through the Memorandum signed between UN-HABITAT and SDI, the urban poor global network can seek to demonstrate the potential for transformation especially from below. “ This kind of partnership has been waiting to happen for a long time, we have tried to engage in the past, some have been successful while some unsuccessful, either way we hope to change how stakeholders view the urban poor,” said Ms. Patel.
On his part as the SDI President, Jockin thanked the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, for agreeing to sign an MOU with Slum Dwellers International, for it has opened a new chapter. ”SDI is privileged to partner with UN-Habitat on the urban transformative agenda. Being part of the decision making process, this partnership will bring change through the involvement of the poor, and we take it as a challenge in helping to realize the Millennium Development Goals. The issue of lack of proper sanitation infrastructure is a major impediment to development. We are going to work together and show the world how we are going to change, we have the information and we know how to plan”, said Jockin.
Dr. Joan Clos, UN-HABITAT Executive Director expressed appreciation for the work that SDI has done and continues to do, and for SDI’s unique makeup and tireless efforts to create inclusive cities and to promote participatory processes beginning at community level to city wide transformation.
“SDI has become a force in favor of the poor by demanding the recognition of the poor as far as the urban agenda is concerned. Slums are a source of innovation (citing Mumbai), therefore there will be no bulldozing of livelihoods of the people living in these settlements, any transformation in urban poor settlements need be in participatory of slum dwellers because these communities are well organized, something governments are yet to do,” said Clos.
He also noted the importance of this collaboration in bringing the urban poor to the forefront of shaping the global urban agenda, and the important role SDI has continued to play in building inclusive cities.