Public Forum on Namibia’s Urban Future

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Anna Muller (left) director of SDI support NGO in Namibia (NHAG) at Namibia’s “Public Forum on Namibia’s Urban Future” where Sophie Shaningwa, Minister of Urban and Rural Development (right), and a longstanding friend of the Namibia Federation gave the keynote address. The main thrust of her speech resonated strongly with the SDI network. She suggested the broadening of the definition of housing from merely something that is bought through established financing mechanisms to a broad array of housing opportunities. These can range from secured land tenure with government support for incremental housing investment, housing for special needs, informal settlement upgrading, densification of existing plots and under-utilised inner city lots of land to targeted interventions for social and rental housing.

A new paradigm in understanding slums & urbanization of growing cities in Kenya

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“Addressing the issue of informal settlements and urban poverty in a traditional single lens cannot solve the problem. This research is unique at three levels:

First: It looked at the issue from multiple angles; as a land and legal problem, as a social problem, as an urban planning problem, as an economic problem, as well as a human rights problem.

Secondly: It puts the slum dwellers at the centre of information gathering and reporting. This generates richer information and helps the researchers frame the true questions better.

Thirdly: The close working relationships with the county governments of Nairobi and Kiambu have potential to shape Nairobi and Kiambu’s urban planning policies, at settlement and hopefully county-wide scale.”

For the full Adobe Spark presentation, click here.

Botswana Federation Launches Know Your City Campaign in Francistown

In Francistown, Botswana the Federation has been working hard to establish a working relationship with the local city government in order to scale up their community-driven data collection and slum upgrading work to the citywide scale. This work bore fruit last year with the signing of an MOU and the formalisation of plans to carry out citywide slum profiling and enumeration to be used for collaborative planning and development.

Rose Molokoane, a national coordinator of the South African Federation of the Urban Poor who has been providing support to the Botswana federation, explains how important it is to attach the MoU to implementable projects on the ground. 

In her address to the City Council on 21 November 2016 the Mayor of Francistown, Honourable Sylvia Tabitha Muzila, made specific mention of the deepening relationship between the City Council of Francistown and the Botswana Homeless People’s Federation:

Honourable Councillors, Ladies and Gentlemen, August 19th 2016 saw a new relationship emerge between City of Francistown Council and Botswana Homeless and Poor People’s Federation. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed as a pathway for the two parties to carry community projects together. As the Mayor of City of Francistown Council, I stand here to reaffirm Council’s commitment for a better tomorrow for all our people. In February 2017, the parties will carry out the KNOW YOUR CITY CAMPAIGN project here in Francistown. The campaign is about gathering City wide data for proper planning and development. Every household, every neighbourhood in Francistown will be counted and that will help to create a collective understanding about our City. Clearly, with the signing of this Memorandum of Cooperation, there is more concerted effort to be made by all parties to implement specific projects.

The Know Your City campaign is a call to action communities of the urban poor, local government, and development partners to know all of their city. Community-driven data collection is the first step in collaborative planning in which the urban poor are partners in the urban planning and upgrading process. A Know Your City campaign generates city-wide data on informal settlements to inform inclusive and resilient city planning that is rooted in local realities. It produces scalable implementation strategies that incorporate a broad spectrum of actors – from organised communities of the urban poor to city government to private developers and landowners.

Ten Essentials of the New Urban Agenda


This article was originally published on the IIED blog shortly before PrepCom 3 in July 2016, where intense negotiations on the New Urban Agenda took place ahead of Habitat III in October. 

By David Satterthwaite, IIED Human Settlements research group

Habitat III will seek global political commitment to making urban centres more sustainable, inclusive and resilient. But the latest draft of the New Urban Agenda – to be agreed at the summit – is long, impenetrable and gives little attention to urban governance. Frustrated by this unwieldy document, we have developed an alternative version of the New Urban Agenda – in one page.

Borrowing the format of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction’s Ten Essentials for Making Cities Resilient (PDF) these short and practical points provide national governments with clear direction for a workable outcome from Habitat III.

The text does not include many important goals. It seeks instead to push attention away from long lists that repeat commitments already made to the means by which these can be met.

Ahead of the last negotiation meeting before the summit we share these guidelines and are keen to hear comments.

The 10 essentials

We, representatives of national governments, recognise the two key stakeholders crucial for implementing the New Urban Agenda are urban governments and their local populations whose needs are not met – including representative organisations of slum/shack dwellers. Only with their buy-in will a New Urban Agenda will be effective.

  1. The New Urban Agenda must support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We commit to supporting urban governments to develop their responses to the SDGs and work with them so no one is left behind. This means shifting attention from defining goals to creating the institutional and governance basis in each locality to meet commitments already made in the SDGs and in the Paris Agreement on climate change
  2. We recognise how much can be achieved through strong local democracies and organised urban poor groups. We acknowledge a form of governance where local governments work in partnerships with civil society that can be rooted in local needs and possibilities as well as being more accountable and transparent
  3. We recognise the importance of local leadership for the New Urban Agenda and of learning from the experiences of innovative city governments, mayors and civil society groups – especially those that combine prosperity, good living conditions, and low ecological footprints
  4. New sources of finance are needed to support local governments and urban poor organisations to meet the SDGs. This includes raising local revenues and national government and international agency support (most international agencies pay little attention to addressing urban poverty)
  5. We support good local practice such as participatory planning and budgeting, citizen-based monitoring and community-driven upgrading in informal settlements. Importantly, these encourage voice and engagement by groups who face discrimination (for instance on the basis of gender or being a migrant or refugee)
  6. We commit to improving the quality and coverage of local data so this information is available to all and can inform local governments where needs are concentrated. This includes recognising the capacities of community-driven enumerations and mapping to generate data needed for upgrading informal settlements
  7. Urban centres need infrastructure and services that reach everyone (so no one is left behind). And that contribute to good health, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation (there are many co-benefits between these). Urban centres also need to contribute to climate change mitigation and thus to the realisation of the Paris Agreement and the avoidance of dangerous climate change
  8. Buildings and infrastructure must be safer and constructed in line with realistic, risk compliant building and land use regulations. But these must be grounded on what is possible and affordable in each location. There is an urgent need in most urban centres to identify safe land sites on which low-income citizens can build and to upgrade informal settlements (and address infrastructure deficits)
  9. We support investment in risk reduction in urban centres and their surrounds and in the information base it needs to be effective (so data are collected on causes of injuries and premature death and the impacts of small and large disasters). We also commit to preserving the productive and protective services that ecosystems provide for urban centres, especially for water management and flood risk reduction, and
  10. We agree to develop local government capacity to respond rapidly to disasters, conflicts, shocks or stresses, ensuring that the needs and capacities of the affected population are at the centre of responses.

Key factors influencing the agenda’s success 

Of course, effective local government depends on supportive national governments and appropriate legislation, rules and regulations – such as planning, health and safety, building standards, disaster risk reduction, climate change – and systems of devolved finance. It often depends on metropolitan or regional systems through which local governments can work together on the 10 essentials.

There is also an urgent need to generate new employment and income streams and what the SDGs describe as ‘decent work’ particularly for youth. But the SDGs say little about how.

Most local governments have limited capacities to directly expand employment, but much of what is outlined above (and the building of low carbon urban economies) will generate many new jobs including from the private sector and widen opportunities for young people.

Click here for an overview of SDI’s activities at Habitat III, and here to read the final version of the New Urban Agenda, adopted by member states at Habitat III.