On 11 February 2018, the ninth World Urban Forum (WUF9) will take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. WUF9 will have a specific thematic focus on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda(NUA). This theme of implementation is particularly important to urban poor residents and federation leaders of SDI’s Southern African countries, especially as the NUA relates to informal settlements.Twice a year, representatives of SDI‘s Southern African urban poor federations (Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Zambia) gather as a regional “hub” to strategise, report, share challenges, and plan for mutual learning. The recent Southern African SDI hub took place between 15 – 18 November 2017 in Johannesburg. Given the timing of the hub ahead of WUF9, the Federations invited Zou Kota-Fredricks, the South African Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, and Parks Tau, president of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) to open the hub and engage in discussions on the implementation of the NUA.
In the lead up to Habitat III, SDI’s East and Southern African federations had a strong presence at the UN Habitat III Thematic Meeting on Informal Settlements in Pretoria in April 2016. The meeting culminated in the Pretoria Declaration on Informal Settlements. SDI federations advocated that the NUA commit to
- Supporting the self-organising processes of communities (such as data collection and learning exchanges) to partner effectively with governments and other urban actors
- Using community-collected informal settlement data as the basis of collaborative informal settlement policy making and development planning.
How Southern African slum dwellers view the NUA
The NUA provides a new framework that lays out how cities should be planned and managed to best promote sustainable urbanisation. It talks about strengthening and creating inclusive partnerships, and people centred development. It suggests that the voice of community organisations be heard. However, for urban poor residents, the challenge, is establishing and maintaining partnerships especially at the level of municipalities where most of community organising activities are taking place and where development is expected to happen. This means that urban poor residents are struggling to gain recognition from municipal systems, and that they have not found ways of institutionalising local government – community partnerships in decision making and planning processes.
In Cape Town, for example, the South African SDI Alliance had established a strong partnership with the local municipality and jointly implemented several upgrading initiatives. However, since the last upgrading project in 2014, it has taken more than three years to progress to the next one. One of the contributing factors to this delays relate to the lack of hand-over of the partnership to successive heads of departments and senior project managers. The consequences of which is the loss of institutional memory and knowledge of the working partnership in a time of high staff turn-over within the municipality.
In conversation with Parks Tau and Zou Kota-Fredericks, SDI’s Southern African federation members highlighted their priority of a NUA that is localised, meaning “that we want partnerships at a local government level”. An example is SDI’s partnership with UCLG on the Know Your City campaign, which promotes community-collected data on informal settlements as the basis for partnerships between slum dwellers and their local governments. The Southern African federations expressed:
…We want to work – together with government, UCLG, and the private sector – on collecting data and using this information to participate in decision making, implementation, and monitoring the implementation of the NUA. For example, in South Africa we want to see the Department of Human Settlements creating a forum that will meet more regularly to monitor the implementation of the NUA. This forum should be inclusive to the level that ensures that poor communities are involved.
The fact that government and civil society are working in the same space of local government with similar vision of community development demands a partnership. Both Parks Tau and Zou Kota-Fredericks, agreed for a local forum- South African forum. Parks also suggested for a Southern Africa forum that will sure case a partnership of government and civil society at that level:
At the start of 2018, before the World Urban Forum, we have to work together to convene a meeting to discuss a way forward on how we are going to work together and also to prepare a case study to present at the WUF9. The know your city campaign – data collection by communities is one tool that we are going to use to hold and strengthen our partnership. This will also be an opportunity for all partners to raise their expectations from this partnership.
The state of local government partnerships in some countries in the Southern Africa region
Southern African SDI federations spoke about the state of partnerships between themselves and their local governments as a way of offering some learning points on how to implement the NUA. Some of SDI’s federations have managed to establish well functioning partnerships: In Botswana, the partnership between the local government of Francistown and the Botswana Homeless and Poor People’s Federation involves community members and government collectively collecting community data, identifying and implementing projects. This has allowed the Botswana federation to conduct profiling and enumeration in Francsitown (Somerset West and Somerset East), identify and implement infrastructure projects together with local authorities. A major contributing factor to this work has been the presence of officials on the ground, working hand in hand with federation members around data collection.
In Namibia, slum dwellers have managed to establish local government partnerships with municipalities such as Gobabis where the Shack Dwellers federation of Namibia signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the local authority for upgrading Freedom Square informal settlement. This resulted in the Ministry of Rural Development contributing N$ 8 million and Gobabis local municipality contributing technical expertise. Officials of Gobabis municipality worked with the community of Freedom Square in data collection, community planning and implementation of different upgrading phases. In this project officials made sure that they were always on the ground. As a result they were quick to respond to projects issues. They did not impose solutions or approaches to solving problems but instead provided the necessary support for slum dwellers to implement their plans.
What are the main priorities of SDI’s Southern African urban poor federations ahead of WUF9?