The 17th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change took place from 22-25 May in Bangkok, Thailand. SDI’s delegation made impactful connections while gaining invaluable insight.
Following this year’s event, our SDI delegation reflects on CBA17 after four days of discussion, debate, peer-to-peer skill sharing and knowledge exchange.
CBA was held in person for the first time since 2019, with an SDI delegation of eight representatives attending events, contributing to discussions and hosting our own sessions. The event created a dynamic space for interaction with diverse sessions aimed at learning, connecting, networking and collaboration with the objective to reimagine solutions that enable transformative outcomes through the agency of communities that drive local climate action.
Our delegation included Tamara Merrill (Programmes Manager at the SDI Secretariat), Melanie Chirwa (Community Programmes Coordinator at People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia), Jane Wairutu (Program Manager at Shack Dwellers International – Kenya), Kelvin Stanley Mburu (Program Support Officer for Youth Engagement at Shack Dwellers International – Kenya), Kamila Gojobe (Community Organiser at Shack Dwellers International – Kenya), Nicera Wanjiru (Founder of Community Mappers), Theresa Caramptana (President of the Homeless People’s Federation Philippines Incorporated and member of SDI’s Board), and Ruby Papeleras (National Community Leader at Homeless People’s Federation Philippines Incorporated).
This year’s agenda focused on key themes such as climate finance, nature-based solutions, youth-led LLA (Locally-led Adaptation), innovation and a novel theme ‘decolonising climate action’ – which explores how unjust legacies, racism, systemic exclusion and power imbalances undermine progressive climate action.
Our delegation shared some of their reflections from the sessions they led at the conference. In collaboration with IIED and SDI Kenya, an important dialogue was facilitated for the session titled: Every Voice Counts: Decolonising Climate Action Through Equitable Partnerships. SDI Youth along with Plan Denmark and Green Africa Youth Organisation (GAYO) facilitated a session that highlighted youth’s role in climate action through their session titled How Are Urban Poor Youth Driving Locally-Led Adaptation in Africa?
“We had a lot of donors in the session and INGOs surprisingly,” shares Jane Wairutu.
“It was attended very well, and their participation was also good. And they were very open-minded. The community people are just the SDI team and one person from the government.
In that whole conference, not the session, but the conference, we didn’t have community representation.
As SDI, we are community-led and firmly believe that global spaces often leave local communities out of spaces and discussions that focus heavily on community issues. At CBA17 specifically, community voices we minimally represented.”
🌱🌎Uncover the innovative adaptation projects implemented by the youth from our network at #CBA17!
🗓️: May 25
⏰: 10:35 AM – 12:15 PM
— Slum Dwellers International (@sdi_net) May 24, 2023
Highlighting SDI’s community ideals, Kamila Gojobe shares that communities have solutions.
“They know their problems. Donors and NGOs, really need to listen to them, understand their solutions, understand their problem, and then support them.”
Melanie Chirwa notes that many of the sessions were incredibly technical which results in any of the discussions being inherently exclusionary.
“Some sessions were quite high-level, very technical and not so easy to follow. As the conference progressed it became more interactive,” shares Melanie.
“We hope that future community-focused events aim to lower the barriers to access for community members driving solutions at the local level. It’s important to have local and urban youth at this global conversation,” reflects Kamila.
“Communities and youth are doing so much to create awareness, and if they’re not a part of the global conversation, then they won’t be heard.
We need to have these local communities, practitioners, and all these people learning from each other. We need to understand each other and come up with solutions for climate change together.”
According to Jane, the idea of capacity strengthening is misunderstood, and she highlights that there is an existing fallacy around it that donors often overlook.
“Donors are being challenged and need to take the time to learn from the existing knowledge on the ground especially when talking about climate action, locally-led action,” shares Jane.
“We find communities have been doing innovative practices and no one recognises that they exist.
There’s a tendency to come up with new innovations that might not really work instead of looking at what is already in place or happening locally.
Communities are left behind because they [donors] feel like the community is not up to par or up to the level of knowledge to design a solution to their problems.”
She reiterates that it is key for governments, INGOs and donors to come to the table and have discussions about what solutions already exist to local problems.
Reflecting on some of the individual sessions, Kamila praises the Every Voice Counts: Decolonising Climate Action Through Equitable Partnerships session.
“We were able to demonstrate the power dynamics in the room because this is a community-based adaptation and the majority of people who are there are not community—it’s the donors, the INGOs, the NGOs,” says Kamila.
“As we trickle down the community people were only three in the room and mostly it was us from SDI.”
Kamila shares her recommendations for future events and engagements with communities, which include giving communities the platform to voice their local issues and solutions.
“The community people have solutions,” she says.
“Let’s have more representation because, at the whole CBA, we didn’t have that much representation of the youth and the communities we’re representing.”
Platforms, such as global conferences, are often not developed to accommodate existing power dynamics and structural inequalities. However, the SDI network was able to use our influence and facilitate conversations that highlighted the disparity by pointing out that very few community voices were included and issuing a call to action to urge actors to insist in the that future conferences are better representative of youth and the communities most impacted by climate change.
We hope that future community-based events and global events turn their eye to the ground and raise local voices to global heights so these high-level spaces have access to and are represented by local actors with local solutions.reads like it but there aren’t quotation marks.
Ariana Karamallis from SDI shares their programming at the Resilience Evidence Forum and highlights SDI’s work.
– originally published by Global Resilience Partnership
Later this week, Slum Dwellers International (SDI) will co-lead the Urban Track at the Resilience Evidence Forum in Cape Town, South Africa. Over the past few months SDI, together with the GRP and USAID, has created a track of programming that spotlights key considerations for building resilience in urban centres of the Global South that are characterised by informality. As the impacts of climate change, conflict, the rising cost of living, and other natural and manmade disasters increase in frequency and severity, so will the number of people living in urban informal settlements continue to rise – increasing demands placed on cities and the need for urban practitioners to develop and implement effective, evidence-based, pro-poor resilience policies and development.
Over the past two years SDI’s work in the climate and resilience space has been on the rise. As the impacts of climate change are more widely and acutely felt, the urban poor communities SDI works with have recognised a need to understand, embrace, and articulate their struggles, strategies and solutions in a language that speaks not only to urban planning and policy practitioners but to climate practitioners as well. Understanding SDI’s core work of organising urban poor communities to find alternatives to evictions through incremental, in situ slum upgrading is not separate from resilience and climate adaptation work. In fact, evidence increasingly demonstrates that the provision of tenure security and safe, affordable housing, basic services, and other infrastructure for the urban poor are essential climate adaptation strategies – particularly in urban settings. SDI was keen to ensure that this perspective, urban informality, and the role of urban poor communities was central to the #REF2023 Urban Track programming and is hopeful that the sessions developed will generate discussions, questions, and reflections to advance urban resilience efforts.
Joseph Muturi, chair of the SDI Board and a national community leader from SDI’s Kenyan urban poor federation, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, will speak at #REF2023 about the key role of community-driven slum data as evidence to support policy and development in the precedent-setting, large-scale Mukuru Special Planning Area (SPA) slum upgrading project in Nairobi – as well as countless other slum upgrading and climate adaptation projects across the network. In all of the countries where SDI operates, federations collect quantitative and qualitative data about the settlements where they live and work in order to provide the necessary evidence to government and other development stakeholders in negotiating for and developing effective resilience-building efforts. Increasingly, federations include indicators and other data points specifically addressing climate and vulnerability risk, incorporating this into their profiling, enumeration and mapping methodologies. This kind of community-based evidence is invaluable in addressing the perceived data scarcity that many urban-decision makers face. The question we hope to answer at the Resilience Evidence Forum is how to bridge the various gaps communities are faced with to get their data into the hands of decision-makers to drive meaningful change by influencing climate action plans, resilience strategies, development plans, and more.
To complement Mr. Muturi’s inputs, Charlton Ziervogel, director of the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) – support NGO to SDI’s South African social movements – will share a panel with Daniel Sullivan, Director of Resilience from the City of Cape Town, among others, to explore the constraints of data currently being used and how to bridge existing data gaps while ensuring the inclusion and agency of evidence producers – especially the urban poor. This session is sure to provide an important opportunity for community-based practitioners and local government officials to reflect on the use of community-collected data to inform policy and practice, including the experience of the South African SDI Alliance’s 2016 engagement with the Western Cape Provincial Government around the development of a provincial level approach to informal settlement upgrading. Thanks to deep grounding in the informal settlement communities and a strong practice of community-led data collection, CORC was selected in a competitive bid process to use community-led data collection practices to conduct a rapid appraisal of all informal settlements in the Western Cape (RAP) to inform the development of the Western Cape’s Informal Settlement Support Framework and Programme (ISSF and ISSP).
SDI’s experiences in Kenya, South Africa, and across the roughly 20 countries represented by the SDI network will hopefully showcase the tremendous value and opportunity for transformative impact available to urban practitioners through meaningful collaboration with urban poor communities – particularly around the production of community-based evidence for resilience-building efforts.
By Joel Bolnick, Robert M. Buckley, Sarah Colenbrander, Achilles Kallergis, Nancy MacPherson, Diana Mitlin, and David Satterthwaite
SDI has been inspired by the vision of socially and economically integrated slum settlements with security of tenure, universal access to affordable basic services, and adequate housing. To that end, SDI has demonstrated over many decades that constructive dialogue, collaborative data gathering, and knowledge sharing among informal settlements, communities, and local government authorities can contribute significantly to inclusive and sustainable urban development. Our societies face mounting global risk, characterized by profound inequality and rising wealth disparities, social instability, disruptive technological advancements, large-scale involuntary migration, and climate change. Many of these challenges are concentrated in cities.
Fundamental changes are needed to:
- shift the approaches to urban development and informal settlements so that the poor are recognized as assets and partners, not problems;
- support the essential partnerships required to deliver inclusive, resilient, and sustainable urban development;
- reimagine data and information systems so they support shared knowledge, trust, and collective action;
- develop innovative instruments and frameworks to monitor and report on poverty that shape more inclusive policies, programs, and investments.
✸ ✸ ✸
The successful realization of KYC in 103 cities and 1,238 settlements demonstrates the power and potential of an expanded KYC campaign. KYC is capable of reorienting the way that urban planning and development happens. It can guide local governments, national and international policies, and programs and investments at scale. As such, it can contribute significantly to managing the persistent social, economic, and political risks facing cities and nations.
A scaled-up KYC campaign presents opportunities for SDI and partners to transform existing urban development practice and policies by catalyzing new thinking and solutions in: monitoring for local action; advancing urban resilience and inclusion; redefining and managing risk; and securing new finance for the urban poor.
Monitoring That Enables Local Action
As noted in Rose Molokoane’s introduction, there is a need to move from talk to action. KYC has much to offer the SDG and city monitoring processes in moving to achieve inclusive, resilient, and sustainable urban development.
KYC profiling and enumeration processes provide the detailed information needed to reframe issues from a local perspective and identify practical solutions for informal settlements. The central role of slum dwellers in collecting and processing data ensures a focus on the poor and on operational knowledge for local actors working to implement global commitments.
Universal generalized indicators fail to capture the complex and locally specific conditions of slums. They therefore lead to policies and programs that do not respond to the most pressing needs of the urban poor, and can direct investments away from realistic and affordable improvements. Without accurate information and a deeper understanding of the needs and priorities of informal settlements, slum dwellers remain invisible, and efforts to reduce urban poverty and inequality will fail.
KYC fills a crucial gap in efforts to localize global development monitoring agendas in the following ways:
It generates operational local knowledge. A commitment to disaggregated, local data on the most vulnerable populations is essential to ensure we understand the reality of life for the majority of residents living in cities characterized by informality. It is staggering to see the exclusion of slum households and informal settlements in national censuses, household surveys, and other data that form the basis of poverty measures. Through their design, such surveys miss millions of poor individuals, particularly those residing in informal areas. KYC is designed to measure what matters to the urban poor and cities concerned with inclusive development.
KYC offers systematic, rich, contextual information across low-income neighborhoods in cities of the Global South. The information generated through KYC profiling and mapping is operational. It informs local action by clearly showing what the priorities, capacities, and preferences of slum dweller communities are, and how those preferences vary by local context, city, neighborhood, or even household. This level of detail is necessary to realize pragmatic improvements, set appropriate standards, and create adequate solutions from the urban poor perspective.
It generates collaborative local action. KYC has tremendous potential to develop a shared understanding of local conditions and build the relationships needed for collective action by slum dwellers and local governments. It demonstrates the critical role that community groups play in framing problems, identifying issues, and addressing priorities. The power of KYC extends well beyond the data it produces and is transformative because it serves as a mechanism for communities to use this rich information to broaden understanding and accountability, both in horizontal relations (within a community) and vertically (among communities, the state, local governments, and the private sector).
Concrete examples of KYC’s potential are found wherever there are active SDI federations. The impact is strongest where KYC is embedded in national urban policy and programming. In the Cites Alliance–funded Country Programs, for example, the role of community profiling and mapping is a core element recognized by government, local partners, and international support agencies. In Uganda, Ghana, and Liberia in particular, SDI federation profiling data set baselines from which program achievements were measured, informed the development of city development strategies and urban policy, and grounded the identification, by communities, of priority slum upgrading projects funded by municipal Community Upgrading Funds.
To “leave no one behind,” we need better tools to measure change in the most vulnerable populations. For those seeking to convert information into action, KYC offers tremendous opportunity for monitoring progress toward global agendas and catalyzing dialogue and action at local, city, and national levels.
Advancing Urban Resilience and Inclusion
Inequality and climate change are two of the defining challenges of the contemporary era. Increasingly, developing cities find themselves at the very heart of these challenges. Over the past decade, the global development community and investors have seen promising results from investments that seek to build the resilient capacity of individuals, communities, and systems, including the most vulnerable. Significant conceptual, technical, and operational advances have been made using a resilience lens to reframe problems, solutions, and investments to respond better to incremental, chronic, and catastrophic shocks and stresses. The KYC campaign has been essential in advancing new ways of analyzing and understanding the role that informal settlements can play in achieving resilient and sustainable cities, reframing problems and solutions, and managing and mitigating risks. As a groundbreaking civic initiative for urban resilience, KYC offers unparalleled insights into the risks facing urban residents, as well as the means to transform relationships within settlements and cities in ways that tackle the driver of vulnerability: exclusion.
While investments in resilient, “smart,” sustainable, green, and livable cities have proliferated, many of these initiatives fail to address persistent poverty, exclusion, and lack of opportunity. Instead they often focus on technological fixes to infrastructure while remaining relatively silent on inclusion and equity.
SDI’s membership includes some of the most vulnerable populations in the world. These people frequently live in parts of the city that are exposed to hazards—for example, in low-lying coastal areas and floodplains, or on steep slopes. Environmental threats are exacerbated by the absence of risk-reducing infrastructure, such as water supply, sanitation, drains, and durable housing. As a result, slum dwellers bear the brunt of major disasters, while living with a range of everyday hazards that middle and high-income households are often able to avoid. By proactively engaging with initiatives designed to achieve resilient and sustainable cities, such as 100 Resilient Cities (100RC), and C40, SDI seeks to bring the urban poor to the center of strategy development and implementation.
As part of the 100RC effort, Durban, South Africa developed a city Resilience Strategy that identifies two critical priority areas for resilience building—one of which is, Collaborative Informal Settlement Action. This priority emerged from a highly participatory strategy development process driven by the city. Implementation of the strategy will be informed and monitored by “consolidated quantitative and qualitative community and municipal-collected data, information and knowledge on all informal settlements [that] is accessible to all and updated regularly.” Other 100RC cities are already looking to Durban for lessons on developing strategies that address informality. SDI federations in Accra, Nairobi, Lagos, Paynesville, and Cape Town are strategizing with their city government partners about how the KYC campaign can add value to the formulation and implementation of their resilience strategies. In partnership with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and Inclusive Climate Action Program, SDI seeks to deepen the use of KYC by city mayors to make the case for inclusive climate action.
Redefining and Managing Risk
Much needs to be done to translate our understanding of the linkages between risks, human vulnerability, and poverty into robust risk management and investment strategies. Deepening inequality and poverty, compounded by the catastrophic effects of extreme weather events, violence, migration, and discrimination, have catalyzed new efforts to redress inadequate risk management strategies and instruments.
Over decades, SDI has implemented proven approaches to risk reduction through collective power, data, and savings. These strategies reduce everyday risks for urban poor families and help to secure assets, such as their homes. What is seldom taken into account is how these strategies also reduce the risk that voices of the urban poor will be silenced.
The KYC Campaign brings the power of community data and local Urban Poor Funds together in order to identify and reduce risks for the most vulnerable. This underpins collective efforts to negotiate and deliver community-managed public goods and services (tenure security, water, sanitation, drainage). Investments in these public goods address collectively experienced risks and help to strengthen awareness within the community of the significance of reducing and managing risk.
KYC also provides the basis for building relations that enable organized slum dwellers to challenge adverse political outcomes and reduce the risk of political exclusion. Politicians and officials appreciate the detailed information provided by KYC and recognize the potential of the organizations that produce this data. This makes them more likely to listen to SDI federations. In Namibia, for example, using the relationships enhanced by KYC, the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia successfully argued for inclusive upgrading solutions that now have the support of city and provincial government.
In the face of outmoded risk management instruments and strategies, innovators and early adopters in the urban field are experimenting with advancements in insurance products, credit rating systems, pro-poor safeguards in protocols for city investment, and the acquisition of risk-reducing assets through finance and social networks. SDI is also helping public and private partners to rethink the assumptions and processes that underpin decisions about banking systems, basic services, and municipal finance.
Innovation in New Finance for the Urban Poor
The United Nations estimates that it will cost almost USD $4 trillion a year to achieve the SDGs in developing countries alone, with an annual shortfall of an estimated USD $2.5 trillion. A significant portion of this funding is required for critical infrastructure to reduce urban vulnerability, but the share of public funds for these developments is diminishing. This realization, along with the emergence of impact investing and innovative finance, has spurred SDI to explore the potential for the urban poor of new experimental financing mechanisms including resilience bonds, social impact bonds, diaspora bonds, insurance-based instruments, crowd-funding, peer-to-peer lending, and outcome-based contracting.
Lessons from SDI’s experience in urban poor finance can help to inform and ground the design and innovation of these and other much-needed new financial strategies and instruments in the realities of informal settlements. The Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI) is a self-governed, self-managed, and expanding financial facility that provides capital to national Urban Poor Funds. These in turn provide low-cost loans and grants to savings collectives undertaking important urban improvement and housing projects. It puts capital directly into the hands of slum dwellers undertaking urban improvement schemes that they have negotiated with local and municipal government. Giving federations direct control of capital enables them to negotiate as an acknowledged potential partner with formal bodies such as governments, investors, and banks. These interventions have been anchored by the same local knowledge and partnerships that guide KYC and have thus produced practical interventions for affordable and scalable finance in support of the urban poor.
Climate-Compatible Informal Settlement Investments
In the face of new environmental threats (such as floods and sea level rise) investments must, to the extent possible, be designed in ways that support low-carbon development. There is far too little work done with respect to informal settlement upgrading in the context of climate change. Particularly among city governments and investors, few appreciate the extent to which good-quality upgrading could build resilience to climate risk. Throughout the SDI network, federations are building housing structures that are better able to withstand storms and floods; installing piped water supplies; making provisions for sanitation and drainage; constructing all-weather roads and paths that are resilient to extreme weather; and creating house and neighborhood designs that help populations cope with heat waves and flooding. In partnership with Global Infrastructure Basel (GIB), SDI seeks to increase investment in climate-friendly infrastructure in informal settlements by producing business cases guided by KYC data and SuRe® Standard sustainability and resilience assessments.
Risk is all about protecting the bottom line. In the case of slum upgrading in an increasingly dangerous environment, the bottom line is to change the political and economic climate. The first step is to recognize that risks associated with leaving millions of people behind will be equally shared, not borne only by those who can least afford to carry them. And to appreciate that including the urban poor in development plans will generate economic, social, and environmental benefits for all residents.
In February, SDI launched a landmark publication titled “Know Your City: Slum Dwellers Count,” showcasing the extraordinary contribution of the Know Your City (KYC) campaign to creating understanding and taking action to reduce urban poverty and exclusion. We are posting a new chapter from the book every week. Enjoy!
Download the full publication here: http://bit.ly/2seRc0x