SDI at COP27: Amplifying Voices of the Urban Poor for Transformative Change

By Ariana Karamallis, Programme Coordinator for Advocacy and Resilience at the SDI Secretariat

From 6 – 18 November, SDI delegates from Kenya, India, the Philippines, Malawi, Zambia, and the SDI Secretariat attended the 27th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. 

Over the past few years, SDI has been steadily building a strong presence in the climate adaptation and justice space – firmly rooted in community-driven climate adaptation and advocacy work carried out by our affiliates on the ground. SDI at COP27 and our participation at the event marked a milestone in our climate work, establishing SDI at COP27 as a key player in the climate space – particularly as it relates to the experiences and needs of and solutions required to address and reduce the impacts of the climate crisis in urban poor communities. COP27 served as an important platform to raise the voices of the urban poor around climate change –- particularly women and youth – showcase their work, action and achievements, and amplify the needs, priorities, and key messages emerging on the ground.

SDI served as a managing partner of this year’s COP27 Resilience Hub, co-hosting an event with GAYO titled “Amplifying Voice from Urban Informal Settlements,” (watch the video of the full session here) and moderating and providing inputs at the closing session, which featured reflections from the director of ICCCAD and Loss and Damage specialist Saleemul Huq, UN High-Level Champions Nigel Topping and Gonzalo Muñoz, and SDI’s former chair, Sheela Patel. The SDI and GAYO session provided space for rich discussions between on-the-ground practitioners and strategic global partners, including inputs from Zilire Luka, director of CCODE Malawi, and Theresa Carampatana, member of the SDI Board and President of the Homeless People’s Federation of the Philippines, Arne Janssen of Cities Alliance, Hellen Wanjohi of WRI Africa, and Christie Kieth of GAIA

Resilience is intimately connected to land ownership. You cannot make a settlement resilient if you don’t have a right to work on the land. This work takes time and investment — for the leaders and community and investment in them as leaders! Money isn’t enough. The community and government have to be empowered to support the issue.” – Theresa Carampatana, member of the SDI Board

“We need to acknowledge that everyone works at different scales and all of that work matters. But to build genuine partnerships between these entities is a painstaking process. Building trust isn’t easy! But it builds ownership and capacity. We have to value this.” – Hellen Wanjohi, WRI Africa

In addition to the above, SDI delegates spoke at over 25 events over the course of the two-week period, sharing experiences and reflections on topics ranging from locally-led adaptation to loss and damage to affordable resilient housing and the development of resilience indicators. No matter where SDI delegates spoke, they always brought with them the unique experience of urban poverty, giving voice to vastly underrepresented issues in climate spaces – that the consequences of the climate crisis have uniquely devastating impacts on urban poor communities, that governments and the international development community must recognise the unique role of cities in addressing the climate crisis, and that the increasing majority of urban residents are and will continue to be informal. 

The good news is that when urban poor communities organise and mobilise, their capacity to catalyse transformative change is immense. But this needs to be supported, replicated and scaled by those in power in order for it to become a reality. And while it is yet to be seen whether those in power are willing to take necessary action, the scales seem to be tipping ever so slightly in favour of justice. Indeed, the agreement by member states to create a fund for loss and damage points towards the power of civil society – who have been pushing to get loss and damage on the climate agenda for decades – to effect change in these spaces, and the degree to which it is increasingly impossible to ignore either the interconnectedness of the climate crisis or the need for solutions that are not only global in nature but address the fundamental inequities of our world. 

While SDI is hopeful about these developments, as well as the increasing support for and commitments to locally-led adaptation, we continue to focus our efforts on demonstrating that urban poor communities across the Global South are already implementing locally-led adaptation work, are capable of managing climate finance, and have many of the solutions required to advance climate justice in our cities. The real work of urban (and global) decision-makers now is to recognise the reality of our rapidly urbanising world and the capacity of its urban poor to effect the change required to achieve the climate-just future we need. We hope that by COP28 we see an increase in commitments from global decision-makers as well as local and national governments to support the work of local communities through increased and institutionalised participation of urban poor communities in climate adaptation planning in cities and increased finance to support locally-led climate adaptation work.

“We need governments and global partners to effectively partner with us – slum dwellers, grassroots communities, urban poor people –  to finance, replicate and scale up the work we have been doing in our communities for decades. We have no choice but to adapt. We are always experiencing loss and damage. These things are our daily reality. Come to us for the answers – we want to help – our lives depend on it.” – Joseph Muturi, chair of the SDI Board

From the Bottom Up: Connecting SDI to Global Urban Development Processes

SDI Signs MoU with Cities Alliance & UCLGA

SDI signs an MOU with Cities Alliance and United Cities & Local Governments of Africa (UCLGA). 

The experience of federations of the urban poor that make up the SDI network underlines the interconnections of actions that impact both locally and globally. Every time a foreign corporation, government, or other type of organization expresses interest in land or development in a city or in a country, it impacts the everyday lives of the poor. The people who live in cities, and their governments, face constant external pressures regarding the choices that determine whether ordinary poor people have access to land, services, shelter, and economic opportunity.

The challenge, then, is to build organizations and alliances able to balance the influence of powerful global processes with local needs to make urbanization work for all. The lesson here is that local actors, especially in city government, through exploring the potential of working and supporting citywide federations of the urban poor, become more effective in managing these processes.

At the global level, SDI is increasingly serving as a platform for allowing representatives of organized urban poor constituencies to speak directly with decision-makers in major international organizations and forums. The aim and impact of these interactions is to strengthen the local processes through which federations form and build citywide alliances. How do they do it?

First, by building new mechanisms for accessing and managing the financial resources required for an inclusive vision of development. The global financial flows that drive city development comprise a juggernaut in comparison to the amounts of money the federations of savings schemes collect. However, these savings serve as the basis for creating citywide funds to finance informal settlement upgrading projects and employment generation projects. Savings also builds financial literacy and management skills amongst the organizations of the poor in order to take up projects to upgrade and improve their settlements with the city

Stellenbosch City Fund

Even more promising is the spread of citywide funds that are joint endeavors between city governments and city federations. These institutions have begun to get formalized in different forms in cities in South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. They provide the space for city governments and federations to work together to leverage resources within government, within communities, as well as from external institutions in the private sector. These are quintessential examples of the ways in which urban poor federations are a mechanism through which city governments can get a handle on flows of finance that impact urbanization.

Harare Citywide Slum Upgrading Fund

In Zimbabwe, Dialogue on Shelter, an NGO affiliated with Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) is in the final stages of negotiating the terms of a citywide fund with the City of Harare. The fund is a practical financial instrument reflective of the partnership between the Zimbabwean SDI alliance and the city, creating shared political and financial responsibility for slum upgrading.

The fund will comprise of financial contributions from SDI, the City of Harare and the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation. Other donors have also expressed an interest in contributing to the fund, making it a possible conduit for finances to flow from donors to the urban poor. Not only does this blending of finance create an attractive mechanism to which various parties can contribute but it is a manner in which the participating parties can hold each other accountable.

The negotiations about the fund’s financial structure reflect a concrete manner in which groups of the urban poor can influence financial flows that directly affect their lives. Opening this political space for communities to articulate their needs at a citywide decision-making level is core to SDI’s role, and in the case of Zimbabwe, reflective of long-term partnership building. The Zimbabwean federation argued for the fund to focus on incremental settlement upgrading as opposed to only housing, forwarded loan provision and repayment strategies based on their experiences of daily savings, addressed issues of affordability and planned to extend loans to non-federation members.

This is a clear example of how a voice of the urban poor can negotiate changes that have the potential for citywide impact in a manner beneficial to the poor and more contextualized in “on the ground” circumstances.

The calculation shifts. No longer is it a struggle of poor people to self-finance improvements to their settlements amidst national and global processes that often increase the vulnerability of the poor. Rather, poor people’s organizations and city governments are now working together to generate internal and external financial power to achieve the kinds of infrastructure improvements that reduce vulnerability and increase opportunity.

SDI’s global reach then allows for these experiences to add up through exchanges amongst cities, and exposure of agencies and corporations in both the private and public sectors. Now, globalized flows of finance are beginning to contend with the alternative approaches that SDI federations are enabling at the local level.

Second, the dearth of information about informal settlements persists, even amidst global trends of “big data,” “city sensing,” etc. With over 9000 city profiles and 4000 enumerations, SDI federations are becoming world leaders in generating data about informal life in cities. In partnership with the Santa Fe Institute, with a focus on uncovering complex processes of development, SDI federations are finding new ways to use their data to show the hidden side of vulnerability and survival that is the daily experience of the urban poor. Instead of being invisible, or having their homes and livelihoods thought of merely as hotbeds of crime and disease, urban poor federations are making the case, through hard data, that informal settlements have the potential to be the engines for more inclusive strategies of city development.

Enumeration Data Leads to Slum Upgrading in Uganda

In Uganda, the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDFU) acknowledges that “Knowledge is Power” and that this power is something that slum dwellers on the ground can wield if they are organized.  To this end, NSDFU has completed five citywide slum enumerations in the secondary cities of Jinja, Arua, Mbale, Mbarara, and Kabale. The Federation understands that this information, gathered by communities, is trusted and more accurate because of the participatory approach employed.  In each of these five municipalities the information collected has been used to plan slum upgrading projects and prioritize future projects.  The information has also been central in negotiations with local authorities and has been used in Municipal Development Forums to lobby for upgrading funds and improved services. In addition, the data has been used by municipal planning and budgeting committees, helping federation members to gain seats on these committees.  The information is also used internally by the federation to guide project planning, highlighting communities’ needs. For example, in Mbale the federation’s data collection skills resulted in the municipality employing federation members and using their tools to help collect informal household and informal market data which will be used to inform city wide development plans by communities and local authorities.  

Bit by bit, this information is showing policy-makers and global decision-makers that development that is equitable and sustainable is impossible without addressing the needs and vulnerabilities of the poor. This is particularly so with respect to prioritizing basic infrastructure and shelter. Likewise, this requires prioritizing economic development approaches that finally recognize the strategies that people in informal settlements use to survive and, sometimes, thrive.


Jockin Arputham speaks on a panel at a plenary session at World Urban Forum 6 in Naples, Italy. 

Third and finally, urban poor federations in the SDI network are not letting the data and the experts do the talking for them. Instead, they attend global forums and present their own understanding of the power of relationships of learning, and share its impact on their long-standing approaches to negotiation and exchange. Through peer exchanges, the strategies of learning and negotiations undertaken in one country are shared across SDI. As these practices demonstrate their application in different countries and in different contexts they can be presented externally as possible strategies for governments and development agencies to explore.

SDI federations have a long tradition of taking their partners in city governments with them as they travel to other cities and countries. In this way, federations in countries such as India, Kenya, Malawi, Philippines, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, have utilized international forums and exchange programs to help build more inclusive and participatory institutions at the national and city level for making decisions about developmental priorities and programs.

Mshini Wam Site Visit

Changing the Approach to Upgrading: Expanding Learning in Southern Africa

In South Africa, the local SDI Alliance, in partnership with the City of Cape Town, is engaged in pilot upgrading projects in 22 settlements across the city. The Alliance’s work in one of these settlements, Mtshini Wam, which has included re-blocking and upgrading of shacks, has drawn local, national and international attention and has contributed to the drafting of a re-blocking policy for slum upgrading in Cape Town. In addition, technical teams from support NGOs iKhayalami and CORC have expanded training workshops for the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), and local communities beyond Cape Town and Stellenbosch to settlements in the provinces of the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. As a result, communities have begun working with government to develop settlement plans that involve upgraded services and homes.

These skills and learning are being transferred to other affiliates through international learning exchanges. In March 2013, a delegation from the Namibian SDI affiliate, accompanied by a delegation from the Gobabis local municipality, traveled to Stellenbosch, South Africa to learn about the impact of linking enumerations to slum upgrading. Following this interaction, the Gobabis municipality resolved to work with the local community on the re-blocking of settlements in their municipality. 

To read more on how starting from the bottom up and connecting on-the-ground activities to global urban development processes leads to effective change, read our 2012 / 2013 Annual Report. 



Towards the Urban Poor Development Goals: Setting Milestones for a Sustainable Post-MDG Development Agenda


Global discussions and serious reflections on development goal setting post-2015 have begun.  To some degree the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been able to inject socially responsible goal setting into national budgeting processes. They have also served as a strong rhetorical tool for justifying the allocation and transparency of resources for ends that improve human needs. Notwithstanding these tangential impacts, they have not been able to affect the institutions that make these decisions in the first place.

Against this backdrop, SDI affiliates have identified clear and strong commitments to address urban poverty that they would like to see as part of the next MDGs:

  1. Governments must enable the production of mixed land use and habitat where the rich and poor live and work within the same geographies. It is critical that the future growth of cities is planned around this principle.
  2. Where people are already living in informal settlements, security of tenure must be ensured, so as to reduce the persistent man-made crisis of forced eviction.
  3. Informally settled communities, through capacitated community organizations, must be included in the design and execution of investment by state authorities. This means that state authorities must demonstrate willingness and capacity to enter into meaningful partnerships with community organizations to address challenges faced by cities.
  4. The role and contribution that women play in cities and especially in low-income slums must be recognized. Development goals must support women-led community organizations of the poor.
  5. Adequate access to finance for upgrading basic services and infrastructure must be ensured, especially in invisible and marginalized informal settlements. This will not only ensure equity but will prepare communities for climate change and mitigate against disasters.
  6. There must be a commitment to economic policy-making that prioritizes the availability of life-affirming jobs (eg. accessible, decent wages, predictable schedule, bargaining and organizational rights). Cities in which everyone works with a realistic expectation of social mobility and basic dignity, will grow and remain peaceful.

From Theory to Action

The post-2015 goals must be rooted in a sober acknowledgement of social and economic trends, in particular the rapid urbanization of countries in the developing world. The experience of networks like SDI and other groupings of grassroots communities that interact with governmental institutions points to one key lesson: The increasing voice of the poor in decisions around finance, design, and project implementation are essential institutional innovations for almost all the issues with which the current set of MDGs have been concerned.

We would like to see the post-2015 development framework highlight the material inequities that face the poor with respect to the range of basic human needs. This needs to be situated in a broader framework that challenges governments to make the space for the influential inclusion of the poor. This cannot just be rhetorical. For example, with respect to urbanization, by prioritizing discussions around access to land in cities, slum dwellers will necessarily dialogue with the key actors in the politics of urban development. Land, which is not mentioned in the current MDG framework, needs to be central to the post-2015 approach if we are to begin to adequately address fundamental factors and impacts of rapid urbanization.

The current message of “poverty eradication” implies that governments just need to allocate more resources to addressing poverty and “perform better.” But the need for inclusion of the poor in decision-making processes is integral to lasting efforts to address inequalities, marginalization and social exclusion. One particularly fruitful approach has been the establishment of citywide funds for informal settlement upgrading that are managed jointly between local government authorities and citywide networks of community organizations in informal settlements in countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, Uganda, and South Africa. These have increased the influence of the shack-dwelling poor in ways that address not just MDGs related to improvement of life in slums, but also access to water, sanitation, and gender equality.

Giving Meaning to “Participation” and “Inclusion”

Frequent calls for greater “participation” are generally watered down to mean either a) consultation with ordinary people and communities on projects and programs that have already been conceived by large actors in government and the private sector, or b) the ability of communities to hold such actors accountable for promises after they have been made.

The next global development framework must be clear about what we actually mean by “inclusion” and “participation,”. Investing in community organization capacity and partnerships between communities and local government can be an effective means of achieving inclusive governance capacity.

The key is not to dictate specific policies and interventions for every country. Rather, the key is to articulate specific principles of institutional inclusion, as well as specific material outcomes. SDI’s experience is that when a framework of partnership between state institutions and community organizations is a pre-requisite for delivery, then it is much easier to develop mechanisms for delivery that are sustainable over the long term. These may play out differently across countries, especially in terms of the specific institutional designs that emerge from such a framework. However, the basic principles of inclusion and investment in community processes can be universalized. 

Resilience to Crisis

A new framework addressing resilience should recognize both the causes of crises to begin with, and the most impactful approaches to resilience. With respect to the causes of crises, there are primarily man-made reasons for crises that are both environmental and political in nature.

The first problem is that the urban poor generally lack security of tenure, and are pushed into marginal areas of cities. They are therefore subject to the crises of eviction, flooding, and fire. The new framework should make it clear that in order to lessen the human impact of large natural incidents, governments need to make well-located land available to the poor.

The Urban Poor Development Goals: A Global Compact for Development

A global compact for inclusive urban growth — the Urban Poor Development Goals — is needed to achieve development and reduce vulnerability. There are four elements:

  1. Inclusive institution building. State institutions reformed or created to embed partnerships with community organizations, especially at the city level to drive decision-making about programs and financial allocations for development of urban infrastructure. 
  2. Inclusive land management. Well-located land made available to the urban poor, who constitute the majority in most cities in the developing world. This should ensure zero forced evictions, and grant security of tenure so as to make investment in infrastructure viable for both local government and slum dweller communities.
  3. Inclusive urban infrastructure. Water, sanitation, electricity, and transport infrastructure that services the poor so as to achieve zero-open defecation cities globally within 10 years, electricity for all, and 100% improvement in life-affirming job opportunities over 10 years.
  4. Inclusive community development. Programmatic investment by national and local authorities in capacity building of community organizations so as to continue to deepen the inclusive development agenda highlighted in the first three elements.

Global development forums tend to have a “same-y” feel to them, because they involve similar actors making similar discussion points. The number one priority for all public forums aimed at building consensus around a new framework should be to put the voices of the poor center stage. A global compact will be strengthened through the empowerment of these voices, so that development does not remain something done by the rich for the poor, but to affirm both the voices and needs of the poor.

For more on these topics, check out SDI’s 2012 / 2013 Annual Report. 


Resilience & Sustainability from the Bottom Up: Building Partnerships for Scale & Impact

Enumerations in Cape Town

By Sheela Patel, Chair of the SDI Board and Co-Founder & Director, SPARC

For actors and institutions concerned with the economic and social well-being of humanity, urban development is increasingly recognized as the major lacuna of fighting poverty, managing climate change, and generating inclusive growth. Within our network, we are transitioning to a new scale of activities and beginning to get recognition in our cities, countries, and at the global level for what we do. As an institutional form focused on altering the developmental calculus such that the informal poor can achieve greater voice and influence in formal decision-making, we are tasked with navigating the tensions associated with increased institutionalization and formalization. We are in a position where, as an institutional form, we are able to speak to major development debates, as seen through the eyes of the grassroots urban poor federations that comprise our network.

Change is a crucial and foundational aspect of ongoing influences that impact a neighborhood, city, nation and now our planet. Some changes we can plan for and embrace. Others we can imagine, but communities on the ground need space and time to reflect on the impact on their lives and produce a response. Still others come without any warning. The changes that emerge from what communities seek to do and aspire for have been negotiated for acknowledgement and inclusion into policy, and our work over the past year clearly reflects the projects and partnerships that reflect the progress made. SDI now increasingly seeks to develop capacity to anticipate the impact of global and externally promoted developments, to ensure that its affiliates and their memberships understand and develop confidence to respond rather than react to them, and to ensure that they can participate in discussions around these issues.

So how do we create a balance that retains focus on what can be done by civil society and by our own institutional interventions, while external support of often oppositional currents of change continues? How do we accommodate planetary challenges and national issues within our perspective without allowing them to drown our focus on creating voice, choice and space for the urban poor in cities? Clearly the choice is between reacting or responding to expand our vision, capacity and reflections on these processes as we engage communities of the urban poor and their city government for local action with a global perspective.

In the context of continuing to build and refine the strategic orientation of our network, it is worth reflecting on the oft-used and misunderstood concept of “sustainability.” We need to clearly understand the implications of what we do and where it will take us. In development-linked discussions there is a big debate on how institutional sustainability is defined. The prevalent, simplistic assumption is that if you have financial sustainability all else will follow. There is no question that financial independence and sustainability have value in and of themselves. However, such a singular focus is a denial of the complex environment in which organizations working on issues of poverty operate.

Formal institutions seem decades away from creating real inclusion of informal urban dwellers and all rhetoric of inclusion has to be constantly tested. The innovative precedents needed to make this process operational are few and far between. Even those financial institutions that exist are in a hurry to demonstrate sustainable models in time frames that are not suited for the task at hand.

We in SDI are of the opinion that the development institutions and projects owned and managed by the poor are viewed as investments in strategies to provide voice, outreach, scale and impact in addressing poverty. If viewed from a lens of research and development for addressing urban poverty, SDI and similar organizations become learning centers for the larger community. There are few strategies, and even fewer systems, that encourage the poor to seek investments from the state. Clear linkages between what is good for the poor, and strategies that have both local prospects for achieving scale and potential to be globally transferable, are in short supply.

What we do and with whom we interact to create solutions has huge significance for plotting the development agenda more broadly than just in our own network. The quest to refine and develop our strategic approaches in our cities and countries merits investment as a priority, far and above the notion of simply becoming financially self-sufficient. At some point we may no longer have financial support from traditional development aid institutions, and will be forced to develop alternative strategies. We are already preparing ourselves internally for this possibility. The fear is that this may limit our ability to set precedents, take risks and innovate while building internal governance structures and management skills that will work not only for us but inform policy and practice for a sector that, to a significant degree, still needs to be built from scratch. This requires continued exploration of both the successes and fruitful failures on our road of experimentation for building voice, influence and knowledge of, by, and for the poor in our cities.


For more about SDI’s strategies for developing institutional sustainability and building voice and influence through partnerships at the city, national and global level, read our 2012-2013 Annual Report. 

Report on Board of Governors Meeting 2013



By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat 

The extent to which urban development trajectories are determined through the alignments of powerful institutions and actors, is easily the greatest challenge that SDI-linked federations face in their cities. The challenge is to build the internal capacity and power within and between communities to alter existing development relationships. With a renewed strategy in hand, pitched at monitoring, learning and upending the unequal relationships that define city development today, SDI federation and support professional leaders met with its advisory board of formal political supporters earlier this month.

The annual SDI Board of Governors (BoG) meeting recently took place in Johannesburg, South Africa on August 15th and 16th. The meeting was hosted by South African Deputy Minister of Human Settlements Zou Kota-Fredricks, and chaired by South African Chief State Law Adviser Enver Daniels, who was an alternate selected by BoG chair Minister of Public Services & Administration Lindiwe Sisulu. Sisulu also hosted a dinner that introduced the BoG and SDI to new Minister of Human Settlements Connie September. The meeting also included Ugandan Minister of Lands, Housing & Urban Development David Migereko, and representatives from the Swedish and Norwegian Ministries of Foreign Affairs.

A key output of the engagement was the Bog’s affirmation and support of SDI’s administrative and financial systems, as well as the proposed framework for refining and expanding learning, monitoring and evaluation. The results based framework and strategic plan presented focus on a number of core activities that are then measured against specific sets of indicators. The core activities, ratified by the BoG include; the establishment of 4 city based learning centers supported by the Core Monitoring team, the need to build a coalition to influence the global urban agenda, a diversification of leadership and finance within the SDI network, and incremental in-situ upgrading scaled up across the network.  These strategic directions, and aligned activities, will be measured through the work of SDI-affiliated federations at the city level.  And, ultimately, the proof of success is in real delivery: land accessed, tenure secured, amenities provided, resources leveraged, generally through partnerships with government, and especially local government.

 Having accepted the overall strategic mandate, BoG members spoke to how they could add value. The political “clout” of the board, in both the North and South, will be deployed to influence major global agendas and institutions such as the World Urban Forum, Habitat III, and multilateral alignments. The particular focus is to continue to open up space for relationships of institutions and individual actors at the city level that can help produce more equitable and inclusive cities.

SDI’s strategic shift includes a specific citywide focus across the network is clearly captured in the strategic plans presented. This will involve developing citywide indicators, generating standardized data and maps for all informal settlements within cities (regardless of federation presence) and strengthening city scale advocacy and institution building. This approach will generate robust data and systems that add value to the work of affiliates and federations while fulfilling formal reporting and accountability requirements from donors. In other words, delivery is not an end in and of itself, but must address the spatial and political framework of each city where federations are working.

The learning, monitoring and evaluation framework will play a key role within this paradigm with a focus on action-based horizontal learning from practical precedents in slum communities. The board ratified SDI’s ongoing and proposed systems of data collection, management, learning, monitoring and evaluation. This is a system that is accountable and useful to urban poor communities, especially with regards to assessing citywide impact. Secondly it provides indicators dynamic enough to meet the requirements of donors.

 All strategies deployed by SDI intend to build a strong voice and agency of slum dweller communities in order to achieve inclusive cities. The learning of the last years captures the value found in informal systems and deploys it at transnational scale across the SDI network. A commitment by the BoG to support these mechanisms signals that the space is open amongst formal political leaders to move towards much more inclusive city development paradigms. But the range of actors that will continue to define this space will demonstrate different strengths and influence. The challenge for the SDI network is to continue to build the alignments and especially city-level agglomerations that can widen this space for the poor to access more decision-making influence, land, basic services, and housing.

SDI Joins World Urban Campaign

SDI Signs MOU with UN Habitat

**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 Joins World Urban Campaign

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.