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. 

SDI at Habitat III: Highlights from Quito

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45+ SDI delegates

14 affiliates from Africa, Asia, and Latin America

80+ speaking engagements

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Some highlights from SDI’s eventful week at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador:
Click here for the full report. 

  • Rose Molokoane, a national community leader from South Africa, SDI Coordinator and founding member of the SDI Network, was elected Chairperson of the World Urban Campaign.
  • Adorned with SDI’s new branding, SDI’s booth at the HIII Exhibition center was a lively space for discussion, and 360° slum experience. It served as a central point for discussions between federation leaders, partners, and key urban decision stakeholders.
  • SDI chaired a breakout session at the Women’s Assembly, producing a set of concrete commitments and requests from Member States towards effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
  • The SDI Board of Governors (BOG) met during the week in Quito, chaired by Minister of Human Settlements for South Africa, Lindiwe Sisulu. The meeting highlighted some of SDI’s achievements over the past year and teased out strategies for enhancing BOG support to SDI efforts to implement the NUA and SDGs.
  • In plenary meetings of the General Assembly of Partners (GAP), SDI urged members to support local stakeholder implementation and monitoring of the NUA – particularly urban poor communities in partnership with local authorities.
  • SDI launched the second phase of its expanded Know Your City campaign in partnership with Cities Alliance and UCLG-Africa. This coincided with the launch of SDI’s new KYC website, showcasing slum dweller surveys, stories, and films. This was followed by a Know Your City networking event where a detailed panel discussion took place on the KYC Campaign, including moving testimonies from slum dwellers from Ghana, Liberia, and Zambia about their work to profile and map all the settlements in their cities.
  • SDI, Cities Alliance, and GIZ screened the Ghana case study from CoLab for Change – a project of the Cities Alliance Joint Work Program for Habitat III. Two federation members and one government official featured in the film made presentations explaining the collaborative partnerships that have enabled their success and the process of training youth to document their stories as part of Know Your City TV.
  • Since 2007, SDI and Y-Care International (YCI) have worked together to support the growth of urban poor federations in Liberia, Togo, and Sierra Leone. On Monday 17th October, SDI and YCI launched a new MOU to scale up and deepen the collaboration region-wide.
  • Unlike many events that have gone before, grassroots leaders were given the opportunity to speak at plenary sessions in Quito. This achievement was made possible through SDI’s work over the past 20 years and its active participation in the GAP and WUC. Rose Molokoane used this platform to push forward the commitments of the grassroots constituency and call upon member states to uphold their commitments to partner with organized communities in implementation of the NUA and SDGs. She urged members that “the time for talking is over. It’s time toimplement!”
  • The SDI team was presented with many requests to expand the network into Latin America. With a strong team from Bolivia and Brazil taking the lead, SDI will follow up on all the many requests from Latin American countries.
  • Just prior to Habitat III, the Governor of Lagos, Akinwunmi Ambode ordered an immediate eviction notice to all Lagos waterfront communities. Each and every federation member in Quito took copies of the Federation’s withdrawal demands to their events and raised the issue whenever the opportunity arose. High level meetings were arranged with various government officials from inside and outside Nigeria to build pressure on the Governor to withdraw his eviction notice, but also to highlight viable examples of alternatives to eviction within the SDI network and the desire of the network to support Nigeria to undertake inclusive upgrading inline with NUA commitments. Sani Mohammed, a federation member from Lagos, worked tirelessly to secure meetings with relevant authorities and donor partners. He was able to get an audience with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the ED of UN Habitat, ensuring the message reached the highest platforms.
  • Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and SDI launched a new film, ‘No One Left Behind’ in which slum dwellers call into question the effectiveness of militaristic responses to urban violence.

“Community monitoring of the NUA at the local level will be essential for transparent assessment of progress and ownership of the NUA” – Rose Molokoane

SDI at Habitat 3 Regional Meeting for Africa


As the UN-wide Habitat 3 Conference draws closer, SDI is being invited to and involved in an increasing number of events to prepare for both the conference and the release in May of the Zero Draft of the much anticipated New Urban Agenda. Over the course of preparations for Habitat 3, SDI continues to pursue our global advocacy mandate of promoting a people-centred citywide upgrading approach in the global arena. Most importantly, our advocacy work is rooted in the experiences and struggles of our grassroots federations of the urban poor, and our partnerships and activities on the global stage are determined by the anticipated impact they will make on federations’ local processes. The aim is that participation in high-level advocacy events will afford federations with opportunities to showcase successes and share lessons learned in order to build citywide, regional, and international alliances that escalate impact.

Towards the end of February 2016, SDI delegates from the Nigerian and Ghanaian Federations, and support NGOs Justice & Empowerment Initiatives (JEI) Nigeria, Peoples Dialogue on Human Settlements in Ghana, and Kenya’s Akiba Mashinani Trust, participated in the Habitat 3  Regional Meeting for Africa held in Abuja in preparation for Habitat 3. The Regional Meeting convened stakeholders from across Africa to discuss the issues and priorities of African countries. The formal outcome of the Africa Regional Meeting was the Abuja Declaration — a unified statement adopted by all of the African governments present identifying “Africa’s Priorities for the New Urban Agenda.”

Because this regional meeting was held in Nigeria, it was hosted by the Nigerian Federal Ministry for Power, Housing, and Works (led by former Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola), and numerous Nigerian government officials were in attendance. This was a unique opportunity for JEI and the Nigerian Federation to engage with government officials from both Nigeria and other countries simultaneously, and have more informal discussions during side events where they met a Permanent Secretary within the Federal Ministry of Power, Housing, and Works, as well as the Rivers State Commissioner for Housing. Additionally, the delegation met with the Special Advisor to the Nasarawa State Government on the Sustainable Development Goals, who requested a pitch from JEI and the Federation for partnership in supporting work in informal settlements in Nasarawa.

These opportunities for informal meetings with government officials are invaluable to SDI’s federations. These are people who usually take months to see, if they get to see them at all. The experience of SDI federations from across Africa shows that when these connections are nurtured, they can lead to meaningful activities that actually make a concrete difference in the lives of the urban poor. We look forward to hearing more from the Nigerian federation about these developments!

In addition to these connections with Nigerian government, the SDI delegation worked together with SDI’s two key ‘grassroots’ partners, WIEGO and Huairou Commission to put forward collective messaging in order to have greater reach and hopefully greater impact.  Jane Weru (SDI), Victoria Okoye (WIEGO), and Limota Goroso Giwa (Huairou Commission), were all nominated as members of the Advisory Committee tasked with reviewing and making direct inputs on the final Abuja Declaration. Additionally, Limota Goroso Giwa was selected to present a short speech within the main plenary session on the final day highlighting the ‘women’s caucus’ views on the New Urban Agenda. Together SDI, WIEGO, and Huairou drafted a joint statement that incorporated the perspectives of grassroots women, urban informal workers, and the urban poor. Some of the key demands include:

Excerpt of Joint Statement by SDI, WIEGO, and Huairou Commission at UN Habitat 3 Africa Regional Meeting

We want a women-focused New Urban Agenda that calls for the following:

  1. Formalise engagement and partnerships between local government, national government and grassroots groups to sustain collaborative planning, implementation, and monitoring of housing and urban development initiatives
  2. Recognise and support organised networks of grassroots women, slum dwellers and informal workers who contribute to urban economic growth and build movements towards influencing and enhancing their own development and the cities in which they live
  3. Support and utilise community led data collection documenting tenure and informal settlement upgrading priorities and encourage grassroots community learning in the areas of land and housing planning and administration, especially those where women take the lead.
  4. Develop pro-poor laws and other urban policies that mitigate risks of land grabbing and displacement to promote the economic and social security of women and their families and their contributions to the local economy.
  5. Guarantee security of tenure from one generation of women to another through strong inheritance protections and through measures that help women protect the vitality of land against climate change and other environmental threats
  6. Empower local government to be the primary provider of basic social and municipal services, such as sanitation, water supply, healthcare and primary education.
  7. Empower the urban poor and especially women to participate in equal partnership with local government in all urban planning and decision-making, including participation in the budgeting, implementation, and monitoring processes.
  8. Create pathways for incremental formalisation and integration of informal workers and settlements, rather than criminalising the urban poor.
  9. Develop partnerships with communities, the State, and private sector to provide accessible housing and livelihood finance for the urban poor.

Although not all of our suggestions were ultimately reflected in the Regional Meeting outcome document, termed the Abuja Declaration, many of our key priorities appeared in its recommendations. Below are portions of the first three recommendations contained within the Abuja Declaration, with the sections reflecting our contributions in italics.

While we believe that many of the above points wouldn’t have been reflected in the Abuja Declaration without our direct participation, the Abuja Declaration remains imperfect. Areas where the Abuja Declaration is lacking, and where more advocacy is needed during the remaining thematic and regional meetings as well as at the Habitat 3 conference in Quito in October 2016, are as follows:

Excerpt from Abuja Declaration (full Declaration available here)

  1. Harness the potential of urbanization to accelerate structural transformation for inclusive and sustainable growth
    1. Allocate adequate financial resources to promote sustainable urbanization and human settlements development to drive structural transformation for the benefit of all citizens. This should include promotion of land titling and registration, as well as resource generation through land base revenue and land value capture;
    2. Promote inclusive economic growth that translates to full employment and decent jobs as well as improved living standards for all
  2. Enhance people-centered urban and human settlements through
    1. Ensuring access to affordable basic services including clean water, sanitation, energy, health, education and sustainable transport and employment by all citizens in order to realize their full potential, especially youth, women and people in vulnerable groups;
    2. Strengthening institutions and spatial planning systems to foster urban safety and security, as well as healthy environment and promotes inclusion through participatory approaches and consultative frameworks;
    3. Ensuring access to sustainable, affordable and adequate housing and land, and promoting slum upgrading to ensure security of tenure and access to socio-economic facilities, taking into account the diversity of contexts, the potential of informal economies and the rights of the inhabitants;
  3. Strengthen institutions and systems for promoting transformative change in human settlements including through:
    1. Enhancing capacities for rural and urban planning, governance and management, underpinned by sound data collection and use;
    2. Promoting effective decentralized urban management by empowering cities and local governments, technically and financially, to deliver adequate shelter and sustainable human settlements
    3. Facilitating the participation of urban dwellers in urban governance and management

While we believe that many of the above points wouldn’t have been reflected in the Abuja Declaration without our direct participation, the Abuja Declaration isn’t perfect. Areas where the Abuja Declaration is lacking, and where more advocacy is needed during the remaining thematic and regional meetings as well as at the UN Habitat 3 conference in Quito in October 2016, are as follows:

  1. Nowhere in the document are the “urban poor” specifically identified as a key constituency in the New Urban Agenda. Although the general reference to “participatory approaches and consultative frameworks” in Recommendation 2 is important recognition of the need for inclusion in urban planning and governance, the Abuja Declaration doesn’t clearly spell out who must be included.
  1. The terms “slums” and “informal settlements” only appear once (and only in reference to creation of disaster resilient infrastructure in Recommendation 5). Instead, the Abuja Declaration focuses intensely on the concept of “human settlements” (which specifically appears on 21 occasions throughout the document) – which are notably neither specifically poor or even urban. Indeed on no less than 8 occasions in the Abuja Declaration there is reference to “urban and human settlements” which suggests that the New Urban Agenda is not necessarily urban-focused.
  1. There is only one mention of “rights” within the Abuja Declaration (in Recommendation 2), which merely suggests that they should be “taken into account,” rather than referring to the foundational human rights framework of ‘protect, respect, promote, and fulfill.’ This is a notable shift from the UN Habitat 2 outcomes, which were more firmly grounded in the human rights framework and language. This is particularly problematic where development-based displacement, and violent forced evictions of the urban poor continue unabated in many African countries. It is also notable that there is no mention of alternative land tenure models or land and property rights specifically in the Abuja Declaration – although this is not surprising, as there was very little mention of either throughout the plenary discussions by the governments and experts in attendance.
  1. There are only two mentions of “local governments” and one mention of “decentralised urban management” within the Recommendations of the Abuja Declaration, suggesting that the local governments are merely one of a list of actors that need to be “empowered” (see Recommendation 3) and “strengthened” (see Recommendation 5). Moreover, there is no mention of the need to links and active partnerships between local governments and organised communities of the urban poor.
  2. The only mention of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is with regard to strengthening UN Habitat (see Recommendation 7), and there is no mention of the need for the organised urban poor to be key partners in implementing and monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals.

Putting Community Data to Use in Three Kenyan Cities

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UN Habitat’s Global Land Tools Network (GLTN) Urban Cluster Work Plan Project was conceptualised and developed by GLTN’s urban civil society partners at the Partners Meeting held at the Hague in November 2013.  The project was facilitated by the secretariat of GLTN, and coordinated by Shack / Slum Dwellers International, serving as the urban CSO cluster lead organisation.

The program was implemented by cluster partner organisations: Asian Coalition of Housing Rights, Habitat for Humanity International, Shack / Slum Dwellers International and Academic Cluster partner organisation, African Association of Planning Schools. Broadly the project aimed to activate and engage these GLTN partner organisations in activities that will improve security of tenure for poor urban communities in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

The project was focused on promoting capacity development, awareness raising and alliance building within the Urban civil society cluster and among other clusters to contribute to the GLTN vision of a pro-poor, gender-responsive land interventions, with particular emphasis on increasing grassroots women’s land tenure security at country level.

The Urban Cluster Work Plan laid emphasis on collaboration and partnership between both GLTN partners in the urban cluster and across clusters. The intended outcomes of this were: joint advocacy positions on land tenure security within the global processes of developing post-MDG goals  – the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as participation in Habitat III; and improved land tenure security for poor communities working with the GLTN partners.

The Asian  component was led by SDI’s India affiliate organisation, SPARC.  In Africa regional activities were implemented by two partners: the African Association of Planning Schools, which is part of the Academic Institutions Cluster of GLTN; and SDI’s Nigeria affiliate Justice and Empowerment Initiatives (JEI).

This post will focus on the the collaboration between the African Association of Planning Schools and the SDI affiliate in Kenya to undertake analysis of data, packaging and engagement with city authorities around the use of data in three Kenyan cities. The Centre for Urban Research and Innovation (based within the Nairobi University’s Department for Urban and Rural Planning) acted as the implementing agency.

As a partner of GLTN, SDI’s Kenyan affiliate has practiced community enumeration as a tool to improve tenure security over the last 15 years. The key thrust of this work was to demonstrate the ways in which community data can be used to promote increased tenure security.

This partnership allowed for the realisation of the continuum from data collection to planning. It deepened how STDM and community enumerations may be used as a tool in improving land tenure security.

The intervention consisted of three sub-activities:

  1. Policy brief on alternatives to forced eviction in Thika Town
  2. Situational Analysis of land tenure in Nakuru’s slums
  3. The application of community enumeration and profiling data in an actual planning process. This was undertaken in the zoning of the Mombasa city.

Policy Brief on Alternatives to Forced Eviction in Thika Town


The implementation of the urban work plan in Thika town produced a policy brief on alternatives to forced eviction.

The paper developed argues for land sharing as an alternative to eviction of informal settlement dwellers occupying public land. The paper was prepared through discussions among slum dwellers, the County Government of Kiambu, who is the land owner, and the land tenure researchers offering an advisory role.

Community enumeration and mapping data formed part of the basis of these discussions. This provided for a more informative discourse and analysis of various land access policy options and tenure systems that can be leveraged both by the county government and the informal settlement community.

The paper formed the basis for an on-going discussion between the community of Kianduttu settlement, Muungano wa Wanvijiji, and the County Government of Kiambu.

It legitimises community-collected data, allowing for its use in negotiations for alternatives to forced eviction, and progresses the community push for regularisation of land tenure. In order to achieve this, the paper establishes the constitutional basis for land tenure regularisation. It provides a series of alternatives provided under the land laws and makes policy recommendations.

Situational Analysis of Land Tenure in Nakuru’s Slums


The intervention in Nakuru was targeted at analysing community collected data along side other secondary data and creating a brief on the informal land situation in Nakuru. It also aimed at recognising efforts and initiatives by informal settlement dwellers to address land security challenges.

Qualitative data was gathered through social mapping and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with community members and other stakeholders in the settlement. The FGDs were conducted on 2nd December 2015. The purpose of the FGDs and other formal and informal interactions with community members and other stakeholders was to gather qualitative insights into various issues of the settlement, as well as validating information collected through household enumerations. These were conducted in a participatory manner using a checklist of open-ended questions. Consultants ensured that all members in each FGD had an equal chance to contribute to the discussion.

Mapping was undertaken while doing the community survey with full participation of settlement leadership. The focus of the mapping process is to help in the depiction of settlement boundaries, cluster boundaries, roads, drainage systems, schools, and other community facilities. It focused on the spatial dimension of the people’s realities as expressed in their background information. Resource mapping in the settlement was also done to help in charting land use and command areas, resource access points, and more.

Quantitative data was gathered through household surveys, referred to as enumeration. This was conducted by a team of experienced field investigators under overall supervision of social development economist and other members of the core technical team of the consultants under the guidance of SDI Kenya. The objectives of the household enumeration were to: understand the demographic/socio-economic profile of the households in the settlement; know the status of and issues related to ownership and tenancy structures; assess resident’s access to infrastructure, social amenities, and services; and understand the environmental conditions, health and various social issues.

This involved various processes:

  1. Boundary demarcation and clustering of the settlement: With the support of the community leadership the research team identified the boundaries of the Nyamarutu settlement which was to be covered during the enumeration process. Further the area was divided into four clusters: cluster A, cluster B, cluster C and cluster D.
  2. House numbering: This involved giving a reference number to all the households in the settlement. These numbers are used as an identification value during collection of information. The reference number was designed based on the identified clusters, settlement and the number of households in the settlement (settlement / cluster/structure number).
  3. Sampling design: A full enumeration was carried out to capture each household’s socio economic information. Callback’s were done for households that were not present during the day. This was mainly done at night to ensure that all households were captured.

Using Community Data for Zoning of Mombasa City


In Mombasa the citywide engagement had a different entry point.  Early in 2015, the County Government of Mombasa announced their intention to develop a Strategic Integrated Urban Develop Plan (SIUDP). The plan would draw in technical support from JICA and private sector consultants. However, as a precursor to the plan the county government was required to present a spatial analysis of the current situation of the city. Recognising the Federation’s unique skill set of mapping human settlements and infrastructure within cities, the County Government requested their support to develop the city spatial analysis.

A significant impact of this federation support has been the recognition of Mombasa’s slums as part of the city’s fabric. Previously absent from the way the city zoned land use, the slums are now a zoning category known as High Density Low-Income areas.

Through discussion with County government, the planning department will adopt STDM (Social Tenure Domain Model) as the principal land information system that will anchor the zoning planning process.

SDI Launches Know Your City Campaign at World Urban Forum 7

Know Your City Campaign

SDI is getting ready for the seventh World Urban Forum (WUF) to be held in Medellin, Colombia from 5 – 11 April 2014.

As the largest and most widely attended conference on cities, World Urban Forum presents an excellent opportunity for SDI affiliates to present their work at the global scale, and network with key urban stakeholders – local and national governments, city officials, community organisations, international development organisations, academia, and more – in order to catalyse work on the ground. 

SDI will host a booth in the Exhibition Hall of the Plaza Mayor, where visitors are welcome to drop by to learn about our activities and catch up with delegations from SDI affiliates. 

This year, SDI will focus its WUF activities on our Know Your City Campaign, aimed at the development of protocols for cities to map slums across the city. Every household, every neighborhood and every informal settlement has to be counted. There can be no inclusive or equitable development planning and investment, nor effective city governance if the increasing majority of the residents of informal settlements remain unaccounted for. The campaign will be officially launched at our networking event, “Know Your City: Creating Resilient and Equitable Cities through Partnerships for Community-Collected Data,” on Tuesday 8 April at 16:30 in the Yellow Pavilion, Room 11. 

SDI has demonstrated that cities have to work with urban poor communities to collect baseline data and maps of all informal settlements in the city. This is the beginning of forming a relationship with those who have remained invisible in city planning in the past.

Our campaign seeks to invite communities of the urban poor, NGOs, academics, and city mayors and administrators to join this campaign. We urge national governments, bilateral agencies, multilateral organizations, and academics, to finance and support this process. 

SDI’s experience shows that slum mapping has many immediate and long-term benefits. 

Firstly, it helps settlements to develop a collective understanding. When communities visit each other while collecting information, settlements begin to network. Most of SDI federations have emerged through such exercises. 

Secondly, sustainable development for cities needs to makes sure that information about all living in the city has to be collected, and updated. Invariably, cities list only half the settlements. This leads to skewed investments; increased difference between amenities and services provision and more difficulty in catching up to provide all these services.

Thirdly, in times of increased awareness of city responsibility to vulnerability with man-made and climatic disasters, reaching those most vulnerable and often least documented is always a problem for city administrations. 

Helping the poor to create a voice, a collective identity, and possibilities to participate in transformation and change is an integral aspect of what we all seek in the future of cities.

A list of the events SDI is hosting and participating in is provided below. In addition, you can download our official WUF schedule and programme of events here.  


List of SDI Events at WUF 7:

Monday 7 April 

10:00 – 11:30 

“Putting Poor People at the Centre of Strategies for Urban Development,” (Next City and SDI)

Speakers: Patrick Maghebula (South Africa), Irene Karanja and Joseph Muturi (Kenya), Sarah Nandudu (Uganda)

Venue: USA Pavilion, Innovative Americas Booth 


Tuesday 8 April

8:00 – 11:30 

Civil Society Roundtable 

Speakers: Rose Molokoane (South Africa), other speakers TBC 

Venue: TBC 


12:15 – 13:15 

“The Know Your City Project: Building Inclusive Cities through Partnerships beteween Local Government and Slum Dwellers in Zambia and Burkina Faso,” (UCLG-A and SDI)

Speakers: SDI: Regina Chikoka and Nelson Ncube (Zambia); Other: Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi (UCLGA), Hon. Daniel Chisenga (Mayor of Lusaka), Lusaka City Council Member (TBC); Moderator: Charlton Ziervogel (South Africa)

Venue: City Changer Room 


14:00 – 16:00 

“How to Enable Urban Innovation – Fast, at broad scale, and equitable?,” (Ministry of Economic Development, Germany)

Speakers: Farouk Braimah (Ghana), other speakers TBC 

Venue: Red Pavilion, Room 16 


“Gender, Asset Building, and Just Cities,” (The Ford Foundation) 

Speakers: SDI: Beth Chitekwe-Biti (Zimbabwe); Other: Sonia Dias (WIEGO), Huraera Jabeen (BRAC), Cath McIlwaine (Queen Mary’s University of London), Caren Levy (DPU London); Moderator: Caroline Moser (Ford Foundation)

Venue: Yellow Pavilion, Room 6


“Leaving No One Behind: How can we better monitor progress in ‘slum’ areas?” (Overseas Development Institute) 

Speakers: Joseph Muturi (Kenay), other speakers TBC 

Venue: Red Pavilion, Room 23


16:30 – 18:30

“Know Your City: Creating Resilient and Equitable Cities through Partnerships for Community-Collected Data,” (SDI) 

Speakers: SDI: Catherine Sekai (Zimbabwe), Jack Makau, and Irene Karanja (Kenya); Other: Anaclaudia Rossbach (Cities Alliance), Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi (UCLG-A);  Moderator: Rose Molokoane (South Africa)

Venue: Yellow Pavilion, Room 11 


“Scaling Up Informal Settlement Upgrading & Prevention through National Housing Policies and Programmatic Approaches: Lessons Learned from 12 Countries,” (Ministry of Works and Housing of Ghana)

Speakers: Farouk Braimah (Ghana), other speakers TBC

Venue: Red Pavilion, Room 22 


Wednesday 9 April 

 14:00  – 16:00 

“Towards a New Urban Paradigm: The Future We Want, The City We Need,” (World Urban Campaign Special Session)

Speakers: SDI: Rose Molokoane (South Africa); Other: Joan Clos (UN Habitat), Nicholas You (WUC), Eugene Birch (WUC), Bert Smolders (ARCADIS & UPP), Shipra Narang Suri (ISOCARP), Janice Peterson (Huairou Commission), Lorenzo Casullo (Youth Advisory Board), Jean-Paul Huchon (FMDV), UCLG Representative (TBC), Anibel Gaviria Correa (Mayor of Medellin), Peter Gotz (Global Parlimentarians on Habitat)

Venue: Gran Salon, Room G5, Plaza Mayor 


“Planning Differently: Community Based Slum Upgrading Studios,” (Association of African Planning Schools and SDI)

Speakers: SDI: Beth Chitekwe-Biti (Zimbabwe), Rosalinda Hendricks (Namibia); Other: Nancy Odendaal (AAPS), Hon. James Chiyangwa (City of Harare); Moderator: Jack Makau (SDI)

Venue: Yellow Pavilion, Room 12 


“Future of Places: Public Spaces in Favelas and Slums,” (Future of Places and SDI)

Speakers: SDI: Farouk Braimah (Ghana), Maria Eugenia Torrico (Bolivia); Other: Hon. Ibrahim Baidoo (Mayor of Ashaiman, Ghana), Elin Andersdotter Fabre (Ax:son Johnson Foundation), Mary Jane Ortega (ICLEI), Andres Borthagaray (City on the Move Institute) 

Venue: City Changer Room B


“Citywide Slum Upgrading Programs: Taking stock of practices, outcomes, and innovations in scaled-up approaches to integrate slums into the formal city,” (FAU / UFRJ) 

Speakers: Muhammed Lutwamma and Edris Lubega (Uganda), other speakers TBC 

Venue: Red Pavilion, Room 17 


Thursday 10 April 

8:30 – 11:30 

“Basic Services: Local Businesses for Equitable Cities,” (WUF Dialogue 3) 

Speakers: SDI: Patrick Maghebula (South Africa); Other: Juan Esteban Calle Restrepo (Public Enterprises Medellin), Didas Massaburi (Mayor of Dar es Salaam), Joachim Prey (GIZ), Mahendra Subba (Ministry of Urban Development, Nepal), Sarah Rosen Wartell (Urban Institute); Moderator: Mathieu Lefevre (New Cities Foundation) 

Venue: TBC 


“The Politics of Sanitation: Strategies to Achieve Scale,” (International Institute for Environment & Development and SDI)

Speakers:  Beth Chitekwe-Biti, Catherine Sekai, and Sheila Magara (Zimbabwe); Nelson Ncube, Regina Chikoka, and Joyce Lungu (Zambia); Tim Ndezi, Khadija Kigi, and Felistas Komba (Tanzania); Cynthia Phiri and Mphatso Njunga (Malawi); Moderator: Diana Mitlin (IIED)

Venue: Red Pavilion, Room 17


“Strong Local Government for Development through Partnerships in Ghana, South Africa & Uganda,” (UNDP and SDI)

Speakers:  SDI: Rose Molokoane (South Africa), Muhammed Lutwamma (Uganda), Farouk Braimah (Ghana); Other: Magdy Martinez-Soliman, (UNDP), Patrick Keuleers, (UNDP), Hon. Ibrahim Baidoo (Mayor of Ashaiman, Ghana), Mr. Kibuuka Patrick Musoke (Kampala Capital City Authority, Uganda); Moderator: Kodjo Mensah-Abrampa, (UNDP)

Venue: One UN Room 


“How Can STDM & Technological Tools Support Community Development, Dialogue & Participatory Mapping?” (Habitat for Humanity International)

Speakers: SDI: Jack Makau (Kenya), Sonia Fadrigo (Philippines), Sarah Nadudu (Uganda); Other: Brenda Perez Castro (Habitat for Humanity Colombia), Escarlem Rodriguez (Bolivia), Somsook Boonyabancha (Asian Coalition for Housing Rights)

Venue: Red Pavilion, Room 15 


13:00 – 14:00 

“Informal Settlement Profiling – A first step in developing slum upgrading plans: The Zimbabwean case,” (Penn Institute for Urban Research)

Speakers: Beth Chitekwe-Biti (Zimbabwe)

Venue: Penn IUR Exhibition Stand (30)


14:00 – 16:00

Habitat University Initiative Universities Roundtable 

Speakers: SDI: Irene Karanja (Kenya); Other: Sahar Attia (Cairo University), Mario R. Delos Reyes (Univ. of Philippies), Ana Falu (National University of Argentina), Shuaib Lwasa (Makerere University, Uganda), Michelle Mycoo (Univ. of West Indies), Hans Skotte (Norwegian University of Science & Technology), Bruce Shiftel (Georgia Institute of Technology); Moderator: Michael Cohen (The New School, New York City) 

Venue: TBC 


17:00 – 18:30 

“Citizens & the City Working Together,” (Cities Alliance with SDI & WIEGO)

Speakers: Sonia Fadrigo (Philippines), Catherine Sekai (Zimbabwe), Edriss Lubega (Uganda)

Venue: Cities Alliance Exhibition Stand (76) 


Friday 11 April 

14:00 – 16:00

“Smart Cities from the Bottom Up,” (Santa Fe Institute and SDI)

Speakers: SDI: Marlene Don and Charlton Ziervogel (South Africa), Edriss Lubega (Uganda); Other: Luis Bettencourt (Santa Fe Institute); Moderator: Beth Chitekwe-Biti (Zimbabwe)

Venue: Red Pavilion, Room 22 

SDI Attends Launch of World Urban Campaign’s “The City We Need”


While cities are increasingly central to global development agendas, the precise strategies of city development remain contested. In almost all cities in Africa and Asia, the allocation of resources and political will towards provision of land, services, and shelter for the poor is woefully inadequate. Dominant methods of delivery through “public-private partnerships” and centrally planned strategies have made little impact on the lives of the poor. SDI has inserted a clear voice into this debate to build the voice of the poor to influence more inclusive city development processes. 

On 4 March 2014 at Ford Foundation’s headquarters in New York was the official launch of The City We Need, a key event leading up to the 7th World Urban Forum to be held in Medellin, Colombia this April. The City We Need is a multi-stakeholder, collective contribution to the urban agenda created by World Urban Campaign partners, which have been engaging the international community, public, private, and civil society actors.

Last year SDI officially joined the World Urban Campaign – a lobby and advocacy platform on sustainable urbanization coordinated by UN-Habitat. The World Urban Campaign brings together various urban development stakeholders in an advocacy and partnership platform to dialogue, learn, and share solutions to create a new urban agenda for the Habitat III conference. 

SDI President Jockin Arputham and Rose Molokoane, SDI Coordinator from South Africa, participated in the launch event and emphasized the importance of creating partnerships between government and the urban poor to find solutions to sustainable urban development. To create solutions, one must “Know Your City,” the name of the SDI campaign that aims to address the lack of data on informal settlements. There can be no inclusive or equitable development planning and investment, nor effective city governance if the majority of the residents of informal settlements remain unaccounted for. SDI has demonstrated that cities have to work with urban poor communities to collect baseline data and maps of all informal settlements in the city. Helping the poor to create a voice, a collective identity, and possibilities to participate in transformation and change is an integral aspect of what we all seek in the future of cities. 

SDI will be participating in the World Urban Campaign Special Session at the World Urban Forum in Medellin, Colombia on Wednesday, 9 April at 2:00pm. This event will bring members of the World Urban Campaign together to discuss the new urban paradigm following the theme: The Future We Want, The City We Need. This event constitutes an opportunity to focus new partners around a common objective in order to create concrete goals for the achievement of sustainable urbanization and to mobilize in preparation for Habitat III.

Click here to read the full report of The City We Need launch event.


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.


Activating Social & Political Change through Community-Driven Slum Profiling

Nkanini Community Forum

By Walter Fieuw, CORC, South Africa (on behalf of SDI Secretariat)

Community-driven settlement profiling, enumerations, and spatial mapping are practices that federations associated with SDI have developed over two decades. These become valuable tools in negotiating more equitable resource flows from the public and private sector to urban poor communities. Profiling is a “top-level scan” of the most important features of the settlement, an estimation of the number of shacks, socio-economic and demographic information and access to services. It is also often times the first point of contact of the federation to a non-affiliated settlement/slum and opens a dialogue on the networking of community structures at the city level to influence city governments. Over the past two decades federations have used this tool to categorise and map out slums in cities. Countries use different questionnaires, data capturing systems, and mapping tools to reach this goal. In order to upscale this data to give a global narration based on credible and community-driven quantitative data, SDI has engaged the Santa Fe Institute, who are supporting a process of standardisation. The goal of this process is apparent upfront: To enhance the federations’ ability to generate settlement information in a standardised format for city, regional, national and global analysis, while maintaining all the social mobilisation characteristics that have made profiling a powerful tool in the first place. 

In a two-day workshop between 13 – 14 April 2013 held in Nairobi, federations from Africa and Asia came together to discuss the purposes, community structures and impact of profiling, and to chart the way forward. Jockin Arputham, president of SDI and coordinator of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of India, opened the workshop by reflecting on the progress to date:

This meeting has been called to alert and request everybody to create an action programme for the profile. We all have different questionnaires, although we say we are one family. Settlement profiles need to be captured, and we need to stay consistent in the questions we require. If the country needs more information, you need to add another page. We need one SDI questionnaire, so we can use the information globally. We want to understand what the magnitude of our power is. We want to make different cases to different audiences. We want to collaborate with all the actors speaking about land, housing, infrastructure; all the people speaking about the urban.

Enumerations Workshop

This practice first started in India where slum dwellers were exposed to slum eradication in the 1960s and ’70s. Shekar Mulyan recalled the experiences at a young age.

I was born in a Bombay slum, and composition of the settlement was that of migrant workers. My father and Jockin were the first generation leaders. I was six years old when an eviction started that changed the way we would think about organised communities.

Baba Atomic Centre owned the land where we lived. The government recognised the strategic importance of the land, and started planning a large resettlement/eviction process. Jockin was organising protests, but we were failing on all fronts. We did not have any information about of settlement, even though were engaging trade unions, government agencies, and so on. We lost the court case, and the government commanded us to move once again. 

We realised that no other community had to go through what we went through. We started thinking about ways to assist communities in similar situations, and how we can best support them. We started counting all the slums in Bombay. This happened over weekends, and there were no resources to support the process. When we compared the numbers the state put forward, and that what we collected, we saw a large discrepancy: the state was always undercounting and minimising the urban crisis.

By creating a “slum dweller perspective” on city planning processes through the practice of profiling informal settlements, groups networking at the city level have better information on their position in the city. City governments often view informal settlements as being “black holes” of demands on state resources; that poor people don’t contribute to the resource base and demand more services and social allowances and grants. This false belief often diverges development capital from poor neighbourhoods towards middle and upper classes, believing that the cost of such infrastructure investments will be recovered through a larger tax base. In this way, cities become more divided, more unequal and the chance of poverty alleviation is seen as a trickle down effect from the market, which has been proven to be untrue.

Alternative views on the organisation and vibrancy challenge these (neoliberal) assumptions of city building. Poor people operate in an economic and social structure that is beyond the control of the state. Here jobs are created, livelihood networks are established, crisis committees respond to disasters, and people build cities from the bottom up. Federations associated to SDI are generating critical information that builds these counter-hegemonic views of the urban poor, rendering a rich and diverse picture of the productive life of slums and slum dweller communities.

Enumerations Workshop

Enkanini, Stellenbosch, South Africa Settlement Profile based on Enumeration Map

The experience of the Homeless People’s Federation of Malawi speaks directly to these points as Mphatso Njunga, a federation leader, reflected at the workshop:

We are also using our profiling process to understand the budgeting processes in cities, and we are pushing the government to open up participatory spaces to influence the allocation of budgets. In Blantyre, we were never aware of special budgets to development infrastructure in informal settlements, and now we are more involved. We are also working with universities around planning for upgrading. The profiling helps us to categorise the most pressing needs, and create an action plan.

Enumerations Workshop

Moving beyond the influence on state resources towards building critical mass of community capacity and social capital, the experience of the Homeless People’s Federation of Tanzania inspired a lot of discussion between the federations.

I am from a slum in Dar es Salaam and I have been involved in enumerations since the federations started. We started in 2005, which focused on mobilising savings schemes. The SDI team assisted us to build the template questionnaire, and they mobilised two groups. In 2006, we did another enumeration, which was spurred by eviction threats. The government played up the tenants and the occupants against one another, and wanted to evict last mentioned group. The Kenyan team helped us with numbering, measuring plots, and capturing data. (Husua, federation coordinator)

Once communities have generated sufficient “critical mass” and information about slums, alternative democratic spaces can emerge in which the federation has an influence on the flow of resource which determines whether cities become more pro-poor. Brenda from the Zambian federation recalled their working partnerships with government’s structure.

We network with the government’s ward development committee (WDC) and get introduced to the community. The WDC plays an important role in making bridges between the formal and the informal.

We have collected 139 settlement profiles on the total number of 255 slums. This spreads over three cities. Working with the NGO we collect and analyse the data, clean it and process it, and then share it from the bottom up: the community, WDC, city and national minister.

The federations closed the two day meeting on reflecting on the way going forward. Countries agree to a 2 month and 6 months action plan to prioritise profiling in cities. SDI will continue to track the progress and application of this new and emerging system for collecting slum profiles.

Discussing Slum Upgrading Strategies: SDI Attends Habitat III

Conference in Rabat

By Joseph Kimani (Muungano Support Trust, Kenya) and Joseph Muturi (Muungano Wa Wanavijiji, Kenya) 


Imagine a world without slums. Fine, let’s keep it close: imagine the city of Nairobi, Cape Town, Mumbai or your favorite city without a single informal settlement, slum or shacks. That is exactly the thing…your mind is probably saying, “Well it is possible.” Perhaps you are also wondering how this could be possible and, in reality, how that could happen. Most likely you are also pondering whether we have the same definition of slums or shacks. Are the favellas in Brazil the same as the ghettos in Kenya, or are the slums in India the same as those in South Africa? Can slums in Nairobi, Mumbai, Brazil, South Africa or anywhere be defined the same way? Are access to sanitation, water, infrastructure and services and secure tenure the only indicators that we should use to measure the extinction of slums? These were some of the main issues addressed at Habitat III, a UN Habitat sponsored international conference that took place in November 2012 in Rabat, Morocco. 

Conference Objectives: 

The three-day conference was organized by the Government of Morocco under the patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI and under the authority of UN-HABITAT as an effort to share best practices on policies and the implementation of slum upgrading, eradication and prevention programmes by local and national governments around the world. The organizers invited 20 top countries that have been rated as having performed best in making slums history. The specific objectives of the conference were:

  • Develop specific recommendations and guidelines for slum improvement policies and the development of well-adapted housing alternatives to prevent new slum formation (the Rabat Declaration). 
  • Devise the strategy required to revise Target 7-D of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) and adjust it more closely to the diversity of national conditions and circumstances. 
  • Share successful experiences, methodologies and evaluation methods with regard to slum reduction. 
  • Broaden the scope of experience-sharing within the conference to bring in Least performing Countries (and African countries in particular), to help them implement effective slum reduction policies. 
  • Strengthen partnerships between Morocco and other African countries. 

Conference Participants: 

The Rabat Conference brought together over 150 participants representing 24 government delegations. The countries identified as the 20 best performers in slum upgrading invited were: Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Turkey, Uganda and Vietnam.

Summary report of the plenary discussions, workshops and expert group meeting: 

Some of those who spoke at the conference included the Minister of Housing, City Planning and Urban Policy of Morocco, the UN-Habitat Director, Cities Alliance, World Bank and SDI. In our main presentation, we were able to present SDI’s background, mandate and experience by highlighting the role of the community in slum upgrading. We then shared our perspectives on slums post-2015 MDGs or perspectives that we thought stakeholders in slum upgrading need to consider as UN HABITAT proposes to develop Sustainable Development Goals. We presented three key points that we argued were important in helping a slum upgrading process to take shape, and some of our perspectives regarding the development of Sustainable Development Goals. Here our main argument was with respect to the issue of community organization and the role of the rituals of the federations in promoting community ownership and community led initiatives. We provided examples of Huruma Slum Upgrading in Huruma, Kenya and our experience of the Kenya Railway Relocation Programme. Our second point stressed that land delivery was a prerequisite for any slum upgrading to happen. 

Using our Kenyan example again we shared the challenges of attempting to make slums history when in a situation like Nairobi in which 50% of the slums are on private land and another 40% are on land considered to be unlivable (i.e. riparian and railway reserve and high-risk zones such as those living under the high voltage electrical powerline). This allowed us to highlight the need of government and all actors address the issue of land. Our third point was the need to scale up successful cases by not only choosing to deal with the settlements that are appealing, but to also invest in finding solutions to deal with informal settlements that appear to be difficult. Our major issue on this matter was to encourage all players to consider looking at slum upgrading as both functional and spatial and as a broader strategy of poverty alleviation. 

Conference in Rabat

Joseph Muturi of Muungano wa Wanavijiji addresses the audience. 

Below is a sample of comments and suggestions captured during sessions by SDI representatives. 

“We would have wished to see more representation of the slum dwellers, especially from the case studies, shared in this conference. One would have hoped that the hosts would have had in this conference representative of upgraded areas as well as those that have not succeeded or waiting to benefit”.  – Joseph Muturi, during the thematic workshop session on Planning, Land Management and Urban. 

“In the spirit of sharing could we have in the future conferences representation by countries considered to be under performing in slum upgrading processes or those that have the potential and yet challenged in whatever form. It is amazing to hear stories of change and success and one hopes some of countries would have benefitted a lot from the experiences shared here and could have re-kindled hope to those that have despaired and lost hope of assisting the poor.” – Suggestion by Joseph Kimani, Program Manager at MuST during the South-South Cooperation Session. 

“I want to acknowledge and appreciate that this conference has provided most of us with valuable knowledge and experience. In fact I kind of agree with most of the presenters who holds that we can make slums history in our world. However I strongly propose that we ensure that the message we are taking home to all our governments and slum upgrading stakeholders is that the role of the community in this processes should not be underrated at all. In fact is it possible for all of us professionals and Government as well to allow the slum upgrading process to be led by the slum dwellers while we journey with them in this process, so that the issue is not just mere participation and inclusion for the sake of it but to carry with us the spirit and commitment that requires the people to be at the center of their own developments.”  – Statement by Joseph Kimani during the Expert Group Meeting.  

Our main question: Is it possible to make slums history? How did the Morocco attain this goal? 

The Moroccan speakers took all the participants through their journey of making slums history in their nationwide “Cities without slums” programme which focuses on improved shelter conditions for over 1,742,000 people living in informal, substandard housing, contributing to better urban inclusiveness and social cohesion. We learnt that since 2004 the Morocco programme has achieved over 70 per cent of its overall objective. The speakers too acknowledged there were challenges that they are facing as a government while implementing the programme but emphasised that the 70% success so far has been as a result of the strong push of their strong leadership, political will, well defined objectives, an appropriate modus operandi and adequate budgeting. 

In a nutshell as documented in the National Report (2012) the ‘Cities without Shanties” programme has made it possible to: 

  • Reduce the demographic weight of household dwellings in shanties across Moroccan cities and towns from 8.2% to 3.9% between 2004 and 2010; 
  • Improve the living conditions of roughly 1 million inhabitants; 
  • Declare 45 cities without shanties out of a total of 85. 

In achieving the above, Morocco and many other countries in the world have managed to beat MDG Target 7-D by a multiple of 2.2, namely to “significantly improve living conditions for at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.” UN HABITAT estimates that, between 2000 and 2010, a total 227 million people in developing countries have experienced significant improvements in living conditions. 

General lessons drawn from the conference:

The presentations by best performing countries like Brazil, China, Morocco, Turkey highlighted the extent countries and their governments can go to to improve the standards of those living in informal settlements through scaled-up housing developments. However, it should be noted that caution should be taken to ensure that the large scale housing developments do not create shells of void, silence and emptiness by ignoring the value of human development. This is summarized in the quote below:

“What we aim at… is not simply to have shanty-free cities, still less to set up soulless concrete slabs which thwart all forms of sociable living. We rather intend to evolve cities that are not solely conducive to smart, friendly, and dignified living, but also investment-friendly and productive spaces – urban areas, that is, which are attached to their specific character and to the originality of their style.”  – Extract from the Speech delivered by His Majesty King Mohammed VI on the occasion of the National Convention of Local Collectivities Agadir, 12/12/2006. 


The fact that some of the presenters and participants appreciated and acknowledged the role of SDI in facilitating and enabling urban poor communities i to be the drivers of slum upgrading and human development was very encouraging and inspiring. It is with this same spirit that we hope those of us within SDI will continue to work hard in ensuring that slum upgrading does not only become a rhetoric of the state authorities and institutions but remains real and focused towards addressing the economic, social and physical needs of the people. It is our desire to see countries like Kenya respond by speeding up efforts to scale up slum improvements. The ability is there, the resources are with the public and private institutions, and all that we hope for now is the government’s goodwill and commitment.

UN Habitat & Norwegian Government Visit Mukuru Sinai, Kenya

Norway visit to Mukuru, Kenya

L-R: Joan Clos (ED UN Habitat), Heikki Holmas (Min. Int’l Dev’t, Gov’t of Norway), and Robert (Muungano leader) tour the Mukuru Green Fields project.

**Cross-posted from the Muungano Support Trust Blog** 

NAIROBI, Kenya, November 13 | The Norwegian Minister for International Development, Heikki Holmas and UN-HABITAT Executive Director, Dr Joan Clos, visited Mukuru Kwa Njenga slums to share experiences with the slum dwellers as well as tour some of the ongoing projects such as the Mukuru Greenfields housing project.

The two visited the settlement to offer encouragement to the Kenyan people living in slums and encouraged the communities to instill confidence and scope to some of the projects they are engaged in, under the stewardship of Muungano wa Wanavijiji. The visit was organized by UN-HABITAT, SDI, the Norwegian Embassy, and the Kenyan SDI Alliance: Muungano wa Wanavijiji, Akiba Mashinani Trust and Muungano Support Trust.

Norway visit to Mukuru, Kenya

Min. Holmas is received by founder of Mukuru Kwa Njenga settlement, Mr. Mzee Njenga. 

During the visit, Minister Heikki Holmas made the following statement: “The objective of the visit by representation of the Norwegian Government and UN-HABITAT to Mukuru slums is to give support and encouragement to the Kenyan people and the country’s institutions as it continues to bring about reforms in Kenyan land and housing. The right to own a home gives one and his family the opportunity to grow as a human being. There have been strong movements in Norway that campaign for home ownership. There is also the need for public policy on land and housing to affect the housing agenda in Kenya, this will then give organized communities the opportunity to develop areas where they live in conjunction with their government.”

Mr. Heikki Holmas also took notice of the tool of savings, which helps community mobilize under a common vision, which in future will be a model to future generations within and without the country for years to come.

Norway visit to Mukuru, Kenya

ED of UN Habitat, Joan Clos, addresses the gathering. 

UN-Habitat Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos, shared the following: “I appreciate the real change that we have been able to spot on the ground which is essential in every communal setup. The world today is growing fast, specifically if I take issue with Nairobi which is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa, with the new constitutional changes and devolved county governments the country’s growth will continue to be felt. I must say the grass root organizations around savings is important especially to some of the projects you are involved in, this is fantastic. UN-HABITAT will continue to support such movements be it technically or socially that they took root.”

Dr. Clos also took note of the need for technical officials working with communities that we provide advice on technical aspects underlying fundamental things and not delegate knowledge to communities to initiate projects at the beginning which can easily compromise the well being of the project at its initial projects.

Norway visit to Mukuru, Kenya

Mukuru community members gather for the visit. 

The Millennium Development Goal 7, Target 11 commits the international community to improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2020. However, rural-urban migration, natural increase and expansion of urban centres all contribute to rapid urbanisation resulting in the constant increase in the number of slum dwellers.

Secure land tenure and property rights are fundamental to shelter and livelihoods, and a cornerstone for the realisation of human rights and for poverty reduction. Secure land rights are particularly important in helping reverse gender discrimination, social exclusion of vulnerable groups, and wider social and economic inequalities linked to inequitable and insecure access to land.

It is now well recognised that secure land and property rights for all are essential to reducing poverty, because they underpin economic development and social inclusion. Secure land tenure and property rights enable people in rural and urban areas to invest in improved homes and livelihoods. They also help to promote good environmental management, improve food security, and assist directly in the realization of human rights, including the elimination of discrimination against women, the vulnerable, indigenous groups and other minorities.

It’s now being witnessed that changes in land policies, which reflect these principles, are being implemented in a variety of countries across the world. Today, however, land resources face pressures and demands as never before, and developing countries still lack the tools, systematic strategies and support necessary to deliver secure land rights for all.

Sound land policies should protect people from forced removals and evictions, or where displacement is determined by legitimate processes as necessary for the greater public good and is carried out in conformity with national and international norms, policies should ensure that citizens have access to adequate compensation. Another critical dimension is ensuring gender equality, because women face such widespread discrimination around land and property. When women enjoy secure and equal rights, everybody benefits. Also, secure land rights for all citizens contributes to conflict reduction and improvement in environmental management as well as household living conditions.

During the visit, the following projects were presented to the Norwegian Government and UN HABITAT by Muungano wa Wanavijiji and the Kenyan Alliance:

1.      Finance Modeling Through Community Tools- MUKURU GREEN FIELDS HOUSING PROJECT

Norway visit to Mukuru, Kenya

Faith Moraa, an architect with AMT, explains the designs for the Mukuru Green Fields housing project. 

Urban development and sustainable development are not contradictory. There have been recent efforts by Slum Dwellers International to show that urban growth and development can be managed to make cities more livable and to curb the issue of inadequate housing, especially when it comes to the poor living amongst us. However, the tendency to think that urbanization is primarily responsible for unsustainable development is still predominant.

Under this subheading, we look at the Mukuru Greenfield Project. As the clamor for better housing by the urban poor continues, the need for secure land tenure is indeed becoming a major problem for the poor. It is out of such circumstances that 2,000 community members using the SDI tool of savings came together to address their plight- housing and secure tenure. The community identified a 23 acre piece of land in Mukuru Kwa Njenga’s sisal area.

Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT) then took the mantle to help the community to negotiate the price of the land with the owner of the land on the behalf of the community. The negotiations began and a substantial price value were arrived at. The quest for acquiring the land began, AMT negotiated with ECO Bank for a loan to the 2,000 community members to offset payment for the 23 acre land. The loan was granted with Slum Dwellers International as the guarantor in the land acquisition deal.

Having been able to continuously save their personal resources, the community has been able to repay their loan to Eco Bank and have embarked on putting forward deposits for the next phase which is house designs and construction. The designs are awaiting approval from the Nairobi City Council and it is expected that ground breaking process will be in January 2013.

Opportunities that arose from the Process

  •   Community Mobilsation and Savings
  •   Access for basic services and infrastructure
  •   Security of tenure to over 2,000 Kenyan citizens
  •   House dreaming processes for the urban poor to ensure participation and project ownership
  •  Embracing current market cross subsidies strategies, hence affordability of housing infrastructure by the poor
  •  Competitive Community tendering process
  •  Incremental house improvement strategies.

2.      Changing the Planning Discourse- MATHARE ZONAL PLAN

Norway visit to Mukuru, Kenya

Edwin Simiyu of MuST and Emily Wangari of Muungano explain the Mathare Zonal Plan. 

Mathare is an informal settlement that is home to nearly 188,000 people confronting a range of challenges. Mathare is one of the largest slums in Nairobi, a city where over half of the approximately 3.5 million residents live in over 180 different slums. Like many informal settlements, Mathare is characterized by unsafe and overcrowded housing, elevated exposure to environmental hazards, high prevalence of communicable diseases, and a lack of access to essential services, such as sanitation, water and electricity. Residents in Nairobi’s slums frequently suffer from tenure insecurity, while widespread poverty and violence further increase their vulnerabilities.

The Zonal plan offers planning strategies for thirteen villages in Mathare Valley. The analyses and recommendations in the plan emerged from an ongoing collaborative project involving residents, the non-governmental organization Muungano Support Trust (MuST), the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) Department of City and Regional Planning, the University of Nairobi (UoN) Department of Urban and Regional Planning and Slum Dwellers International (SDI).

Guiding Principles and Goals of Mathare Zonal Development Plan

The Mathare Zonal Plan aims to integrate the dimensions of our Relational Model for Participatory Upgrading. Using this approach, we developed Community Planning Teams comprised of residents from each village in Mathare that focused on valley-wide issues. Through this process, the project worked with residents to build new awareness of the opportunities and challenges for infrastructure planning at the zonal scale.

While the Community Planning Teams generate ideas for improving the settlements’ physical conditions, we recognize that local action alone is insufficient and broader policy change will also be necessary to improve living conditions and the lives of slum-dwellers. Thus, our approach rejects single-issue slum improvement approaches and instead focuses on the inter relationships between poverty alleviation, securing infrastructure and services, improving housing, economic opportunities, food security, human health and safety, among other issues.

Key project principles and goals include:


1. Build upon existing community assets and strengths.

2. Use infrastructure planning as an entry-point to address other related issues.

3. Ensure meaningful participation & community ownership.


1. Generate Valley-wide analyses of existing conditions and concrete ideas for improving lives and living conditions.

2. Provide evidence & ideas that can strengthen community organizing, leadership and coalition building.

3. Provide a framework for addressing emerging policies and plans at the county, municipal, and national level aimed at slum dwellers.

4. Inspire service providers to invest in valley-wide infrastructure provision.

3.      Linking the National and International Development Agenda to Community Needs and Processes: Railway Relocation Action Plan (RAP)

Norway visit to Mukuru, Kenya

David Mathenge (MuST) and Jack Makau (SDI) present the concept behind the RAP. 

In 2004 the government of Kenya through various state agencies issued eviction notices to persons living on public lands that were considered riparian. It’s to this effect that the Federation of Slum Dwellers (Muungano wa Wanavijiji) initiated advocacy and lobbying campaigns to address the looming danger of forced evictions which would have rendered millions of people homeless. Out of these efforts the evictions were suspended and dialogue given a chance.

The federation, with the help of SDI, approached Kenya Railways to foster discussions on suitable mechanisms of preventing mass evictions. It is estimated that 10,000 people live along the railway riparian. Through an exchange programme organized by SDI, government officials from the Ministry of Transport and Kenya Railways toured India to learn how the country had dealt with a similar situation.

This then led to the formalization of an engagement between the World Bank and the Kenyan Government on the need of coming up with a Relocation Action Plan (RAP).  The Kenyan SDI affiliate, through recognized tools of enumerations and mapping was able to develop concrete recommendations and plans that would see 10,000 people resettled. It is estimated that the project cost was USD 40 million.

4. Kenya Jubilee Campaign

On 12 December 2013 Kenya will celebrate 50 years as an independent republic, marking the nations Golden Jubilee celebrations. The Fiftieth Anniversary marks a significant milestone in a nation’s heritage, a very symbolic moment. In the Bible it formed the year of Jubilee, a year that literally signified “True Liberty – Ukombozi wa Kweli”. The Jubilee is an announcement of freedom, restitution of land and property, ending inequalities created by the extremes of wealth and poverty.  In Nairobi, slum land is claimed by three distinct categories of owners, namely:

  • The Registered Title Deed Holder
  • Slumlord Cartels
  • Slum Tenants

The Kenya Jubilee campaign was started to build awareness to the plight of issues affecting urban poor Kenyans and to give hope to Kenyans. Those who occupy slums live under the shadow of constant threat of demolitions, violent evictions, fires, floods and insecurity. Their neighborhoods often lack the most basic amenities and infrastructure and this situation is often preserved by powerful forces within Government and the private sector. The Jubilee campaign is meant to set a legal precedent to deal with land occupied by the slum dwellers and the development of legislation with a bias on guidelines on evictions and community land ownership bill.

5. Sanitation Campaign.

The Women and Sanitation campaign is a comprehensive campaign to improve sanitation conditions for Nairobi’s slum dwellers, beginning in the expansive slum of Mukuru. Women are the most severely affected by a lack of toilets and bathing facilities in informal settlements, as they become vulnerable to sexual assault, unique health problems, and a lack of dignity.

It is rather obvious that lack of sanitation facilities in poorly planned areas has got a tremendous impact on the health and economic development of communities, unfortunately women and girls are the hardest hit by absence of toilets and bathrooms within the areas they reside.

In crowded urban settlements women go through the entire day without relieving themselves and also risk harassment or even rape when accessing toilet facilities in the cover of darkness. In urban areas, shame, embarrassment and the great desire for privacy force women to defecate in secluded areas where they risk assault or underneath their beds put plastic containers that act as emergency toilets. Needless to say, menstruation, pregnancy and postnatal bleeding add further complications and discomforts.


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For more photos from this exchange, please visit the Muungano Federation’s Facebook page