Reflections from SDI at WUF

This year, a delegation from SDI’s network attended the World Urban Forum (WUF), here are our reflections from SDI at WUF.

Katowice, Poland hosted this year’s event from Sunday the 26th of June to Thursday the 30th of June. 

Established in 2001 by the United Nations, WUF is the premier global conference on sustainable urbanisation. The event aims to examine one of the world’s most pressing issues today: rapid urbanisation and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and policies. 

Day 1 – 26th of June 2022

WUF11 Day 1 Line up

We attended UN Habitat‘s session focusing on ‘Grassroots Assembly’. The session highlighted the value and importance of localising Sustainable Development Goals, post-Covid-19 recovery and resilience, and building and maintaining partnerships.


Day 2 – 27th June 2022

Kickstarting the day, “Building a Cities4Children alliance” and a “Global Action Plan” dialogue were the first events to start the day for SDI. The WUF11 opening ceremony presented the perfect opportunity for a display of culture meets insightful dialogue. Delegates mingled with local and international officials, presenting the perfect networking opportunities.

A panel hosted by UN-Habitat tackled the issue of “Tackling the Slum Challenge” with housing ministers from South Africa, Malawi and Zimbabwe in attendance. The session saw interesting insights and informative yet challenging inputs from the Chair of SDI’s Board Joseph Muturi.

Delegates also met with Euan Crispin about their work with UCLG. The session presented a fresh perspective on some of the work, UCLG is producing.

We hosted a session entitled, ‘Recovery and Resilience: Community-led Strategies to Build Back Better in Informal Settlements.’ The session drew attention to the need to work with organised urban poor communities to address basic needs and services such as secure tenure, housing, food security, water and sanitation to build the resilience necessary to withstand future natural and manmade shocks and stressors. SDI at WUF

Day 3 – 28th of June 2022

The day was jam-packed, ranging from events with the World Health Organisation, Cities Alliance, DreamTown NGO, Habitat Village and The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

SDI’s Youth & Media Programme Coordinator, James Tayler, shared SDI’s role in the systemising of community-led housing in Africa.

Insights from the event highlighted the importance of the diversification of knowledge products. This may help to ensure active participation and communication between academia and communities.


Day 4  – 29th of June 2022

The delegates from SDI at WUF attended an amazing session with Plan International, Dream Town, World Vision and SDI co-presentation on the Inter-generational dialogue. The session consisted of video commitments collected by cell phone video across the world with youth speaking their truth. Shared by youth in person and online, in conversations with key professionals at the host institutions. This session was very interactive and the youth rose to the occasion and had a lot to contribute. 


A good exchange of ideas followed, with a number of new potential thematic collaboration points. 

It is clear that grassroots organisations are perhaps less well-represented at this year’s world urban forum than is ideal. Due to this, there was a lot of dialogue and exchange specifically facilitated by the co-habitat network around how to remedy this and raise the voices of grassroots CBOs.

Final Day – 30th of June 2022


Key Messaging


[gallery columns="4" link="file" size="medium" ids="13532,13533,13539,13535,13537,13538,13531,13534"]

SDI at WUF10

Screenshot 2020-01-31 at 13.24.50

SDI is participating in 25+ events at the upcoming World Urban Forum 10 in Abu Dhabi, including an SDI-hosted networking event, the WUF10 Grassroots Assembly and other official WUF10 events. Details of our main networking event are listed below.

Click here for a snapshot of SDI’s main events and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for daily event highlights.

SDI Event @ WUF10

Click here for SDI’s full WUF10 agenda.

OpenReblock: Safe, Inclusive, and Integrated Cities

Adobe Spark Page

Re-blocking is an element of incremental slum/informal settlement upgrading that supports area-based design and planning. Through spatial reconfiguration and the introduction of new streets and paths, each home or workplace gains an address and obtains urban services, especially water, sanitation, and drainage. These are essential elements of response to slum development, climate change, and to building community resilience at the local level.

SDI-affiliated communities have conducted re-blocking with many communities worldwide over the last 20 years. Now, SDI – together with partners Santa Fe Institute, Ona and WhereIsMyTransport — are launching a new digital platform to make the slum planning process faster, simpler, and more scalable and to place it in the hands of local communities and other local stakeholders.

The OpenReblock platform is part of an ecosystem of open-source tools co-designed by slum-dwellers, technologists and scientists to re-plan and integrate slums and informal neighborhoods to their city networks with minimal disturbance and cost. Slum communities create an initial map that includes each structure, each available service and public open spaces and then obtain an automatic proposal for new streets and paths. This street layout proposal is then edited and adapted to local needs and preferences in coordination with other stakeholders, such as local governments. Ultimately, these layouts become plans for neighborhood development around a street plan that provides access to emergency services, regularizes addresses, and allows for drainage and the provision of services.

Maps are a powerful tool for the imagination, facilitating the question “How would I like my neighborhood to be?” OpenReblock integrates mapping at the community level, speeding up the process of community organization and decision-making to create better local solutions, improving design, and technical delivery.

Read the full OpenReblock press brief here. 

Southern African Slum Dwellers Strategise Ahead of World Urban Forum 2018

[caption id="attachment_4974" align="alignnone" width="610"]SAMSUNG CSC Delegates of the Southern Africa Hub welcoming the South African Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Zou Kota-Fredericks.[/caption]

*This article originally appeared on the SA SDI Alliance blog.*

By Kwanda Lande, on behalf of CORC

On 11 February 2018, the ninth World Urban Forum (WUF9) will take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. WUF9 will have a specific thematic focus on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda(NUA). This theme of implementation is particularly important to urban poor residents and federation leaders of SDI’s Southern African countries, especially as the NUA relates to informal settlements.Twice a year, representatives of SDI‘s Southern African urban poor federations (Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Zambia) gather as a regional “hub” to strategise, report, share challenges, and plan for mutual learning. The recent Southern African SDI hub took place between 15 – 18 November 2017 in Johannesburg. Given the timing of the hub ahead of WUF9, the Federations invited Zou Kota-Fredricks, the South African Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, and Parks Tau, president of  United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) to open the hub and engage in discussions on the implementation of the NUA.

The experience of Southern African slum dwellers working towards the New Urban Agenda (NUA)In 2015, SDI was invited through an initiative called the General Assembly of Partners (GAP), to participate in the process leading up to Habitat III, in October 2017. GAP served as a broad-based deliberative platform for non-governmental partners to develop consensus for joined outcomes for Habitat III. The primary intention was for civil society organisations to influence UN member states that adopted the NUA at Habitat III. As a result urban poor federations in the SDI network used this opportunity to ensure that their voice was heard in the development of the NUA and that their experiences and aspirations were known and considered.

In the lead up to Habitat III, SDI’s East and Southern African federations had a strong presence at the UN Habitat III Thematic Meeting on Informal Settlements in Pretoria in April 2016. The meeting culminated in the Pretoria Declaration on Informal Settlements. SDI federations advocated that the NUA commit to

  • Supporting the self-organising processes of communities (such as data collection and learning exchanges) to partner effectively with governments and other urban actors
  • Using community-collected informal settlement data as the basis of collaborative informal settlement policy making and development planning.


How Southern African slum dwellers view the NUA

The NUA provides a new framework that lays out how cities should be planned and managed to best promote sustainable urbanisation. It talks about strengthening and creating inclusive partnerships, and people centred development. It suggests that the voice of community organisations be heard. However, for urban poor residents, the challenge, is establishing and maintaining partnerships especially at the level of municipalities where most of community organising activities are taking place and where development is expected to happen. This means that urban poor residents are struggling to gain recognition from municipal systems, and that they have not found ways of institutionalising local government – community partnerships in decision making and planning processes.

In Cape Town, for example, the South African SDI Alliance had established a strong partnership with the local municipality and jointly implemented several upgrading initiatives. However, since the last upgrading project in 2014, it has taken more than three years to progress to the next one. One of the contributing factors to this delays relate to the lack of hand-over of the partnership to successive heads of departments and senior project managers. The consequences of which is the loss of institutional memory and knowledge of the working partnership in a time of high staff turn-over within the municipality.


Parks Tau, speaking at the Southern Africa hub meeting during a discussion on the implementation of the NUA

In conversation with Parks Tau and Zou Kota-Fredericks, SDI’s Southern African federation members highlighted their priority of a NUA that is localised, meaning “that we want partnerships at a local government level”. An example is SDI’s partnership with UCLG on the Know Your City campaign, which promotes community-collected data on informal settlements as the basis for partnerships between slum dwellers and their local governments. The Southern African federations expressed:

…We want to work – together with government, UCLG, and the private sector – on collecting data and using this information to participate in decision making, implementation, and monitoring the implementation of the NUA. For example, in South Africa we want to see the Department of Human Settlements creating a forum that will meet more regularly to monitor the implementation of the NUA. This forum should be inclusive to the level that ensures that poor communities are involved.

The fact that government and civil society are working in the same space of local government with similar vision of community development demands a partnership. Both Parks Tau and Zou Kota-Fredericks, agreed for a local forum- South African forum. Parks also suggested for a Southern Africa forum that will sure case a partnership of government and civil society at that level:

At the start of 2018, before the World Urban Forum, we have to work together to convene a meeting to discuss a way forward on how we are going to work together and also to prepare a case study to present at the WUF9. The know your city campaign – data collection by communities is one tool that we are going to use to hold and strengthen our partnership. This will also be an opportunity for all partners to raise their expectations from this partnership.


The state of local government partnerships in some countries in the Southern Africa region

Southern African SDI federations spoke about the state of partnerships between themselves and their local governments as a way of offering some learning points on how to implement the NUA. Some of SDI’s federations have managed to establish well functioning partnerships: In Botswana, the partnership between the local government of Francistown and the Botswana Homeless and Poor People’s Federation involves community members and government collectively collecting community data, identifying and implementing projects. This has allowed the Botswana federation to conduct profiling and enumeration in Francsitown (Somerset West and Somerset East), identify and implement infrastructure projects together with local authorities. A major contributing factor to this work has been the presence of officials on the ground, working hand in hand with federation members around data collection.

In Namibia, slum dwellers have managed to establish local government partnerships with municipalities such as Gobabis where the Shack Dwellers federation of Namibia signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the local authority for upgrading Freedom Square informal settlement. This resulted in the Ministry of Rural Development contributing N$ 8 million and Gobabis local municipality contributing technical expertise. Officials of Gobabis municipality worked with the community of Freedom Square in data collection, community planning and implementation of different upgrading phases. In this project officials made sure that they were always on the ground. As a result they were quick to respond to projects issues. They did not impose solutions or approaches to solving problems but instead provided the necessary support for slum dwellers to implement their plans.

[caption id="attachment_4972" align="alignnone" width="610"]SAMSUNG CSC Delegates of the Southern Africa region hub meeting representing Urban poor federations form Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia, and  Zimbabwe.[/caption]What are the main priorities of  SDI’s Southern African urban poor federations ahead of WUF9?

WUF9 presents an opportunity for urban poor federations of the Southern Africa region to influence how the NUA is implemented.  The primary priority for federations in the Southern Africa regions include localised partnerships that are based on community-collected data. The Southern African federations want to work with government and civil society organisations on collecting informal settlement data and using it to participate in decision making, implementation, and to monitor the implementation of the NUA.

Know Your City: Discussing Community-Collected Data at World Urban Forum 7

Know Your City

By Ariana MacPherson, SDI Secretariat 

There has been a lot of discussion at this week’s World Urban Forum about the use of data as a key tool in the development of inclusive, sustainable cities. Key to this discussion is how data can be used in the cities of Africa, Asia and Latin America, most of which still face major challenges around urban poverty and whose city development strategies, for the most part, continue to exclude the large majority of these cities’ populations – the urban poor. But yesterday at SDI’s networking event, a strategically different approach to data was presented and discussed. The Know Your City campaign – a global campaign for gathering citywide data on slums as the basis for inclusive partnerships between the urban poor and their local governments – was presented as a critical component of the push for urban data. When communities of the urban poor collect data about their own communities, in partnership with their local and national governments, they are armed with the necessary tools to become key players in the development of strategies of urban development that take into account the realities and needs of the city’s urban poor majority.

In our networking event, delegates from SDI-affiliated urban poor federations and support NGOs, the SDI Secretariat, and key international networks and agencies discussed the importance of this campaign in greater detail. Jack Makau of the SDI Secretariat spoke on the history of SDI’s data collection strategies. SDI-affiliated federations of the urban poor have been collecting information about themselves for decades. This data has led to upgrading projects in affiliates across Africa, Asia and Latin America, and has formed the basis of large-scale slum upgrading interventions in India, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and more recently, Uganda. 

Know Your City

In the last year, however, the SDI network has begun to standardize and aggregate this data in a way that we have not been able to before. This means that urban poor communities have expanded their scope – from collecting data only about the settlements where they live, to collecting data on all the slum settlements in their cities. This includes demographic, spatial and economic information that allows for a picture of the whole city – data that can be used to drive communities’ negotiations with local government for slum upgrading and development at the citywide scale. The accuracy and ownership of the data is enhanced because it is collected and used by communities in discussions with city governments on upgrading plans and programs, meaning that the communities themselves have a greater stake in the need for accurate, up-to-date information.

Know Your City

These claims were supported by the experiences of SDI affiliates from Kenya and Zimbabwe. Catherine Sekai, national leader of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation, related that the Federation, alongside their local authority, “profiled the entire city of Harare, settlement by settlement” to identify peoples’ needs on the ground. This led to the transfer of land by the city to the communities for the construction of upgraded houses in Dzivaresekwa Extension, one of Harare’s largest slums.

Know Your City

Another example of the power of community-collected data came from Irene Karanja, executive director of Muungano Support Trust, support NGO to the Kenyan urban poor federation Muungano wa Wanavijiji. Karanja shared some key findings from 300 community-driven profiles from slums in 20 cities and towns across Kenya. Two central issues emerged from these profiles: land and sanitation. Most of the land occupied by slums in Kenya is privatized, and currently under high threat of eviction from developers looking to take back the land as land values in Kenya’s cities continue to rise. Because of the status of land ownership, interventions around sanitation have been nearly impossible and continue to threaten health and security of slum residents, particularly women. 

Karanja concluded her presentation by calling to action the Kenyan government and global urban development stakeholders, stating that, “The dialogue [around urban development] has to change now as we move towards Habitat III – poor people need a chance to expose the data that we are talking about today. Communities have data that government does not have. Despite this, government does not want to accept this data. It is our hope that this data can be used in Kenya to form part of the national urban agenda.” 

Know Your City

Two of SDI’s key institutional partners in the Know Your City campaign also participated in the event – Jean Pierre Elong-Mbassi, Secretary General of United Cities & Local Governments Africa (UCLG-A) and Anaclaudia Rossbach, Regional Advisor to Latin America and the Caribbean from Cities Alliance. Elong-Mbassi reminded the group that at least 50% of Africa’s cities are made up of slums, and that “any mayor interested in managing a city in a comprehensive way cannot ignore slum dwellers.” Elong-Mbassi echoed the call to action of the Know Your City campaign, requesting that local governments “leave [behind] the moment where we use second-hand data to [understand] reality,” instead, he went on to say, “We want first-hand data from communities to be the mine of knowledge for the management of cities.” 

Know Your City

Lastly, Anaclaudia Rossbach of Cities Alliance, coming from her experience in municipal government and her background as an economist, went on to endorse the need for community-collected slum data as critical to the successful implementation of slum upgrading projects. Indeed, with SDI sitting as a member of the Cities Alliance Executive Committee, the Know Your City campaign is part of the Cities Alliance medium term agenda. Rossbach emphasized the key point that it is only feasible to collect accurate data if the local people take ownership of the process – a critical component of SDI’s data-collection strategies.


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 at World Urban Forum 6: Making Space for the Urban Poor


By Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat

In early September a large delegation from SDI attended the World Urban Forum in Naples, Italy. The weeklong event was attended by virtually all major players in the urban development field and was host to a wide variety of sessions focusing on everything from water and sanitation to evictions to optimized public transit and green spaces.

SDI’s presence at WUF6, whose overall theme was “The Urban Future”, was marked by a sharp realization during the planning phase that the future WUF6 proposed seemed remarkably devoid of the issues facing the millions of urban poor across the developing world, not to mention their participation in the construction of said future.

In response, SDI leadership decided to host a series of panels at the SDI exhibition stand in addition to participation in official WUF6 events, launching the first annual World Urban Poor Forum (WUPF).

During the WUPF launch in which slum dwellers from across Africa and Asia raised their voices in song across the exhibition area, Jockin Arputham, a slum dweller from Mumbai, India and president of SDI, spoke of the importance of bringing the voice of the urban poor to global events like WUF, and the reason for organizing a WUPF alongside the official WUF: “This is the World Urban Forum of the Poor, not the rich. This is the forum for the people who have nothing!” and, “We have to believe that change will come from the poor.”

The three WUPF events focused on themes central to SDI’s core methodologies, and to the lives of slum dwellers across the global south: community-driven sanitation, the importance of partnerships with government, and participatory slum upgrading.  Experiences from Uganda, South Africa and India were the focus, with slum dweller leaders and government officials speaking on their joint efforts towards people-driven processes in these three countries. The WUPF events were well attended by slum dwellers, government officials, donor partners, academics and civil society alike. 

In addition to these WUPF events, SDI participated in a number of official networking events, and organized a session on another critical issue for the urban future: developing alternatives to evictions. The session, held on the first day of WUF6, was incredibly well attended, with standing room only and people packed into the back of the room and spilling out the doorways. Slum dweller leaders and government officials from Cape Town, South Africa, Harare, Zimbabwe and Iloilo City, Philippines shared their experiences working together to develop locally appropriate alternatives to evictions.

Sonia Fadrigo, a slum dweller leader from the Philippines, spoke about evictions she experienced before the Philippines Homeless People’s Federation developed their relationship with local government, “The demolition team came. I had two kids, ages 10 and 12, they were trembling because they were scared of the bulldozer.”

It was only through developing a relationship with the local government, a relationship that the Mayor of Iloilo City, Mr. Jed Patrick Mabilog, described as being characterized by the policy of “No evictions without decent, affordable housing,” that Sonia and her community were able to rest their fears of evictions. As Sonia said, this was achieved through going to government offices – through demanding alternatives. 

Similarly, the Mayor of Harare, Mr. Muchadei Masunda, emphasized his commitment to working with the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation to prevent evictions in Harare. Davious Muvindi, leader of the Federation in Zimbabwe, confirmed this, beginning his commentary saying that the Federation and government in Zimbabwe had moved from “fights to engagement.”

Lastly, the South African SDI Alliance was joined by Ernest Sonnenberg from the local government of Cape Town to speak about their experiences in developing alternatives to evictions. This presentation was particularly poignant as Alina Mofokeng and Rose Molokoane, two slum dweller leaders from Gauteng province, spoke about the recent evictions in Johannesburg’s Marlboro Industrial Area. Since early August, over 300 families have been forcibly evicted, often in the middle of the night, from vacant factory buildings, which were then razed to the ground. Alina and Rose were able to utilize this space on the global stage to highlight their local struggles in the hopes that their government officials, seated in the audience, would feel responsible to rise to the occasion. 

Whether or not these global events impact local processes is an important question, for if they don’t – if they serve only as a platform for more empty promises – then what is their use? In the past, SDI has used spaces such as WUF to lay the foundation for successful and productive relationships with donor partners and governments. This year, meetings took place between numerous slum dweller federations and their government officials (i.e. Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Namibia). Depending on what happens in the coming months, affiliates will be able to determine whether these meetings will bear meaningful fruit on the ground.

One of the key themes that emerged throughout the week was the lack of representation of the urban poor in the majority of WUF events. Indeed, SDI President Jockin Arputham was the only urban poor representative to participate in any of the official WUF Dialogue Events, where he challenged his fellow panelists saying that “Since 1975 when this discussion began…What have we all done since then to make what we discuss actualized in practice? We keep coming to these events, and we ask each other these questions, and then we go away only to ask the same questions again.” 

Jockin’s frustration with too much talk and not enough walk was felt by a number of people involved in fighting urban poverty. As David Satterthwaite wrote in his recent reflection on WUF6: “Why weren’t representatives of urban poor organizations, federations and network on the committees organizing this and previous World Urban Forums? Why are the powerful global institutions so reluctant to engage the urban poor directly?” Until these questions are answered through concrete actions towards the contrary (i.e. involving the urban poor directly), it seems these events will continue to do little to make louder the voice of the urban poor, without the unfortunate reality of developing a separate event for that voice. The reality is that, in our pursuit of “inclusive cities” – a phrase heard time and again both at WUF and in urban development circles – we should not be furthering the divide between the urban poor, the informal, and the formal urban development world. Instead, the issues, agenda, and voice of the urban poor should be prioritized at these events, as it is the voice of those whose urban future stands on the most uncertain ground. 


Kenya SDI Affiliate Reports on the World Urban Forum

**Cross-posted from the MuST Kenya blog** 

By Irene Karanja, MuST Kenya

The World Urban Forum was established by the United Nations to examine one of the most pressing problems facing the world today: rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and policies.

In the space of a few short years, the Forum has turned into the world’s premier conference on cities. Since the first meeting in Nairobi, Kenya in 2002, the Forum has grown in size and stature as it travelled to Barcelona in 2004, Vancouver 2006, Nanjing in 2008 and Rio de Janeiro in 2010.

The Forum is one of the most open and inclusive gatherings of its kind on the international stage. It brings together government leaders, ministers, mayors, diplomats, members of national, regional and international associations of local governments, non-governmental and community organizations, professionals, academics, grassroots women’s organizations, youth and slum dwellers groups as partners working for better cities.

Muungano wa Wanavijiji and Muungano Support Trust in the World urban forum in Naples

Increasing population and rapid urbanization in Africa pose a serious threat of depletion, pollution and degradation of freshwater supplies, especially in the fragile environments of high density areas which are already slowing down development in water-scarce countries in this region. As a result of this scenario, a comprehensive insight into this was warranted and the topic of discussion was floated as:

I.       Human Right to Safe Drinking Water & Sanitation, Germany: “Building Sanitation for Equitable Future Cities: Community-Driven Approaches from across the SDI Network”

The key note speakers included:

  • Jockin Arputham (President of SDI),
  • Celine de’Cruz (SDI Coordinator, India),
  • Irene Karanja (Muungano Support Trust /SDI, Kenya),
  • Pauline Manguru (Muungano wa Wanavijiji/ SDI, Kenya) and
  • Virigina Roaf (UN Special Rapporteur).

Kenyan SDI, federation Member, Pauline stresses a point

During this event SDI’s message is that the existing deficit in sanitation reflects a serious deficit in governance at the city level, as water and sanitation are some of the most obvious amenities that link citizens to their government. In this event, Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI) in collaboration with the UN Rapporteur for the Right to Sanitation will present community-driven approaches to address the serious deficiencies in sanitation in slums across Africa and Asia.  In addition, the Rapporteur will share the challenges of stigma faced by various groups within the context of sanitation.

A section of the audience pitch questions to the panelists.

In Kenya, Muungano wa Wanavijiji through the support NGO, MuST has been undertaking community led planning which seeks to leverage city investments on infrastructure to the community managed sewer and water connections.

Following a successful networking event at the World Urban Forum, key points which arose included the following;

  • Plan early, plan ahead, plan big and leave plenty of public spaces; this allows for future infrastructure as needed;
  • Plan for future population growth – assume a doubling of the population;
  • Plan constantly; planning should be going on even while urban          improvement programmes are underway;
  • Carry out sanitation, water and hygiene (WASH) planning in close collaboration with urban and land use planners – not in isolation. This is essential to ensure that WASH investments are appropriate to the future development plans of each city area and will therefore not be wasted;
  • Coordinate WASH planning with energy sector plans as water services are heavily dependent on a reliable energy supplies;
  • Integrate water and sanitation planning with flood protection planning to achieve more resilient, city wide systems;
  • Have a clear vision of full service coverage and commit to achieving it;
  • Segment cities into zones with different characteristics of income levels, topography, housing density, water supply, and access to sewerage. Build up service development plans and wider urban development plans to suit each area;
  • Develop specific plans for low income areas, as these are likely to be distinct from those in higher income areas. Use innovative models (such as the micro-water systems in Lagos) and test their viability. Where appropriate, cross-subsidise low income users with revenues from higher income users; make specific plans for city wide faecal sludge management, including the full sanitation value chain;
  • Use the planning process as a means of convening stakeholders and building collaboration between Ministries, departments and ensuring the participation of non-government stakeholders.
  • Especially in cities with scare water resources, maximise supply by developing all sources of water possible, including where possible: rain water, groundwater, surface water, recycled water and desalination. On the demand side, make every effort to reduce non-revenue water as this is like to deliver a very high return on investment; implement campaigns to reduce consumption;
  • Support local governments to perform their key role in urban sanitation, as they have many other responsibilities such as health, education and transport. Help the different departments of local government to plan in an integrated way to ensure a properly coordinated urban development;
  • Demonstrate political leadership, as this is needed to ensure that effective and participatory planning is achieved – it will not happen without this;
  • Make use of one of the planning tools available, such as IWA’s Sanitation 21 city wide sanitation planning framework.

 II.    UNDP Side event: Sustainable Urban Governance, Engagement with Informal Dwellers for Inclusive Urban Governance

The participation and civic engagement are key avenues to better governance. Governance addresses pertinent issues of social equity and political legitimacy, which in most cases is misconstrued to mean efficient management of infrastructure and services.

Unfortunately most cities grapple with issues of transparency and accountability to its people. Overtime this has grown into poverty traps thus putting millions of people in socio-economic bondage.

From Left to Right :Hon. Daniel Chisenga (Mayor of Lusaka, Zambia) , Joyce Lungu (Federation Leader, Zambia), Paul Manyala (Ministry of Lands, Kenya)
and Pauline Manguru (Muungano Federation leader/ Kenya),

Speakers at this forum included;

  • Pauline Manguru (Muungano Federation leader/ Kenya),
  • Joyce Lungu (Federation Leader, Zambia),
  • Hon. Daniel Chisenga (Mayor of Lusaka, Zambia) and
  • Paul Manyala (Ministry of Lands, Kenya)

In hopes of establishing a harmonized governance process in which informal dwellers are included as participants in urban development and governance rather than ignored due to their often characterized “illegal” status, this side-event focuses on building a relationship between these slum dwellers and urban managers of urban centres. The event will convene representatives of government at all levels; technical city managers; representatives of informal urban dwellers; civil society; and academics to discuss alternative forms and processes for urban managers and other actors to engage informal dwellers in responding to slum development as a governance issue.

Closure of the World Urban Forum 2012

The President of the UN-Habitat Governing Council Mr. Albert Inzengiumba appealed to political leaders to pay more than lip service if the urban future was to be a reality. The president, who is also Rwanda’s Minister for Housing was optimistic that achieving the urban future.

In his address, UNEP Executive Director Dr. Achim Steiner said his organization was committed to working with UN-Habitat to achieve sustainable urbanization. “Issues of ustainable urbanization, lessening poverty and such related issues can only be tackled jointly and not in isolation,” he said.

Dr. Kirabo appealed to the delegates to go back to their respective countries and reinvigorate the National Forums saying they were the best avenues for addressing urbanization issues.