Kenyan SDI (Muungano wa Wanavijiji, Muungano Support Trust) Affiliate at the World Urban Forum

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By Irene Karanja, MuST

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).
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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.

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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 comprised of 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.

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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.