3rd Public Space Biennale – Launch of the Toolkit


Launch of the Global Public Space Toolkit

Last day of the Biennale witnessed the launch of the Global Public Space Toolkit, a unique publication to help the local governments and service providers to improve the availability, quality and distribution of good public spaces. Often, public spaces are marginalized topic in planning discussions so having a document with various case studies, best practices, references and actionable ideas can be as useful for mayors and policy makers as for students, NGOs and interested individuals.

The importance of public space is undeniable, yet often underestimated. The challenge often starts with simple understanding of what public space is and who’s responsible for it. People should be aware of their role in creating and managing (or maintaining) public space; they should know that public space belongs to them, and thus strive to work together with the governments to have spaces socially acceptable for everyone. Governments cannot do the job alone, people cannot do the job alone, and private sector cannot do the job alone. Good governance and collaboration of all parties is a key to successful management of public spaces.

The toolkit will be a practical reference for local governments to frame and implement principles, policy recommendations and development initiatives on public space and for central governments to aid their efforts with material support and enabling legislation. It will also serve the purpose of demonstrating the value of the involvement if the citizenry and civil society in securing, developing and managing public space in the city.

This first editions aims to kick off the series of discussions around public space globally. With more input and changing policies and environment, the toolkit will be updated and altered to make it as relevant and appropriate as possible.




Don’t miss out on the UN-Habitat Youth Events in NY!

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The UN-Habitat Youth Unit is organizing a series of youth events in New York next week, to discuss issues related to youth participation in governance, peacebuilding and leadership.

The events will be happening on May 27th and 28th in New York, on the margins of the High-Level Event of the President of the General Assembly commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth on Friday, 29 May 2015.

The events, include:

1- Side-event: Youth 21 – Building for Change!

Venue: Conference Room D, UNHQ

Date: May 28th, 10 AM – 12 PM

 Summary: This will be an open side-event hosted by the Task Team at the UNHQ to present the Youth 21 initiative, the progress so far to all the stakeholders and to explore more in depth the six different scenarios currently at the table. The event will also explore the need for better engaging youth in governance at all levels, and share some best practices from member states and youth groups.

Issues to be addressed:

  • What are the scenarios can directly benefit youth?
  • How can we look into the different alternatives with a more systematic approach?
  • What are the steps to develop and strengthen mechanisms for youth participation in the UN?
  • What role young people can play in the process of creating such mechanisms?

2- Roundtable: “Enhancing youth participation and political inclusion in governance at all levels”

Venue: Conference Room A, UNHQ

Date: May 28th, 1:15 pm – 2:45 pm

Co-organized by: UNDP and UN-Habitat

Summary: The discussion in this roundtable will address the importance of enhancing youth participation and political inclusion in governance at all levels. A key notion of sustainable development is youth participation. The event will also discuss the importance of enhancing the coordination and coherence within the UN system itself, and the need for a greater formal participation of youth in the UN.

The Post2015/SDG process is entering its final round with the SDG summit coming up in September this year. The discussion in the roundtable will also address the importance of involving youth at the SDG summit, and in the national processes designing the national action plans for the SDGs once approved.

We will learn from good practices from the field in terms of youth participation at the local and national level, as well dive into the discussion around how to address the linkages between WPAY, SWAP and the SDGs as different frameworks but with a common goal of youth empowerment. There will also be room to discuss the gaps in the WPAY and the lack of a good discussion forum for member states to discuss youth empowerment on a regular basis.

The speakers at the roundtable represent the various key stakeholders in this field: UN agencies, governments and youth-led organizations.

Issues to be addressed:

  • Importance of enhancing coordination and coherence within the UN system
  • Centrality of youth participation at all levels for development
  • Importance of youth participation in national processes developing action plans for SDGs
  • Lessons learned from the field – examples of interventions at local and national levels


3- Side-event: Engaging youth in peacebuilding in fragile states

Venue: Conference Room D, UNHQ

Date: May 28th, 03 PM – 04:30 PM

Summary: There is a growing recognition globally that youth can play a positive role in building peace even in the most fragile of states.  We have seen both in Somalia and Afghanistan government and youth working together to craft national policies and develop programmes that assure youth’s engagement in governance. In the Democratic Republic of Congo youth and peacebuilding centres are being established based on the successful Kimisigara One Stop Youth Resource Centre in Kigali, Rwanda.

This session will highlight different models of youth engagement in peacebuilding in fragile states, with the goal to initiating a discussion on the factors that go into creating successful initiatives, and what the roles of youth, local and national governments, and the UN have in supporting these.

Questions to be addressed:

  • What role young people play in peacebuilding?
  • What are the good experiences from the field, and models we could scale up?
  • How can we create enabling environments for youth to actively engage in peacebuilding?

If you will be in NY and would like to receive more information and attend them, please, fill in this form and we will soon get in touch with you!

(Please note, UN-Habitat Youth Unit has no resources allocated to support participation at this stage, therefore you will be responsible for covering the expenses related to your participation in NY).

3rd Public Spaces Biennale – Public Spaces in Africa


Streets and Public Spaces as Drivers of Urban Development in Africa

The second day kicked off with very interesting session dedicated to the various interventions of public spaces across Africa. Panellists from various institutions and organizations showcased their work in some of Africa’s major cities, including Kigali, Nairobi and Porto-Novo. And what are the main findings?

First of all, it is important for us to understand that public spaces in Africa are nothing like the ones in Europe. Not only they look different, they have different functions. Public spaces in Africa are there for people to meet, interact with each other, buy and sell food, exchange goods and most importantly, they are spaces for dialogue. Traditionally, people are meeting in the streets or any other outside open space to discuss anything from politics to football.

What is public and who’s in charge of it? That is a question that many people ask as the word “public” does not necessarily have a positive connotation due to government’s scandals and reputation. Also, many public spaces are not so public after all. Unfortunately, urban divide and class segregation is a growing phenomenon in the African capitals, providing nice public spaces such as swimming pools, parks and gardens for the upper class, nicely gated from the rest. Another challenge is the lack of space in informal settlements, making it very hard to provide for any area that could be turn into well designed and functioning public space. Accessibility goes without saying – what kind of public space would it be if you need a car to get there?

People need to be consulted and engaged in the mapping and design, otherwise we’re asking for trouble and failure. Urban planners and architects do not know it all, although they may possess a piece of paper that says otherwise. Not taking the complexities of culture, tradition and people’s opinions into account is a recipe for disaster.

Having said all that, the city of Nairobi has shown a lot of good examples of how they’re turning their public spaces from shady and violent corners to vibrant and exciting areas to hang out. The city has committed to improve 60 public spaces over the next few months, which is a great promise for the city and for the people.

3rd Public Spaces Biennale in Rome – Day 1 Highlights


Women and Youth for Inclusive, Safe and Accessible Public Spaces

The main session for us occurred already on day 1. The session debated key issues regarding public space, safety and urban mobility through the gender and youth lenses. The speakers aimed to outline strategies and tools to contribute towards a vision of a gender and age inclusive cities, where women, youth, children and elderly can use and enjoy quality access to public space. The session was well structured to increase awareness on how urban public spaces are planned, implemented and used in order to identify the potential inherent in this space for more inclusive and prosperous cities.

Across the world, public space is becoming an ever more critical issue in light of rapid urbanization. For women, youth and children, public space is particularly valuable for empowerment due to opportunities presented for political, social and cultural participation as well as entrepreneurship. Public space, mobility and safety are key elements to access education, health services, employment and leisure activities. One of the pillars of a truly sustainable urban development is a vision of a gender and age inclusive city where women, youth and children can access, enjoy and contribute to safe, humane and welcoming public space.

The session, kicked off by Dana Podmolikova – UN-Habitat YAB Representative from Europe, who outlined the importance of public spaces for youth. Young people being the largest demographic that actually use public spaces, need safe and accessible space to escape from their often challenging family circumstances. They need appropriate space to meet, interact and socialize with their peers. Public spaces are also fantastic for play, sports, arts and culture, making them great arenas for self-expression. This has also been emphasized by Ms. Rose Muema, the Head City Planner of Nairobi, who shared some of the best practices the Kenyan Capital has to offer.

Gender-sensitive planning in the city of Vienna, presented by Ms. Doris Damyanovic from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, counts as another good example of urban planning project founded on participatory approaches. Space is not neutral. Women do not enjoy the same access to public space as it is often characterized by gender-based violence. Although women have the equal rights to safe urban space and to live without fear, the reality makes it hard to adhere to, explained Ms. Teresa Boccia from the Federico II University in Napoli.

Very interesting session was concluded with questions from the audience. The one-on-one discussions carried on long after the end of the session.

The 3rd Public Spaces Biennale kicks off in Rome, Italy!

On Thursday, the third Public Spaces Biennale commenced in the beautiful city of Rome. UN-HABITAT’s team from Programme on Public Spaces organizes several sessions over the three days of the conference. The youth voice is conveyed by the European YAB representative, Dana Podmolikova from Czech Republic.

Over 600 speakers are scheduled to take the floor in one dozens of sessions discussing the importance, design and various implementation strategies for public spaces. With the growing popularity, the Biennale has now international guests, raising the profile and scope of discussions and examples. 20150522_13440620150522_134435 If not in the sessions, participants can wonder around the venue and admire some of the best practices and work that is being done. Very interesting and fascinating examples of participatory community development of public spaces are on display! The exhibition presents them in very creative ways outdoors. 20150521_12432820150522_134349

UN-Habitat Youth Unit coming to New York next week!


The UN-Habitat Youth Unit is organizing a series of youth events in New York next week, to discuss issues related to youth participation in governance, peacebuilding and leadership.

The events will be happening on May 27th and 28th in New York, on the margins of the High-Level Event of the President of the General Assembly commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth on Friday, 29 May 2015.

If you will be in NY and would like to receive more information and attend them, please, fill in this form and we will soon get in touch with you!

(Please note, UN-Habitat Youth Unit has no resources allocated to support participation at this stage, therefore you will be responsible for covering the expenses related to your participation in NY).

Students gather at the World EXPO 2015 in Milan to discuss ecological and environmental safety of our cities!

Milan, Italy-13 May, 2015


UN-Habitat and the International Ecological Safety Collaborative Organization (IESCO), met with students, teacher, NGOs and local municipal leaders from around Milan and participated in a panel discussion on the importance of ecological and environmental safety and awareness. The event, dubbed ‘Dear Student’s’ was held in the Civil Society Pavilion at the 2015 World EXPO currently taking place in Milan, Italy.

Mr. Jin Guanchun speaking on behalf of IESCO, informed the gathering that IESCO was formed to inform and tackle issues on ecological safety, not just for China, but for the world at large. He stressed that the pollution of water resources, desertification, species extinction, land subsidence in cities, extreme weathers, large floods, serious mudslides, serious droughts, epidemic diseases and food safety triggered by climate change and unsustainable economic activities poses grave threats to human survival and economic development thus exacerbating poverty, which in turn breeds conflicts. He further informed that IESCO had formed strategic partnerships with the United Nations and in particular with UN-Habitat to ensure that ecological safety was an issues that was advanced to youth in the urban setting where much of the mitigation is needed.

Speaking on behalf of UN-Habitat, Mr Paul Wambua reminded the gathering that a number of environmental risks and hazards disproportionately affect young people, who have to live for an extended period with the deteriorating environment bequeathed to them by earlier generations. He asked the youth to engage in new forms of action and activism that will generate effective responses to these ecological challenges. “It is through you, the youth that the world could learn and appreciate a new way of doing things and leaving in a more environmentally and sustainable world” he emphasized.

Mr Wambua then the went on to introduce the recently launched biennial Youth Innovation Awards Program, which are a joint effort between UN-Habitat and IESCO. The awards aim to promote sustainable cities by recognizing, honouring and promoting young generation of leaders who are in a unique position to leverage the power of invention to establish businesses which would contribute to solving social and environmental problems. The projects selected will be culturally sensitive and innovative in design and implementation to ensure that they continue to promote positive local cultural practices.

Standing L to R, Mr. Jin Guanchun, Director, IESCO Europe, Mr. Paul Wambua, Programme Officer, UN-Habitat, Dr. Christian Doria, IESCO Director for Public Relations-Italy together with the convener of the session.
Standing L to R, Mr. Jin Guanchun, Director, IESCO Europe, Mr. Paul Wambua, Programme Officer, UN-Habitat, Dr. Christian Doria, IESCO Director for Public Relations-Italy together with the convener of the session.

Innovation Marketplace – Urban Challenge Workshop

April 28, 2015


UN-Habitat in partnership with Ericsson Research, Samsung C&T, Community Chest of Korea and Strathmore University hosted the ‪Urban Challenge Workshop in Nairobi, Kenya as part of UN-Habitat’s Innovate Kenya Project. The workshop brought together youth representatives from Nairobi based tech start-ups and NGOs and county government representatives to collectively identify some of the main challenges faced in Kenya in regards to young engagement in governance at the county level, with a particular focus on urbanization issues.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESDr. Joseph Sevilla, from iLabAfrica, a research institute with a focus on ICT, Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Business Development hosted in Strathmore University kicked off the day at the ‪‎Urban Challenge Workshop, “This workshop aims to explore how young people are using technology to engage in governance. The more we include ‪‎youth in the ‪governance of the different counties; the better will be the feedback for government authorities. Counties can get better insights on what’s really happening in the ground with the real people living there.”


Helene Opsal, from UN-Habitat Youth Unit presented the Innovation Marketplace to the group. “This project seeks to build capacity at the county level in Kenya around the use of ICTs as a tool for good governance and youth engagement, ultimately institutionalizing innovative solutions to enhance ‪citizen engagement.”


Markus Nyberg, from Ericsson Research introduced the concept of “networked societies” and presented some of the cutting edge innovations and trend identified in Kenya. You can learn more about the concept of “networked societies” at http://www.ericsson.com/thinkingahead

Caroline Mutua, also from iLabAfrica presented some of the inspiring case studies we came across during our stocktaking exercise. If you want to learn more about how youth have been using ICT to create change in their communities in Kenya, check our Caroline’s presentation: UN-Habitat Stocktaking Presentation


After the introductions were done, it was time to get to work, and participants of the Urban Challenge Workshop were divided into groups which mixed youth and county representatives to start to identify burning challenges they face in their counties related to Economy, City Planning, Governance and Basic Services. 

The groups had the opportunity to reflect about the roots of the different problems identified during the workshop, some of the insights from the groups:

  • The group discussing Basic Services reminded us that there are different needs in different settlements, and the importance of being mindful of the differences between income categories. The group recognized the need for more mapping initiatives, which will enable authorities to identify gaps and plan services such as transport, health and the use of public spaces. “ICT solutions should address a certain need that is important to the population and it should be available to the people who need the service. It should be simple to use and it should indicate responsibilities.”SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
  • The group discussing City Planning raised some of the challenges faced in Kenya, which included: traffic jams, housing and shelter, inclusion of urban poor in the city design, water and sanitation in the different parts of the city and the lack of open spaces to name few. “There is also a lack of youth engagement in ‎planning for ‪urban development at the county level; youth do not participate in urban planning. Some of the reasons for this are that people can’t afford to participate due to transportation costs or taking a day off work. There is a need to bridge the gap between policy makers and youth; some structures for youth participation exist but they are misused as political tools and do not provide young people with a meaning channel to have their voices heard. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
  • The group discussing Economy highlighted the fact that “there is a mismatch between ‪‎youth aspirations, the education opportunities available and the skills required by the labor market”, “ICTs could represent an opportunity for counties to develop dynamic channels that will enable them to receive better insight on the situation among unemployed young people. Counties need to make sure that the information available is youth friendly, and they should try to feature some of the good practices, for example some of the youth groups that have been able to access procurement opportunities, highlighting why they were successful.” SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
  • The Group discussing Governance, endorsed what was raised by all the previous groups, but emphasized that “youth are not being included in the planning of major projects which generate all sorts of problems, for instance, Kibera railway line was uprooted because youth were not included in discussions around the purpose of the railway lines”.

After all the groups reported back, it was time to dig deeper into the issues/problems raised and to try formulating “challenge statements” which will be taken forward into the Hackathon that will be organized later on this year as part of the Innovation Marketplace, and will bring together different stakeholders to work on ICT based solutions to the challenges identified.


If you want to learn more about the initiative, check out Helene’s presentation at the workshop at: https://prezi.com/dagb3y9p6adb/innovation-marketplace/

And if you want to learn more about the opportunity ICTs represent for youth engagement in governance, make sure you check out UN-Habitat Youth Report on “ICT, Urban Governance and Youth”. at: http://issuu.com/unhabitatyouthunit/docs/ict_urban_governance_and_youth_vers

Also, make sure you check some of the pictures of workshop on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153729025287119.1073741840.300677777118&type=1&l=3424fec870