The Real change-makers


Last week, UN-HABITAT has been invited to run its Youth & Urbanization workshop at CHRISC Kenya annual leadership camp in Rongai. 60+ youth leaders from all over Kenya came together for 5 days of non-formal learning through games and sport. At the end of it, they were not the only ones leaving inspired.


Our 9 hr workshop was packed with ideas and action! It was great to see how these young men and women challenged the system and their own mind-sets while addressing the most important issues affecting them daily in their local communities. Tribalism, drug abuse and insecurity were just few issues to be analyzed inside out.


For us, it was important to spend the time with these young people and listen to what they have to say. It is not enough to talk to young people that are able to travel to conferences. We need to reach out and work with youth that are mostly affected by these issues. After all, they face these challenges every day, their friends and peers live it every day. And with the right tools and help, these young people are the real change-makers in their communities.


We may have the power to push for change on the higher political level, but they have the power to change the things on the ground! So let us combine our efforts to address the youth urban challenges and make a real impact on the ground, not on paper.


Rehabilitation of a Sports Field in Mathare


In 2014, a well-known community leader named Kaka (Swahili for brother) created a new sporting landmark in Mathare. With the help of many supporters (including UN Habitat), Kaka helped the community reclaim a football pitch. Since then, the space has been a beehive of activity, with kids and youth enjoying the space and community events taking place. The field also hosts lively crusades that attract people from all over and generates income for the group.


Most recently with the help of local Mathare MP, Stephen Kariuku, major donations were made that really impacted the only sports pitch in Mlango Kubwa. Safaricom has brought a number of large metal stands that make watching the game so much more enjoyable as previously there was no place to sit. Philips, the electronics giant, has installed two solar panel lights that allow the youth to play and train well into the evening. Both of these donations have helped in the positive long-term effects that this space has provided for the community. Parents in the neighborhood now say that whenever they need to look for their kid they go straight to the field. The rehabilitation of the pitch has greatly reduced the numbers of children playing on the road where they risk getting hit by vehicles. Donations and further support that will improve the space are still being sought.


The gripping documentary ‘Slum Soccer’ can be watched here:


Youth and Conflict

UN-Habitat´s work in engaging youth as positive stakeholders in fragile states is developing strategies to engage in national youth policies in Somalia and Afghanistan. Part of the discussions are with the Secretary-General´s Envoy on Youth, the World Bank and Search For Common Ground on how to ensure the trickle-down effect of seeing youth as assets and not as troublemakers. 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. The discussion in New York highlighted 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.


For the global urban youth

On April 17th this year in Nairobi, Kenya, UN-Habitat and Urban Youth Academy (UYA) met to discuss their mutual global cooperation. UYA is a Korea based organization that is aiming to empower global urban youth especially underprivileged youth in developing countries. UYA is also the implementing partner for running a “Lotte Window” for UN-Habitat’s Urban Youth Fund later this year. The Urban Youth Fund “window” is a part of a platform for rising additional funding for the popular youth fund that has proved youth are able to developed innovative solution to urban challenges that they face worldwide.

Lotte shopping, which is the benefactor of the window, is Korea’s undisputed leader in department stores and operates a number of outlets in all major cities across the country. The window will run under the theme “practicing and expanding peace and sustainable development through arts and culture activities”. Ten (10) eligible projects from youth-led groups across Asia will benefit from this funding to implement their creative projects.

David Kim, representative director of UYA, while meeting with Doug Ragan, the head of the Youth Unit at UN-Habitat said, “Through our joint programs, UYA is willing to support the global youth for a better world and to educate unprivileged youth to become ideal global citizens who strive to make a peaceful world”.


1st Global Urban Youth Exchange Program with Duksung Women’s University

The 1st Global Urban Youth Exchange Program run from January 27 to February 10, 2015 under the theme “ideal urbanization and Youth role’s in this era of globalization” at the Duksung Women’s University that is based in Korea. 28 participants from Duksung Women’s University presented policy proposal, pre-investigation and field research on ideal urbanization in developing countries especially Cambodia and Thailand and made a presentation on the same at the United Nations Office in Bangkok.

Participants were separated into five groups and challenged to come up with creative solutions related to sustainable urbanization. Innovative ideas emerged such as, establishing night classes for improving the Cambodian Women’s education, improvement of environment-friendly landfills, reducing school dropout rates through economic and entreprenureship education. The students went further to test their proposed hypothesis and policies in the local situation through local surveys.

At the launch of the programme, Mr. Jung, the Cooperation Director at Duksung women’s University emphasised that, “We expect this program can be a big help to cultivate students’ global citizenship and enhance global leadership”.

UN-Habitat and Duksung Women’s University signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on August 6th 2014. The university also works closely with UN-Women and has signed an MOU with the agency as well to promote ‘the next generation’, especially women through the Global Partnership Training Program.

Innovate Kenya: Entrepreneurship and ICT Training for Youth Empowerment

The growing number of young urban citizens, coupled with the explosion of electronic handheld devices is introducing new challenges and opportunities for both local governments and youth that have not been adequately addressed. UN-Habitat has begun to address these converging trends through the development of a conceptual framework on improving local governance for youth using ICTs articulated in an e-learning platform.

UN-Habitat is embarking on a pilot program to facilitate the development and implementation of projects in towns and cities of Kenya to test the approach. The Innovate Kenya; Entrepreneurship and ICT Training is the tool designed to facilitate this process. The proposed e-capacity building and marketplace aims to link youth, local governments, and the technology community and corporations, into structured activities that utilize ICT to enhance local democracy and governance for young citizens of Kenya. The overall goal aims at empowering youth by giving them educational opportunities through e-learning and other methods. Improving the quality of education by supporting educational materials and hardware and introducing innovative opportunities on ICT platforms.

The initial undertaking was the renovation of a classroom at Alliance Boys High School into a computer lab, followed by a donation of 15 (fifteen) lap top computers to the school in the first quarter of 2015. An e-learning curriculum will then be introduced focusing on social entrepreneurship and business studies. Five other schools and universities are set to benefit from similar activities within the next year. This project builds on the UN-Habitat’s Youth Empowerment Programme, and is funded to the tune of USD460,000 by the Samsung Construction & Trade (Samsung C&T) Cooperation. This is an initial pilot project which will be scaled up to include programmes on urban sports, and youth.

Urban Youth Fund

Every year, over 8,000 youth-led organizations apply to the UN-Habitat Urban Youth Fund. The fund offers grants of between 5,000USD and 25,000 USD to winning submissions in a very competitive selection and only about 30-40 entries are eligible for the grant annually.

These organizations span various sectors, from technology and agriculture to education and poverty reduction. Every year, the Fund supports new and innovative ideas and solutions for job creation, good governance, adequate shelter and secure tenure planned and implemented by youth-led groups globally.

By undertaking research on best practices in youth-led development the fund also creates greater awareness of youth-led development and the urgency to ensure that youth perspectives are integrated into local, national and international development policies and strategies.

To qualify, applicants organizations must be led by young people aged 15-32 years and be based in cities or towns in developing countries. to qualify. Support in terms of training, mentorship and an e-Learning programs are provided primarily for project leaders to ensure success of the selected projects. To support the projects further, an Urban Youth Fund Mentorship Programme has been created. The programme uses alumni from the fund and youth leaders to provide guidance to current projects. Projects encouraging gender equality or involving partnerships with the government or the private sector are particularly encouraged.

Urban Youth Fund E-Learning Program

UN-Habitat has partnered with Canadian University of Fraser Valley to provide custom courses in the area of sustainable development, social enterprise and community planning. The e‐Learning programme is the newest addition to the Training and Capacity Building Program of the Urban Youth Fund. The programme seeks to integrate the mobile technology, internet‐based curriculum and applied empirical learning to provide a dynamic learning opportunity for youth in the developing world.

UN-Habitat brings the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth to Rwanda


From 16-20 July, UN-Habitat Youth brought the United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, to Rwanda to showcase best practice programming for youth in urban areas.The Envoy got to visit and tour the UN-Habitat supported One Stop Youth Center in Kigali, which serves as a globally recognized best practice of youth centered programming in a rapidly urbanizing context.

Speaking to the many youth who were at the One Stop Center, the Envoy underscored the opportunities that currently exist for Rwandan youth. ‘You are the luckiest generation of youth in Rwandan history. You have the opportunity to contribute to and achieve development for your country’, he said, echoing the strong emphasis the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has placed on youth as a resource for sustainable development.

Rwanda is one of the African continent’s best performing countries in terms of achieving the Millennium Development Goals, with youth and urbanization recognized as key components to the country’s development.

The country’s Ministry of Youth and ICT is equally committed to ensuring that these two components are integral to the Sustainable Development Goals, and UN-Habitat looks forward to continuing the fruitful collaboration with Rwanda and the Envoy on Youth in this regard.

Amman Youth Declaration Calls For Action From Local Governments On Peacebuilding

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August 22, 2015
After many months consultations and engaging youth globally, the Amman Youth Declaration  was adopted by the over 400 youth delegates attending the Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security held in Amman, Jordan on August 21/22, 2015. The Declaration is the first of its kind to address youth and peacebuilding issues.
The Declaration calls for the full engagement of youth and youth-led organizations in issues of peace and security. Unique to the declaration is its strong focus on local authorities. As UN-Habitat has often stated, the first port of call for youth is local government; the inclusion of this in the Declaration is a strong step towards assuring the achievement of the proposed actions.
The Declaration makes a calls on local authorities, in partnership with other levels of government,  to undertake the following:
  1. Facilitate an enabling environment in which youth actors are recognised and provided with adequate support to implement violence prevention activities. This space must be inclusive of young men and women from different social, political, economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds.
  2. Recognize and support what young people are already doing in preventing violence and violent extremism. Governments at all levels should build upon the existing capacities, networks and resources of young people in their countries and communities, as well as at the international level.
  3.  Ensure that contextual research is conducted in collaboration with young people and youth organizations to identify the drivers and enablers of violence and extremism in order to design effective responses at local, national and international levels
  4. Establish mechanisms to meaningfully involve youth in current and future peace processes, including formal peace negotiations from the local to the global levels. These mechanisms need to ensure youth are engaged as equal partners and promote youth leadership.
  5. Establish temporary special measures, including minimum quotas, for the participation of girls and women in all decision- and policy-making levels.


The final wrap up included a statement from the Envoy who declared that he will “continue to advocate for youth to have a seat at the peace negotiation table.”

“Words are not enough, action has to happen,” Jordan Minister of Foreign Affairs on being given Amman Declaration.
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#Youth4Peace, we have finally adopted the Amman Declaration, well done youth of the World. — Francine Muyumba (@Muyumba)

Peacebuilding through Sports: Engaging the youth of Somalia

Youth represent the most vibrant section of the society, they play a pivotal role in socio- economic changes and development of the society. A nation can only progress when the energy of the youth is channelled towards constructive work. Young people in Somalia love sports, they love to watch sports and more so, they love to play sports.

However, they have very few opportunities to do so – poor sports infrastructure, lack of sports facilities, limited organized sport activities, lack of capacity and lack of sufficient support both nationally and internationally leave many to stay on the passive side. But it’s not all so gloomy as there are enough enthusiastic people in and out of Somalia willing to work hard to change this.

With the help of international partners, young men and women across Somalia strive to create their own sport activities as well as participate in available sports training programmes focused on peer education, first aid and sports injuries, refereeing and coaching. As Said Warsame from Puntland, one of the participants of training organized by Norwegian Peoples Aid Somalia, (Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development (GECPD Somalia) and CHRISC Kenya said:

“I have been to different workshops where topics such as HIV and AIDS were taught but this is the first time I have learnt new methods whereby I can use fun and games to pass different information instead of relying on workshops and seminars. This seems effective since it encourages participation and involvement. With this new knowledge I plan to use it to educate my fellow youth and at the same time have fun through sports”.

It was in 2005 when the value of sport was identified as an essential peacebuilding mechanism by the international development community. In post conflict countries, peace and stability are fragile but sport can undoubtedly help in peacebuilding and development initiatives when used wisely and strategically but we cannot expect it to do the magic without guidance as sport is by nature a contest. Expecting sport to restore the normality without any further effort would be foolish.

Sport can also serve as a fantastic tool for social and gender inclusion. Girls and women often do not have the same access to services and opportunities. Young people with physical or mental disabilities are also frequently excluded from everyday community life because of stereotypes and prejudices that accompany them. The social exclusion often felt by vulnerable communities can be challenged through sports as it offers a space, where everybody is welcomed to participate, regardless of their age, gender, or ability. It is an adaptable activity, where rules can be altered to community needs, especially if it is for having fun and attaining joy. Rules are created to give directions, not to prevent people from participation.

Re-building the country starts with the youth and sport can be a useful entry point for social change as it represents a great tool to mobilize, empower and engage young people to do just that. It brings people together, which is particularly important in a country like Somalia. It can teach them a thing or two about leadership, conflict resolution, fair-play and communication – transferable skills crucial for life outside the game as well.

While the country is on its way to recovery and reconstruction, the lack of safe and accessible sport infrastructure, qualified coaches, trained professionals with capacity to establish organized sport activities and sufficient equipment, remain a challenge. Through its Urban Sports Programme, UN-HABITAT is thus looking into possibilities to partner with the Government as well as local youth organizations and groups to tackle these issues and thus support urban and community development in Somalia.