UN-Habitat: Innovate Counties Challenge promotes peace and sustainable human development

Peace and Governance

Good governance is a path to peace.  Good governance is about the processes for making and implementing decisions. Not about making ‘correct’ decisions, but about the best possible process for making those decisions.

Poor governance on the flip side, offers greater incentives and more opportunities for corruption—the abuse of public office for private gains. Corruption undermines the public’s trust in its government. It also threatens market integrity, distorts competition, and endangers economic development.  The citizen is disenfranchised as their voices are unheard and their needs unmet making them prone to resorting to conflict as a measure or expressing their dissatisfaction with the status and as a means for advocating for change.

Three parallel dynamics—the “youth bulge”, the ICT dynamics and the devolution process—are setting the stage for promoting good governance in towns and cities of Kenya. The growing number of young urban citizens, coupled with the explosion of hand-held devices is introducing new challenges and opportunities for both local governments and youth that have not been adequately addressed. It appears that the scope of concerns crosses into new and uncharted territory as governance itself is transformed by fast-moving changes of ICT in the hands of the youth. UN-Habitat started to address these converging trends through the development of a conceptual framework on improving local governance for youth using ICTs articulated in its “ICT, Youth & Urban Governance” paper.

Further, UN-Habitat implemented a project dubbed the ‘Innovate Counties Challenge Project’ seeking to build capacity of local government in small and medium sized cities around the use of ICT as a tool for good governance, planning and youth engagement, ultimately institutionalizing innovative solutions to enhance citizen engagement in line with UN-Habitat’s priorities according to the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

This project promoted the fundamentals of good governance:

County governments are bound to deliver services and tangible outcomes for their main constituency, the majority of which in Kenya are youth. County governments are key players in Kenya’s relatively new devolution framework and can use ICT as a tool to improve urban public service delivery, operational efficiency and planning and design.

Accountability

Local government has an obligation to report, explain and be answerable for the consequences of decisions it has made on behalf of the community it represents. Thus local governments can have better reporting by using ICT tools developed by youth.

Transparency

Citizens should be able to follow and understand the decision-making process. This means that they will be able to clearly see how and why a decision was made – what information, advice and consultation considered, and which legislative requirements (when relevant) were followed. Most of the time this is not the case as most decision-making channels are made via traditional media and require physical presence. ICT tools can promote more participation digitally.

Responsive

Local governments should always try to serve the needs of the entire community while balancing competing interests in a timely, appropriate and responsive manner. ICT tools can be used to capture citizen needs more comprehensively.

Equity and inclusivity

A community’s well being results from all of its members feeling local governments have considered their interests in the decision-making process. This means that all groups, particularly the most vulnerable, should have opportunities to participate in the process. This is the core of the project. The youth, an often-marginalized group in decision-making, are the drivers of this project with their views sought and their niche is ICT harnessed to develop digital tools to solve governance challenges.

Efficiency

Local government should implement decisions and follow processes that make the best use of the available people, resources and time to ensure the best possible results for their community. Employing ICT tools in governance processes enhances efficiency.

Participatory

Anyone affected by or interested in a decision should have the opportunity to participate in the process for making that decision. This can happen in several ways – community members may be provided with information, asked for their opinion, given the opportunity to make recommendations or, in some cases, be part of the actual decision-making process. This is the backbone of the Innovate Counties Challenge. Incorporating views from pertinent representatives such as academia, media, civil society, private sector, local governments, youth groups, etc.

And in this week, we showcase how the Innovate Counties Challenge Project has provided a framework to foster good governance thereby promoting peace and consequently, sustainable human development.

Rhoda Omenya| Youth and Livelihoods Unit, UN-Habitat

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