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

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:

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:

Also, make sure you check some of the pictures of workshop on our facebook page:

147 Dreams – #147NotJustANumber #Garissa

garissa vigil

On April 2nd, 2015 four gunmen stormed into Garissa University College, in Garissa, Kenya and took students hostage for hours of panic and pain. This was the deadliest terrorist attack in Kenya since 1998, killing 147 students, and injuring many others.

Today the UN family gathered in a vigil to honor those lives taken away.

147 is not just a number. They were daughters and sons, they were brothers and sisters, they were friends, more than anything they were human beings who were pursuing their education to fulfill their dreams, their hopes and aspirations.

The shocking images of that bloody Thursday will haunt us, and will be sadly remembered.  The reckless attack on university students was a direct attack on the future of Kenya. Those 147 young people killed are no longer able to contribute their talents neither to fulfilling their dreams.

The barbaric attack took away from Kenya 147 unique opportunities. Those youth will no longer grow to become doctors, or teachers, lawyers or musicians, will not become engineers neither politicians. 147 lives cut short, 147 dreams terminated before they had the chance to make a difference.

That is why today the UN family in Nairobi united in their honor. We want to remember the victims not just as another tragic number, but recognize their lives and stories and honor their passions and their dreams.

The vigil hosted today at the United Nations Campus in Gigiri, Nairobi was accompanied by Andrew Cox, UN-Habitat Chief of Staff and James Ohayo, President of the UN Nairobi Staff Union.


The Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi sent his message of condolence, but as well expressed strong support for the people of Kenya in their time of need.

The vigil was an opportunity for staff members to pay respect to the young men and women whose lives were so needlessly cut short, remembering the bereaved families and praying for the recovery and emotional restoration of those who were injured, as well as hundreds of students who were traumatized by this heinous and despicable attack.


147 is not just a number, today the UN honor the loss of 147 dreams.

The 25th UN-Habitat Governing Council- What’s in it for #Youth? – #GC25 #Habitat3

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My name is Tone Vesterhus, I am the youth delegate for Norway to the 25th Governing Council. I have been following UN-Habitat and the Habitat III process since the beginning of 2014.

Unfortunately there were not many youth delegates in the official government delegations at the Governing Council this year, Brazil was the only other delegation to have a youth delegate. This comes to show that we have to stress the importance of delegations including youth delegates, as the Governing Council really only does consist of the member states of UN-Habitat, and there is not much space for civil society, at least not formally.

I will try to give a recap of the most important things that happened at the Governing Council, especially youth related issues. First, I will give an overview of the most important resolutions that were discussed.


Strategic plan for 2014–2019 and the work programme and budget of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme for the biennium 2016–2017

The work program and the attached budget is the most instrumental tool for the work of UN-Habitat, and what goes in there, goes. This, in addition to the omnibus is the most important resolution that the Governing Council discusses and adopts.

The work programme and budget resolution can be read here:

Omnibus: Implementation of the strategic plan for 2014–2019

This resolution gives direction on how to implement the strategic plan of UN-Habitat. The initial idea for this Governing Council was to have an “omnibus” resolution, a resolution that touches upon most of the substantive issues regarding the work of UN-Habitat. This was instead of there being 20 different resolutions for the different themes. Although there was a fair few other resolutions that came up anywas, it contributed to reduce the amount substantially.

The omnibus resolution can be read here:

In addition to these two, there was a resolution on the special theme for the Governing Council, namely UN-Habitats contribution towards the post-2015 agenda, a resolution on the Habitat III process, a resolution on strengthening the national ownership and operational capacity as well as a resolution on international guidelines on urban and territorial planning. They can all be read here:


Youth highlights

Mainstreaming of youth in UN-Habitat and the financing of it

The most important thing that the Governing Council adopted (youth related anyways), was the mainstreaming of youth in UN-Habitat. In the omnibus resolution the following paragraph was agreed upon:

The governing council requests the Executive Director to continue to pursue the mainstreaming of youth and gender equality perspectives in the normative work and operational programmes of the United Nations Human Settlements programme and to ensure that youth and gender equality and empowerment remain an important part of the preparatory process for Habitat III and of the substantive content of the New Urban Agenda;

Even more importantly, a similar paragraph was adopted in the work program and budget, with the additional wording “and that the resources be allocated accordingly”, meaning, we do not just agree upon the mainstreaming of youth, we actually request the executive director to spend the amount of resources needed in order for that to be achieved. All in all, a pretty good achievement. There was a lot of discussions on this paragraph in both resolutions, as some member states were reluctant to, quite frankly, spend money on this. Luckily it remained in there.

A strong focus on youth unemployment and job creation for youth

In the omnibus resolution there were two paragraphs that highlighted the need for a focus on youth unemployment, and that UN-Habitat needs to work on this issue.

The Governing Council Requests the Executive Director to address the high rates of youth unemployment by developing high-level programmes and policies, thereby enabling the United Nations Human Settlements Programme to work with member States and local authorities to develop and implement targeted and integrated local and national youth              employment and entrepreneurship programmes and policies for inclusive, sustainable and innovative job creation;

The Governing Council invites member States to work towards the prevention of slums, the empowerment of slum communities and the strengthening of institutional mechanisms equipping slum dwellers to contribute to the improvement of the living environment, aiming   at promoting social, economic and political inclusion and poverty eradication through, among other things, access to sustainable mobility, skills and capacity development, the creation of job opportunities, in particular for women and young people, public spaces and respect for cultural diversity, and by strengthening linkages to the formal settings in the rural and urban surroundings of slum settlements;

These were both paragraphs that all member states more or less agreed upon from the beginning, and there was no sign of reluctance towards mentioning youth specifically as a key actor in sustainable urbanization. This is historic. Youth has previously been a highly contested issue.

Maybe then, we have reached a point where we can all just agree upon the simple fact that youth are a driving force of positive change, and that youthless development is useless development.


Youth Caucus – Thursday – 23rd April 2015

Today, we started the Youth Caucus with a presentation by Marco Kamiya, from the UN-Habitat Urban Economy Branch on the Economics of the Three Legged Approach.

We looked into UN-Habitat’s model for city development called “City Development Triangle” that has three parts:

  • Planning Urban Expansion,
  • The Legal Framework and Governance
  • Urban Economy & Finance

The triangle is a more integrated approach advocated by UN-Habitat that can guarantee properly balanced urbanization.


We than looked specifically into the guiding principles of each one of the legs, and finalized by discussing how to keep the “house” in order, by strengthening our base with the three legged approach, and incorporating the various cross-cutting issues such as human rights, gender, youth and climate change.

You can download Marco’s full presentation here: Youth Caucus The Economics of 3LA

We moved into a specific discussion about entry points for you within the three legged approach. One of the most obvious ones, are:

  • The need to better understand how young people relate to the city, and use this to discuss urban planning, and particularly how young people can be actively shaping public spaces.
  • In regards to legal frameworks and governance, youth rights come into play very strongly. Legal frameworks need to recognize youth as important stakeholders, and provide them with an enabling environment if they are to engage in the governance of cities and public space.
  • Finally, the economic argument is huge, and the linkages between youth and job creation are already a given. However, more work needs to be done in terms of better articulating the needs of young people in regards to employment, particularly trying to tackle the challenges of informality of jobs.

We also discussed the importance of ensuring our cities are inclusive of people with disabilities, trying to tackle issues of accessibility and inclusiveness of disable youth in programmes and policies of UN-Habitat, as well as incorporating disable people as one of the core cross-cutting issues.

As well as we looked into how the environment is integrated into the three legged approach: environmental-friendly urban planning using green technology and architecture; also the introduction of environmental conservation and protection legislation into the urban context and the economic opportunities created by new green-technology, green-jobs, etc.

Finally, we briefly discussed Climate Change, and particularly the role UN-Habitat should play in disaster risk reduction and disaster prevention, and how we must incorporate DRR into our planning efforts to rethink resilient cities. Understanding DRR as an investment rather than spending to the municipalities.

Negotiations Update – Morning of 23rd April

Last night, the negotiations went through the whole night, but they managed to finish the Omnibus Resolution. While we don’t have the final updates, it seems that most of the cross-cutting elements were kept, including the references to financing both at the work programme and budget.

The resolutions can be found at: 

Quick evaluation of the youth participation at the 25th Governing Council

Since this was our last Youth Caucus for the 25th GC, we did a quick round of evaluations and feedback, some of the main lessons highlighted were:

– Judging by the positive impact with the Norwegian Youth Delegate, Tone, it was consensus that we should really try to promote more the Youth Delegates programme, and encourage governments to include youth representatives in their official delegations.

– We also need to ensure more clarity over the process, so that civil society – particularly civil society youth – could engagement more meaningfully throughout the process.

– This is the first GC that the role of youth in the Habitat agenda has not being questioned, and in general we feel quite positive that member states finally realized the crucial role young people play in the development of our cities.

– We need to work closer with the Major Group for Children and Youth to ensure more preparatory work is doing in between events, lobbying missions in NY, and capitals to prepare the grounds for next Governing Council.

Youth @ The 25th UN-Habitat Governing Council – 4th DAY – WRAP UP!

Youth Caucus – Wednesday – 22/04

Today we kicked off our Youth Caucus with a presentation about “Youth and Urbanization – A strategy for youth in UN-Habitat”, led by Helene Opsal from the UN-Habitat Youth Unit. The presentation explored some of the data we have about youth population in the urban world, and why it is so important to think about the youth perspective when it comes to urbanization.

The presentation emphasized that UN-Habitat recognizes youth as right-holders and apply the 5 Principles of Youth-Led Development in it’s youth programming, which are:

1.Youth define their own development goals and objectives;

2.Youth have a social and physical space to participate in development and to be regularly consulted;

3.Adult mentorship and peer-to-peer mentorship are encouraged;

4.Youth act as role models to help other youth engage in development; and

5.Youth are integrated into all local and national development programs and frameworks.

The presentation also covered the UN-Habitat proposed “three legged approach” which consist of:

– Urban Planning and Design – directs urbanization

– Legislation – guides implementation of plans

– Urban Finance – pays for planned and legislated urbanization

And we discussed some of the entry points for youth.

You can download the entire presentation here: Youth and Urbanization Presentation (Three Legged Approach) 

We took the opportunity to discuss about the UN-Habitat Youth strategy, which guides the work of the agency and the need for rethinking and update the curernt strategy, which we are hoping to do collaboratively online (More about it in the next post!)

We than, moved into discussing the resolutions, and we dedicated some time to reading through the current version of the Omnibus Resolution, particularly looking into the paragraphs relevant to youth! You can download the version of the resolution here: K1500938-HSP-GC-25-3-Add-1-ADVANCE markup

Side Event – “Using ICTs for youth participation in the design of public space projects” 

Organized by: UN-Habitat, Mojang, Mojang, Major Group for Children and Youth and Kounkuey Design Initiative.


The event was organized considering the proposed Sustainable Development Goal 11 (SDG 11), on making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. It looked at the opportunities presented by SDG 11 for an enhanced focus on urban public spaces while debating how young people can take active part in implementing, monitoring and reporting on the “urban goal” with particular focus on target 11.7 which aims to provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, particularly for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities by 2030.

The event addressed young people’s ability to design and plan for safe, inclusive and accessible urban public spaces that provide opportunities for knowledge, civic engagement, employment as well as leisure activities. It presented the methodology of using Minecraft as a community participation tool and showcase case studies from around the world as successful examples of ICT’s potential in creating local ownership and engagement.

As cities grow and densify, access to well-designed and pleasant public spaces are becoming increasingly important. This is particularly true for those citizens – for example single mothers, the elderly and young people with low income – whose living circumstances are lacking in quality and comfort, or who are in special need of decent road infrastructure and communal spaces for health, recreation and socialization. Improving access to public spaces on the part of vulnerable urban residents is a powerful tool to improve equity in the city.

Chris Dekki, from the UN Major Group for Children and Youth, spoke about the crucial role young people can make in shaping communities and the importance of ensuring youth is part of the decision-making table.

ICT in the hands of youth can improve urban development, governance and livelihood opportunities, including by addressing issues of public space. Mobile phones with access to social media allow young people to engage local government on their own terms, expressing voice and engaging in community life. Building on existing social networks to extend into areas of governance can help improve local services and transparency and fight corruption. User generated data through social media and data-gathering apps can be used to promote opportunities which help local governments understand preferences of citizens, as well as to monitor service delivery and provide feedback to government. ICT provides a range of avenues for participatory planning that can improve urban public spaces.

Minecraft is a ‘sandbox’ computer game developed by Mojang and launched in 2011. The game has sold over 60 million copies worldwide, making it one of the world’s best-selling computer games. The gameplay is perhaps best imagined as a complex ‘digital Lego’. The creative aspects of Minecraft allow players to build structures out of textured cubes in a three-dimensional generated world, thus creating buildings similar to those produced by complex 3D modelling software.

Minecraft has been shown to be a useful tool in engaging young people in the design of urban public space projects. As part of the public space implementation process, participatory planning workshops are held with local youth in which they provide input into the design and eventual implementation and management of spaces. By using Minecraft in this way, young people are given the confidence to make urban professionals and policy makers listen to their ideas for improving the city. You can learn more about the project here:

You can watch the message by Lydia Winters, Director of Communications at Mojang, which explains a bit about how Minecraft is being used as a tool among young people: 

Community participation workshops with youth and Minecraft have been held in Kenya, Haiti, Mexico, Nigeria, Somalia, Peru, Nepal, Philippines and Bangladesh. The projects implemented so far show that using Minecraft adds value to community participation processes. Power relationships are changed, communities are engaged in new ways and the process presents great opportunities to engage hard-to-reach groups, particularly young people.

Bukonola Ngobi, from Kounkuey Design Initiative ( concluded the event bringing a strong hands-on example of how young people are already transforming their communities using ICTs. You can see her full presentation here: UN-Habitat Side Event 22-04-2014


Statement of Pax Romana / UN Major Group for Children and Youth to the 25th UN-Habitat Governing Council

mgcy-pax logo

Statement of Pax Romana / MGCY to 25th Governing Council of UN-HABITAT

“On behalf of the International Movement of Catholic Students – Pax Romana, one of the world’s largest youth-led organizations, as well as the UN Major Group for Children and Youth, the officially mandated platform for children and youth participation in official UN processes, we would like to remind you that children and young people play an indispensable  role in ensuring that policies negotiated in fora like this are transformative, practical, and positive for people at the grassroot level.

First, we would like to echo Dr. Clos in calling for the mainstreaming of youth and gender in the work of UN-HABITAT.  We thank Dr. Clos for this call and urge the Member States gathered here to take seriously this motion.

Secondly, we would like to remind you that the world’s population has never been younger.  Youth must be better involved in decision making at all levels, through inclusive and permanent mechanisms of participation that contribute to youth-led development, and partnerships between youth-led organizations and local, regional, and national governments, as well as the UN system.  We encourage the UN-HABITAT Youth and Livelihoods Unit continued endeavors in  strengthening the role and participation of young men and women, civil society, and other stakeholders at all levels of governance, emphasizing local governance, encouraging the inclusion of youth delegates in national delegations to the UN, and working towards the establishment of  permanent mechanisms for youth participation within the UN, for instance; through a UN Permanent Forum on Youth as well as well constructed and integrated Youth Advisory Boards within UN entities.

Finally, we urge UN-HABITAT to address the high rates of youth unemployment, underemployment, vulnerable employment, and informal employment in urban areas through the development of pilot programs and policies, such as scaling up the Urban Youth Fund and the One Stop Youth Resource Centre model.  These will enable the agency to work with Member States and local authorities towards the development and implementation of targeted and integrated local and national youth employment policies for inclusive, and sustainable job creation.

Children and young people are not simply the leaders of tomorrow, but also the leaders of today.  We are also the bridge between present and future generations.  Any policies made in this forum or any other must include the voices of young people and concerns of future generations.

Thank you very much.”


About Pax Romana

IMCS – Pax Romana brings together over 80 diverse national federations, associations, and movements of Catholic university and tertiary students from six regions. IMCS is part of the International Co-ordination Meeting of Youth Organisations (ICMYO), a network of membership-based, democratic, representative and accountable International Youth NGOs and Regional Youth Platforms. For more information: and

About the UN Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY)
The UN MGCY is the official UN mandated platform for engaging children and young people in policy processes. The MGCY is involved in a number of processes, including the World Humanitarian Summit, the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Financing for Development, Disaster Risk Reduction, and others. The MGCY is open to all individuals 30 and under, as well as youth-led organizations, youth-supporting organizations, and child-focused agencies. For more information or to join, please visit

Youth @ THE 25TH UN-Habitat Governing Council – 3RD DAY WRAP-UP!

Youth Caucus – Tuesday – 21/04


Today at the Youth Caucus we started by sharing some of the side-events and activities that happened the day before. Special attention to:

  • “Human Rights in Cities and Cities for All” – which discussed human rights in the context of sustainable urban development, particularly discussing the “right to the city”. The side event also discussed the role and mandate of UN-Habitat within the framework of Habitat III and the Post-2015 Agenda.
  • “The Road from Sendai: Urban Sustainable Development in 2015 and Beyond” – which was a very interesting session attended by quite a few of the participants from the Youth Caucus, where it was discussed how can we move forward from the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, recently held in Sendai, Japan. The panel marked the beginning of a global commitment to prevent and mitigate the negative consequences of disaster, particularly in the urban context. The session was particularly interesting because it recognized the important role of youth and women have in disaster risk reduction and in community resilience.

Building on the reports from the previous session, we went a bit deeper into the discussions about what happened during the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, learning from the experience of representatives from the MGCY that were highly active from the very beginning. From the early stages and PrepComs until the very end, young people have been at the forefront of advocacy. At the conference in Sendai itself, the MGCY hosted a massive children and youth forum that engaged young people in the WCDRR and provided a platform for final inputs and advocacy into the outcome documents, the Second Hyogo Framework for Action on Disaster Risk Reduction. The children and youth forum was attended by over 300 young people and was attended by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon himself.

Esther Muiruri, from the MGCY who attended the event in Japan, shared her experience, and told us that after Sendai, some of the participants decided to have a follow up beyond from the African Region, and among other things, facilitated a mentorship program for the forum participants, bringing the youth participants to meet and learn from some of the African Leaders who attended the conference.

Esther also told us that they form the “Africa Resilient Youth” which is a platform for youth engagement in DRR implementation in the African Region. They are currently finalizing on the implementation document which outlines our commitment to capacity build fellow young people and mobilize DRR Implementation action across Africa. For those who would like to get further information, and to get involved in this process, you can e-mail her directly:

In terms of the Negotiations, Tune, the Norwegian Youth Delegate gave us a brief update on the process, which is moving very slowly at this stage. So far, only 2 resolutions being negotiated and there is nothing on youth yet. Special attention needs to be paid for the Omnibus Resolution, to ensure language on youth is strengthened and youth is mainstreamed throughout the resolutions.

The second part of the Youth Caucus was reserved to presentations about the work UN-Habitat is doing in regards to youth:

  • Youth And Urbanization

Cities are home to an increasing number of youth. This brings new issues to the forefront of economic, political and human development globally, given that the majority of these youth overall are better connected, educated and informed than previous generations.

At the same time, inequalities are putting obstacles in the ways of youth inclusive development. Youth find themselves at challenge with lower salaries and less job opportunities (underemployment and unemployment), limited control over assets and property, and unequal participation in governance and public and private decision-making.

This type of marginalization is a barrier in terms of the collective productivity and progress of cities and countries. Urbanization requires new solutions that bring youth on-board as partners to find legitimate and inclusive ways to enhance the sustainability and quality of life for all living in cities; ultimately supporting the realization of people’s human rights.

  • Youth and Urban Public Spaces

UN-Habitat has as a core mandate the development of inclusive urban public space. Research by UN-Habitat has shown that youth are one of the principle users of urban space, due both to their large demographic presence in cities, as well as to their utilization of public amenities and space. The research is also clearly pointing towards the need for a stronger focus on young women and urban public space to address issues of dual discrimination in terms of age and gender. UN-Habitat’s State of the Indian Urban Youth Report (2012/2013) shows that young women are barred from using urban public space due to safety concerns, as they “cannot hang out on street corners the same way as young men”.

Perceived as a threat or challenge, youth often encounter numerous difficulties in accessing public spaces for their social, cultural and material development. Concerns over security and criminal gangs translate into the exclusion of urban youth, especially those from low-income and minority groups.

Public space is not only a venue for recreation and social interaction. Urban public spaces are critical for youth to use for shelter, community innovation and entrepreneurship in support of economic development. As a means to this end, ensuring youth engagement in the design and governance of public spaces has been shown to foster community ownership and social cohesion, something which is a fundamental component to stable, prosperous and safe cities.

  • The One Stop Youth Centre Model

The Youth Unit has developed different models to address issues of youth and urban public space, with the most well-known model being the One Stop Youth Resource Centres. This model addresses the need to create a safe and generative space where young men and women can access services in areas such as health and recreation, develop their skills and receive training based on existing needs. These activities, primarily designed by youth themselves, contribute to improved livelihoods, acquisition of skills, and increased employability.

UN-Habitat seeks to further develop the model, and is working with key regional and national partners to refine the model to scale. The model has already been adopted by the governments of Rwanda and Uganda where UN-Habitat has provided experience and knowledge in support of these efforts. UN-Habitat is also currently working to establish the model in Mogadishu in collaboration with the Federal Government of Somalia, supporting urban reconstruction and local economic development for youth.

We also heard the experience from the One Stop Centre in Kigali – for info on that project specifically:

  • Action Research on Youth and Land

Utilizing the knowledge gained through research and evaluation of the Urban Youth Fund to develop better policy at the local and national levels has been a core focus of UN-Habitat. Along this line, the Youth Unit partnered with the Global Land Tool Network to undertake a 2-year action research project on youth and land.

GLTN and the Youth Unit evaluated and selected 5 best practices from the Fund that focused on youth and land issues, and refunded them to for two years to focus on refining and expanding their work. Concluding at the end of 2014, the project has already resulted in a strengthened knowledge base on youth’s access to land and public space. Youth responsiveness criteria for land governance and tangible youth and land tools have been developed, building the capacity and awareness of youth on land challenges in the cities of Sao Paulo, Brazil; Kathmandu, Nepal; Sana’a, Yemen; Nairobi, Kenya; and Harare, Zimbabwe.

  • Youth as Development Partners

Key to the work on UN-Habitat is the recognition and support of youth as development partners, versus youth as clients. The anchor program of this focus area is the Urban Youth Fund with its various components (grants, training and capacity building, e-learning, and mentor program) which has now been running for 4 years, supported over 240 youth-led groups, based in 63 countries and 172 cities. The Fund is unique in the UN and multilateral system in that it supports youth-led agencies directly to achieve specific development goals through projects developed by the youth themselves, aligned with UN-Habitat’s thematic areas. The key significance of the Urban Youth Fund for UN-Habitat is the direct access to lessons-learnt and data on youth-led development to inform the normative policies of UN-Habitat.

  • Youth Engagement and Inclusive Governance

UN-Habitat supports the inclusion of youth in the social and economic life of cities. The issue of inclusion in either area is dependent upon the other – youth cannot have a sustainable and decent livelihood without being able to participate in decisions which directly affect their own and the life of their communities, and vice versa.

UN-Habitat works at a programmatic and normative level to engage youth in the social and economic life locally, nationally and internationally. The Youth 21 initiative was created by UN-Habitat, youth organizations and member states in 2011 to seek ways to better engage youth in international governance, specifically within the UN system. Youth 21 was expanded at the request of the stakeholders involved to include the engagement of youth using a multi-level governance model, which allows youth entry to governance at any point – locally, nationally and internationally.

Core to this focus area for the period 2014-2016 will be the Habitat III process. Women and youth organizations were actively involved in the processes towards Habitat II in Istanbul in 1996, and contributed to the fact that there are strong references to youth, women, gender and gender equality in the Istanbul Declaration and in the Habitat Agenda. The Habitat Agenda that came out of the Habitat II conference in 1996 in Istanbul, Turkey is one of the strongest UN documents on the right of participation of civil society, including youth groups.

  • Resilience, Reconstruction and Post-Conflict

In cities like Mogadishu and Kabul, generations of youth have lived through conflict. Many of these young people have endured lives of insecure economic prospects, violence and traumatization, with young women often facing dual discrimination due to their gender and age. Increased pressure on urban infrastructure and services, uncertainty and outbreaks of violence, lack of resources and support mechanisms as well as a general mistrust in society serve to further side-line, and in some cases radicalize, youth, making post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation even more challenging.

UN-Habitat supports countries in addressing issues such as these in countries including Somalia, Afghanistan, Palestine, Syria and Sri Lanka. Here, urban areas have faced a massive influx of displaced people and relief actors; breakdown of services; weakened institutions; and destruction of infrastructure and buildings.

Currently being developed, this portfolio seeks to utilize the decade long experience of the One Stop program and the Urban Youth Fund to develop a program which improves the livelihoods of youth and their communities particularly in post-conflict contexts, engaging youth as assets for development and bringing them on-board as development partners. Through this program, both normative and operational work on issues arising in line with the pace and scope of urban change as related to youth in conflict and post-conflict situations are underway.

  • Youth and Urban Sports

Pursuant to the Habitat Agenda, sports and recreation are designed to promote youth involvement in local governance and the improvement of human settlements. Pursuant to Governing

Council resolutions 19/3 and 20/1, using sports as an activity invites youth to partner in solving urban problems. Although many of the youth centres and youth fund recipients incorporate sports as part of their programme activities, sports and recreation also receives specific focus from UN-Habitat. Sports have been deployed as a way of engaging urban youth because of the passions that they inspire and the entertainment, health and economic benefits that accrue from them.

Programmes seek to empower participants and communities by engaging them in the design and delivery of activities, building local capacity, adhering to generally accepted principles of transparency and accountability, and pursuing sustainability through collaboration, partnerships and coordinated action.

For more information, you can go to our website:

To access the various UN-Habitat Youth publications, you can download them at:

Youth Statement – Plenary Session – Tuesday – 21/04

The Youth Delegate from Norway, Ms. Tone Vesterhus, delivered today at the Plenary Session of 25th UN-Habitat Governing Council, the youth statement on behalf of the Youth Caucus. You can find the full statement drafted by many hands here:


Harnessing the youth demographic dividend for a sustainable rural-urban development – Tuesday – 21/04


This event co-organized by IESCO (International Ecological Safety Collaborative Organization) explored the expansion of cities and large towns due to natural population growth within urban areas, as well as the administrative reclassification of land from rural to urban and migration from rural areas.

Traditionally the economic and territorial developments of rural and urban areas have been considered separate areas in both research and policy. Rural and urban areas are however becoming increasing integrated both physically and functionally and because of their distinct and complimentary endowments, their integration can benefit both and help achieve socio economic development. For example the areas surrounding urban centers generally have an important role in providing food for urban consumers, with proximity lowering the costs of transport and storage.

The global urbanization trends over the past 30 decades has facilitated unprecedented social, economic and environmental transformation in cities; but also accompanied by rural poverty despite the immense potential and opportunities in the rural sector. Those most affected are young people totaling nearly a quarter or 1.8 billion of a world population of 7.3 billion. About 90 per cent of young people are born in developing countries, where around half of the total population lives in rural areas which are synonymous with social and economic marginalization forcing most of them to migrate from rural areas to pursue better life opportunities in urban areas. While these youth populations in both rural and urban areas present enormous opportunities and human resource needed for economic development, social change and technological innovation, many of the countries with the largest portions of youth today are among the poorest in the world and face huge challenges in meeting the rapidly growing demand for jobs and income-earning opportunities. This calls for the development of policies that do not only boost rural economies but also create jobs for young people.

You can download the presentation made by Elizabeth Ssendiwala, Gender & Youth Coordinator, at IFAD-ESA here:UN Habitat – Harnessing Youth for Rural Urban Devt


Youth Cocktail – Tuesday – 21/04

11149287_10204055050789142_899974020133766907_nA Youth Cocktail was held in partnership with IESCO (International Ecological Safety Collaborative Organization) to celebrate the “Urban Youth Empowerment and Ecological Safety Project”.

The cocktail had speeches from Professor Oyebanji Oyeyinka, UN-Habitat Director/Chief Scientific Advisor, Dr. Jiang Mingjun, Director General of IESCO and Douglas Ragan, Chief of UN-Habitat Youth Unit.

During the cocktail, UN-Habitat/IESCO signed a MoU with CDO Orient, launched a call for nominations for the Youth Innovations Awards.

Youth as Leaders of Today and Tomorrow