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

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

2014-09-18 09.34.46

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: https://papersmart.unon.org/habitatgc25/sites/papersmart.unon.org.habitatgc25/files/K1501210.pdf

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: https://papersmart.unon.org/habitatgc25/sites/papersmart.unon.org.habitatgc25/files/K1501218.pdf

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:  https://papersmart.unon.org/habitatgc25/?q=taxonomy/term/22


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: https://papersmart.unon.org/habitatgc25/?q=taxonomy/term/22 

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: http://blockbyblock.org/about

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 (http://www.kounkuey.org/) 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


Youth as Leaders of Today and Tomorrow