Youth and Urbanization | Youth innovation is the clean fuel to light up world cities

“Today, 1.6 billion people live in inadequate housing, of which 1 billion live in slums and informal settlements. While millions of people lack suitable homes, the stock of vacant houses is gradually increasing. Ensuring housing affordability is therefore a complex issue of strategic importance for development, social peace and Equality. Addressing the housing needs of the poorest and most vulnerable, especially women, youth and those who live in slums must be a priority in the development agendas,” UN-Habitat Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos,

In 1985 the United Nations through Resolution 40/202 declared every first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day, with the first celebration held in 1986. The purpose of World Habitat Day is to reflect on the state of our towns and cities, and on the basic right to adequate shelter of all. It is also intended to remind the world that we all have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns. In December 2013, the United Nations through Resolution A/RES/68/239 designated every 31 October for the celebration of the World Cities Day. World Cities Day is a legacy of the Shanghai Expo 2010 which theme was ‘Better City, Better Life’ and aims to promote the international community’s interest in global urbanization, push forward cooperation among countries in meeting opportunities and addressing challenges of urbanization, and contributing to sustainable urban development around the world. The World Cities Day was celebrated for the first time in 2014.”

The 2017 theme of the two international days marking Urban October will be at its peak advocating for Innovative Governance, Open Cities”.

This year Urban October celebration will coincide with the first year since the adoption of the New Urban Agenda, the outcome document of the Habitat III Conference.

UN-Habitat recognizes that cities are not only places where development happens, but so are they a platform where youth meet to bring their minds together and share their vast experiences to engineer strategic solutions for that development to happen.

UN-Habitat through its Youth and Livelihoods Unit is hosting youth activities across the world to promote the concept of Urban October. One of the key projects is the implementation of a project dubbed the ‘Innovate Counties Challenge’. The project seeks to build youth inclusion in local governance in small and medium sized cities around the use of ICT as a tool for good governance, planning and youth entrepreneurship, 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.

“Youth drive innovation at the local level, and can if given the proper support; develop solutions for our most pressing urban issues such as transportation, housing, climate change and inequality,” UN-Habitat, Youth and Livelihoods Unit Chief, Douglas Ragan

The Innovate Counties Challenge will kick start in two cities in Kenya, Kisumu and Mombasa, which have also been considered as most affected cities by the heated political instability currently in the country. The project will entail a two day extensive and intensive entrepreneurship boot camp featuring training by business experts in technology, media, finance and more to build resilience among youth residing in the named cities as a means to create sustainable solutions toward achieving social cohesion. This project also aims to empower youth with the adequate knowledge to understand the fundamentals of good governance:

Cities can generate more wealth by utilizing youth intelligence and sufficiently attractive, available and sustainable innovative solutions from youth.

 “And here, is where I find my hope in the youth, because if one looks today in societies there is a trend for them to be closed on themselves, there is a trend for people to be more nationalistic, less and less open to the need to understand that global challenges need global responses, need multinational cooperation, need multilateral institutions,” United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres

It is therefore vital and rational for governments to invest in infrastructures and activities that will engage youth and help them find a sense of belonging in cities by putting their innovative skills to practice..

UN-Habitat encourages governments, institutions and persons in power to keep involving youths in shaping the new urban agenda as well as identify sustainable urbanization as a priority.

If youth are not included in urbanization and governance processes then they could become an obstacle to economic development as poorly designed urbanization that does not cater for the needs of youth will become a significant source of poverty and inequality.

Exclusion of youth in such activities as policy making in regard to issues affecting them could lead to a stronger informal sector and higher marginalization, which, in turn, could cause a rise in social conflicts and even threaten the economic, social and environmental stability of countries

“Globalization and technological progress have tremendously increased global wealth; contributed to trade growth, prosperity in many societies and improved living conditions in many parts of the world; extreme poverty has been substantially reduced globally, but, at the same time, inequalities have also grown tremendously,” United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres.

Youth population and urbanization are rapidly developing at the same time causing profound ramifications on economy and local administration development. The two likewise commonly impact each different as statistic development substantially affects urban planning while the nature of urbanization determines the wellbeing of populations. Urbanization has a growing influence on development and economic trends in cities Urbanization impacts advancement and financial patterns in urban areas

“For housing to contribute to national socio-economic development and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, the New Urban Agenda calls for placing housing policies at the center of national urban policies along with strategies to fight poverty, improve health and employment. As we strive to create cities for all, an urgent action for achieving affordable homes requires a global commitment to effective and inclusive housing policies,” UN-Habitat Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos,

A large number of events all over the world are taking place as commemoration of the Urban October as well as part of the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. UN-Habitat invites all those working on sustainable urban development to join the celebration.


UN Security Council Resolution 2250 Reminds Us that Peace is Possible

Co-authored by Hussein Nabeil Murtaja, UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board Representative for Arab Regions and member of Advisory Group of Experts for Progress Study on Youth, Peace, and Security

The United Nations (UN) Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2250 at the end of 2015. This is the first resolution of its kind that recognizes and promotes young people’s role as peace-builders. To achieve the vision of this resolution, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the formation of a 21-member Advisory Group of Experts for Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security that will ‘carry out a progress study on the youth’s positive contribution to peace processes and conflict resolution, in order to recommend effective responses at local, national, regional and international levels.’ Aligning with the spirit of the resolution, this panel included nine young people under the age of 30 who have been helping prepare the report, which will be delivered to the Security Council in December of this year.

The Arab region and the Middle East region are most affected by the emergence of terrorist and tycoon groups that destroyed cities and displaced thousands of people. It has also contributed to and compounded by issues such as corruption, unemployment, migration, refugee resettlement, education and health, and violations of the rights of women and children. Given their social, economic, and political vulnerability and marginalization, it is clear that many terrorists are youth. Among others, the solicitation of youth to join terrorist organizations have led to their absence in the peace-building process.

Resolution 2250 calls for the protection of young people from all kinds of extremism, which we now see through providing a stimulating work and social environment, policies and mechanisms to enable them to contribute effectively to peace-building, and promoting a culture of tolerance and respect for religions. This requires the effective and institutional integration of young people into their societies, enhancing inclusive education, providing jobs that meet their needs.

United Nations
Poster on UNSC Resolution 2250.

Call for recognition of power of youth from informal settlements at UN General Assembly

New York, 22 September 2017 – Youth took centre stage at the United Nations General Assembly, calling to be liberated from the margins and welcomed into the centre of decision-making, based not only on their right to be there but their actions in creating economically and socially inclusive and dynamic societies.

The Cities for All event brought together young people from Kenya, France and Zimbabwe with UN Women and UN-Habitat to discuss how world leaders can support youth’s meaningful engagement in decision making at all levels of government with the goal of achieving the 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda (NUA).

The event highlighted how the provision of urban space can facilitate youth’s engagement. This meeting followed the visit of the UN Secretary-General to the Mathare informal settlement in Nairobi Kenya during the 2017 International Women’s Day.

The session, which began with a video shot by the One Stop Mathare Environmental Youth Conservation Group, outlined the journey they went through to acquire a space in the middle of the slums and how they created in this space through garbage collection and recycling, and how this space became central to the economic and social well-being of the community.

Young people at the core of advancement

Currently the One Stop and adjoining football pitch are the only public space serving a population of more the 35,000 inhabitants. It is the same facility that the Secretary-General visited during his visit to Kenya following his appointment as the new UN Secretary General, and engaged in dialogue with youth from the One Stop, inaugurated the Slum Football Pitch, and met with young women political aspirants supported by UN Women.

Researcher Tone Vesterhus followed the video, launching UN-Habitat’s new report

Youth, Informality And Public Space: A Qualitative Case Study on the Signi cance of Public Space for Youth in Mlango Kubwa, Nairobi.

“This research had the aim of examining whether public spaces play a role in improving the lives of young people,” said Vesterhus, “And while concluding that public space certainly does play a role in advancing this community, the political strategies and diplomatic abilities of the young people in the village are at the core of these advancements.”

Vesterhus went on to detail the challenges faced by youth in the slums spatially, socially and politically, framing the session and ensuing conversation.

The strength of communities

UN-Habitat Executive Director Dr. Jon Clos spoke at the session, highlighting the linkages between economic, spatial and social equity. He commended the efforts of the young men and women in reclaiming their dignity through the creation of the One Stop Centre.

“Public spaces are for the public good and should be protected by the community,” said Dr Clos. “The rich and people in authority will use all means to grab the last space and it is only the strength of the communities that will help them defend and protect the available public spaces.”

He went on to reflect on the video from the Mathare youth, and how they used economic means to create a social good.

“The youth in Mathare have cleared and recycled garbage to reclaim the public space which now the entire population is currently using,” he stated, “Urbanization can be done; what we need is the political will. It is not expensive, it is doable.”

Women as entrepreneurs and decision makers

Maria Noel Vaeza, Director of Programme Division for UN Women called for gender equality, highlighting the many intersecting barriers women face.   “In over 189 countries women can’t inherit land, that means they cannot build houses, which is a basic need; in 76 countries women cannot access credit facilities without a man’s signature,” said Director Vaeza, “yet women make up the most entrepreneurs; who without credit facilities cannot implement their initiatives.”

She applauded the fact that in Mathare women were playing football, often represented as an all male sport, and were engaged in running for political office.

Three youth representatives spoke at the session and all focused on promoting the rights of youth living in slums, especially young women. Mureil Vincent, representing the Huairou Commission, a global network of women’s groups, stressed that women need to be included in governance and decision making, especially as decision making related to the localizing of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“We need to create political space for women,” stated Ms. Vincent, “this can be done by building and empowering grassroots women’s networks.”

Annah Sango, representing Zimbabwe Young Positives, a youth-led group fighting to improve the lives of those living with HIV, also advocated for the engagement of young women in the community, promoting “models of social responsibility where the community takes charge”.

Towards an asset-based community development model

Wrapping the session up was Linus Sijenyi, project coordinator for UN-Habitat, who highlighted the challenges faced by youth living in the slums including unemployment, disease and drug and substance abuse, and called for practical solutions.

“We must face these challenges as we saw my brother, Isaac Musua, do in Mathare,” stated Sijenyi, referring to the Mather Environmental video. “I propose an asset based approach, such as John Mcknight’s Asset Based Community Development model, which builds on the successes the community already has, and thus guarantees ownership and sustainability, and empowers groups such as young men and women to adequately address their needs.”

By the end of the session it was clear that all the speakers needed no convincing that young women and men played leadership roles in their communities, and that it was the role of the UN and other agencies to provide support to them both in the provision of public space as well as supporting directly youth-led groups and activities.

“It is messy, I always say that Nairobi is messy. It’s messy, noisy, and has fumes all over,” said one Mathare youth respondent to the Youth Informality report. “But I always tell the youth…that out of all this mess, we have some gold. Crime is not the answer. Youth is our gold. Out of the fumes, the garbage, the blocked drainages, there is some gold.”

Continue reading Call for recognition of power of youth from informal settlements at UN General Assembly

Youth #Together4Peace on International Peace Day

Nairobi, 21 September 2017 – Youth, diplomats and local leaders came to the UN Office of Nairobi today to celebrate International Peace Day.

Hosted by UN-Habitat, the event highlighted some of the work that the agency is doing around the world to promote the active role that youth are playing in peace building and keeping.

UN Under-Secretary-General and UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director, Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, said that the event was a reminder of “the commitment of youth, that you do not want to be passive participants, but leaders in your own futures.”

(Far Left) David Kariuki, UN-Habitat Staff moderating open discussions during International Day of Peace

Elizabeth Taylor Jay, The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Colombia to Kenya and Chol M. U. Ajongo, South Sudan Ambassador to Kenya both drew on their countries’ own experience in drawn-out conflict to highlight the challenge of building lasting peace.

Respect, safety and dignity for all

As Mr Ajongo said: “You lose nothing when you talk of peace; you lose everything when you talk of war.”

The session went on to include discussions with youth groups on the role that sport can play in peace-building and development, under the theme of the day –  “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All” – with a special focus on the engagement of young men and women in peace building.

Meanwhile in New York, UN-Habitat also hosted a youth and peace event in the sidelines of the General Assembly with the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake.

UN-Habitat International Peace Day Event

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Thursday September 21, 2017

United Nations Human and Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat) —and its partners will celebrate the annual International Day of Peace with an event held on Thursday, September 21, 2017 from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm; at United Nations Grounds, Nairobi office.

The focus of the event will be celebrating the theme “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All” with a special focus on the engagement of young men and women in peace building.

The International Day of Peace event will highlight evidence-based practices in youth peace building models, such as: the Urban Peace Labs; Innovate Counties Challenge on governance and sports development initiatives.

The youth led peace-models are contributing to strengthening of institutions to achieve transparency, accountability and openness for youth inclusion in governance and decision making processes.

The event will be graced by Ms. Aisa Kacyira, Deputy Executive Director, USG,
UN-Habitat, H.E Elizabeth Taylor Jay, The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Colombia to Kenya and Mr. Chol M. U. Ajongo, South Sudan Ambassador to Kenya among other youth representatives.

Follow live updates of the International Day of Peace on Twitter with #UrbanYouth4Peace and #Together4Peace to learn about innovative research and practices that show great promise in the field of peace building.

For more information about International Peace Day event and our many initiatives, visit:

To arrange interviews with project coordinators, contact:

Mutisya Emmanuel NGUI, Communications, Story Telling and Social Media Expert

Email: – +254728774355

Twitter: @UN-Habitat Youth | @UN-Habitat

Laboratorios de la paz en el Valle con el Sena y la ONU

Es una iniciativa dirigida a 26 muchachos, con edades entre los 18 y los 26 años.

La última vez que Lina María Casquete vio a su papá vivo fue cuando cuando tenía 14 años y él llegó procedente de Nariño, cargado de plátanos.

El hombre solía viajar a este departamento a trabajar como labriego y luego volvía con su hija en el oriente de Cali.

Lina, una caleña de empuje con ya 21 años, solo vivía con él, pues su mamá está en Tumaco, en la costa nariñense. Pero cuando su padre viajó para ir a trabajar a Nariño, siendo adolescente, nunca más lo volvió a ver. Años después, Lina recibió una llamada anónima en la que le dijeron que él había sido asesinado y le dieron indicaciones de dónde estaba su cadáver.

Desde entonces, la joven de piel de ébano se forjó un camino, en medio de las adversidades. Sacó adelante su bachillerato en la institución educativa Isaías Duarte Cancino de Cali y las directivas del plantel, viendo su empeño por sobresalir, pagaron los costos del grado. “He tenido una vida rara. He sido independiente. Gracias a Dios he sabido sobrellevar mi vida. Me ofrecieron muchas cosas malas y no tomé ese camino. Me gradué y me volví impulsadora de paz”.

De hecho, es parte del Movimiento Nacional de Gestores de Paz (con adolescentes y jóvenes, principalmente) dentro del cual trabajará un proyecto con el Sena y con el acompañamiento de la Organización de Naciones Unidas (ONU), de nombre ‘Laboratorios urbanos de paz’.

Esta es una iniciativa, como lo recalca la asesora Luisa Fernanda Gálvez, del Sena, que está enmarcada en el contexto del posconflicto. La asesora Gálvez explicó que la propuesta del Sena fue acogida por la ONU para impulsar 10 proyectos de jóvenes con liderazgo y edades entre los 18 y los 26 años. La ONU aporta 10.000 dólares, que equivalen a 29 millones de pesos.

Vinieron de África

Los delegados de la ONU Judith Mulwa, especialista social urbana, de África, y Shaarmaarke Abdullahi, de Etiopía, ya hicieron una capacitación que duró una semana a un total de 26 jóvenes de todo el país, la mayoría de ellos, del Valle del Cauca.

Los delegados de la ONU Judith Mulwa, especialista social urbana, de África, y Shaarmaarke Abdullahi, de Etiopía, ya hicieron una capacitación que duró una semana.

Ambos africanos manifestaron que estuvieron gratamente sorprendidos por el entusiasmo de los jóvenes, como Lina María Casquete.

Judith Mulwa, especialista social urbana, con su compañero Shaarmaarke Abdullahi.
Judith Mulwa, especialista social urbana (izquierda), con su compañero Shaarmaarke Abdullahi.
Foto:Juan B. Díaz / EL TIEMPO

Lina lleva siete años en el Movimiento Nacional de Gestores de Paz. Hay 3.383 integrantes en todo el país y en Cali hay más de 460 en barrios del Distrito de Aguablanca, otros del oriente, en la ladera de la ciudad y en Potrero Grande. En Cali, en barrios vulnerables como donde ella vive, Lina promueve apuestas de tolerancia y convivencia pacífica de niños, adolescentes y jóvenes.

La joven explicó que su proyecto con el Sena y la ONU está enfocado a 380 personas en riesgo o afectadas por la violencia en el Valle del Cauca, así como en Silvia y en Santander de Quilichao, municipios de Cauca. En Silvia se esperaban 27 beneficiarios y ya hay unos 50, la misma cifra en Santander de Quilichao. La propuesta de Lina también trabajará en Yumbo donde se esperaban 20 beneficiarios más, pero el número aumentó a unos 40.

Lina contó que hace un año, cuando vivía de la venta de frutas, decidió estudiar en el Sena, pero no una carrera tecnológica cualquiera. Estudió mantenimiento de equipos de computador e instalación de cableado, y siente que es buena en lo que hace y por eso vive de lo que aprendió.

“Hay que ir trabajando una cultura de paz con los niños”, dijo la joven, quien repudió que por las llamadas barreras invisibles siguen los asesinatos de menores en el oriente caleño. Dijo que dos de ellos eran niños con edades de 6 y 11 años. El niño de 6 fue asesinado en Pízamos I y el de 11 era un gestor de paz. Ambos casos ocurrieron este año. “Hay una guerra inaudita por pisar una calle”, dijo Lina.

De acuerdo con la Policía Metropolitana de Cali, en la ciudad, 96 menores fueron asesinados hasta el 8 de agosto pasado y la cifra sigue subiendo.

De acuerdo con la Policía Metropolitana de Cali, en la ciudad, 96 menores fueron asesinados hasta el 8 de agosto pasado y la cifra sigue subiendo.

Con reinsertados

Por su parte, Sebastián Arcos, otro de los líderes beneficiados con el trabajo del Sena y el acompañamiento de la ONU, contó que a su 20 años busca beneficiar con su proyecto de emprendimiento, a mil personas. De ese número, 250 serán reinsertados de la guerrilla. Los demás son ciudadanos con problemas de drogadicción y alcoholismo.

Sebastián trabaja con la Fundación Afro del Progreso para el Desarrollo, conformada en 2003. Esta entidad trabaja propuestas sobre los roles de la mujer y del hombre.

Ambos líderes, Lina y Sebastián, coincidieron en que están agradecidos con el Sena y la ONU de sacar estos proyectos, algunos de los que ya han venido impulsando para hacer de este ‘Laboratorio urbano de paz’, una realidad en el posconflicto.

Youth Gathering in South Korea Call for Peace

More than 500 youth from Korea and 19 countries around the world gathered in Goyang, republic of Korea to state their firm commitment to the peace agenda and youth involvement.

The conference, focused on peace as the theme for 2017 International Youth Day through the achievement of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. It was hosted by Youth Now and UN-Habitat supported by the Seoul Housing, Happiness Foundation, Korea Tourism Organization, Goyang City, KINTEX, Kyuongki CVB.

The highlights of the discussions were on the youth commitment to peace, especially in the context of the ongoing tension between North Korea and the world. Examples of Somalia and Kenya which is currently experiencing some level of instability were echoed.

“We call leaders globally to immediately begin a dialogue for peace in the Korean Peninsula. And youth who participated in the Youth week agreed unanimously to take appropriate action towards sustainable peace for the world.

‘We are here to find the connection between the SDGs which is the UN template for sustainable growth and peace’ Kim Juyong, Executive Director of Youth Now, “We cannot continue to go down this insane path of destruction; all the youth gathered here from all cities across South Korea and around the world must make a declaration of working towards sustainable peace. We expect that our leaders should lead from the front”

Mayor Choi Song of Goyang City told the gathered youth “You are the hope for peace for the Korean peninsula and around the world … Goyang City will take the initiative in promoting international movements for peaceful unification in cooperation with peace leaders worldwide.” The Mayor also declared the week April 13 – 15 International Peace week in Goyan City.

Linus Sijenyi of UN Habitat representing Mr Douglas Ragan said ‘The world is experiencing numerous challenges today. Lack of employment, the rise of terror groups, climatic changes which cause massive destruction of life and properties, all these have contributed to massive instabilities across the globe. Deliberate and concrete efforts has to be put in place to ensure the youth have gainful employment, deliberate policies put in place to secure the place of the youth in the society, police and other law enforcers to work together with the youth to ensure peace and to avoid this assumptions that the youth are the problems but actually the solutions.

Linus Sijenyi of UN Habitat

Other speakers who echoed similar sentiments include Changheum, Byun CEO, Seoul Housing And Communities Corporation, Teayoon KIm, representing the youth, Youngseo Min, chair of advisory committee, Doyoung Kim CSR team leader, SK broadband, Donyun Kim, Professor, Sungkyunkwan University, Mr. Yossi (Offer, CofoundDevelopment Jerusalem, Mr. Nguyen Quang, Programme Manager, UN-Habitat Vietnam Office. As a way of providing opportunities to the youth as the ambassadors of peace, youth delegates promised to mobilize resources to initiate an e-sport center in Kibera and Mathare Kenya.

This will provide employment as well as act as exchange programme centers for the Korean students.


Beyond the sport:Youth are now winning for Peace!

Ever watched the World Cup or the Olympics? Ever cheered for a team or an athlete other than the one coming from your own country?

If so, isn’t it amazing how suddenly the world has no geographical boundaries and people are united by the love for sport? How race, gender or sexual orientation suddenly doesn’t matter?

Many of us sport enthusiasts have idols and role models who are different nationalities to  our own and when it comes to international events, we are not afraid to show our support. So how can we capitalize on these euphoric positive feelings in order to create greater societal benefits and use the power of sport for peace building and reconciliation in conflict countries?

In the run up to the International Peace Day (21 September) celebrations, we look at the links between sport and peace and what UN-Habitat is doing in that regard.

The value of sport beyond the glory, fame and money has been officially recognized by international development community since  2001, when the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan introduced the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace and appointed the first Special Advisor on that matter. Since then, the field and the supporting community of sport and development enthusiasts has grown in strength and numbers, trying to prove that sport can make a positive difference when combined with professional and socially responsible intervention tailored to the respective social and cultural context.

Sport is an essential element of society, be it in a form of competitive sport, physical activity or play. It appeals to collective identity which helps to create and maintain healthy community spirit as well as nurture social cohesion. However, whilst it serves as a universal bridge between conflicting groups,  we need to make sure that the supporting pillars are built on solid foundations.

Staging a football match between two clashing parties without any further intervention will not solve the problem; on the contrary, it can exacerbate the problem as sport is, by nature, a contest. The projects need to embody the best values of sport while upholding the quality and integrity of the sport experience and must be delivered in an integrated manner with other local, regional and national efforts so that they are mutually reinforcing.

Social cohesion and connectivity in diverse neighborhoods can also be supported by provision of public structures such as sports centers and accessible public spaces. These are essential, especially for young people in need for ways to fill their time which help them to avoid the dangerous spell of drugs, crime and violent behavior patterns. Thus the access to high quality public spaces for sports and recreation is crucial to maintain good health, strong social networks and necessary psychological balance to endure trials off growing up in unstable and challenging environments.p2

One of UN-Habitat’s flagship programmes, the One Stop Youth Center (OSYC) currently operating in five cities across East Africa, including Mogadishu (Somalia) and Kigali (Rwanda), provide such safe spaces for young people to come and play, learn and interact with others. The sport component is critical to the success of the center as the possibility to play sports attracts more young people than opportunity to learn something new.

Acknowledging the power of sport in education, UN-Habitat often facilitates workshops for young people using sport to convey a message and engage them in participatory urban planning. These interactive sessions often focus on addressing the urban challenges young people face particularly in marginalized communities, where issues of violence, crime and conflict are in the forefront. Supporting young people to become self-confident change-makers with appropriate communications and leadership skills so they can actively participate in their community building and development, is our priority.

UN-Habitat recognizes the immense potential of using sport as a tool to shape up strong and cohesive communities, which are absolutely essential in order to build safer, more sustainable and resilient cities. While we are yet to find the recipe for translating the mega sport – events euphoria onto the grounds, we strongly believe that sport is the right tool to attract, mobilize, inspire and most importantly, engage young people so that they can take peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts firmly in their hands.

Dana Podmolikova| Youth & Sports Specialist- UN-Habitat

Unlocking the Potential of Youth and Local Government: Recap story on Innovate Counties Project launched in three counties in Kenya

“The frustration generated in young people that have no hope in the future is a major source of insecurity in today’s world … it is essential that when Governments plan their economic activities, when the international community develops forms of cooperation, it is essential to put youth employment, youth skills [at] the centre of all priorities, [at] the centre of all projects.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres

Three parallel dynamics – the youth bulge, ICT explosion and the devolution process – are set to change towns and cities in Kenya. The growing number of young urban citizens, coupled with increase in hand held devices is introducing new challenges and opportunities for both local governments and youth that have not been adequately addressed.

Un-Habitat has been addressing these converging trends through the development of a conceptual framework on improving local governance for youth using ICTs, articulated in its ‘ICT, Urban Governance and Youth’ paper. This framework has been developed through normative and programmatic work done in East Africa, and more specifically Kenya, which is home to a wide range of actors advancing different innovations, programs and ideas that encourage the use of ICT to enhance governance by and for youth.

However, current efforts appear to have been limited by a lack of coordination necessary to translate them into structured, result-oriented and scalable action. Thus UN-Habitat through the Youth Unit has delved into implementation of a bridge building project dubbed Innovate Counties Challenge Project that seeks to include local government partnerships  in enabling governance technology applications have tangible impact at the community level.

The Innovate Counties Challenge Project is being funded by the Making All voices Count (MAVC) programme which is a fund supported by four donors: DFID, USAID, Sida, and the Omidyar Network (ON) that provides grants to support innovation and technology that has the potential to support better governance. It is currently in implementation in Kisumu and Mombasa Counties. In Kisumu, UN-Habitat is collaborating with LakeHub, a technology and social innovation hub based in Kisumu, Kenya with the aim of decentralizing access to technology, growing entrepreneurship and social innovation. Whereas in Mombasa, UN-Habitat is collaborating with SwahiliBox, a technology open space in Mombasa, Kenya which focuses on socio-economic technology empowerment, inspiring and developing individuals and help them develop new and innovative ideas through networking, access to training and support and professional mentoring and coaching.

The project is to be executed in three phases: Problem identification, problem solution and development; and solution testing and institutionalizing. The project is currently in the first phase of problem identification. In this phase UN-Habitat sought the participation and contribution from a cross cutting representation of pertinent persons from academia, civil society, youth groups, private sector, media and the core partners of the project, the county representatives particularly in the Youth and ICT departments.

UN-Habitat brought these people together in a one day intense participatory workshop dubbed, the Challenge Workshop, to elucidate the specific governance challenges facing the counties. The challenge workshop was held on 8th February in Kisumu while it was held on 9th March in Mombasa where the project was formally introduced by UN-Habitat Chief of Youth and Livelihoods Unit, Douglas Ragan in Kisumu and Paul Wambua in Mombasa. The workshop formally opened by county representatives. Hon. Michael Onyango, Minister of Communications, Information and Technology and Hon. Jennipher Kere, Minister of Education, Youth, Culture and Social Services represented Kisumu County, whereas Nyevu Karisa, an officer from Department of Trade, Energy and Industrial Development represented Mombasa County.

Participants were then given a technical situational analysis and overview of governance challenges affecting the specific county to focus their thinking. In Kisumu this synopsis was given by Joshua Nyamori, a community participation and communication expert while in Mombasa, this was given by Masoud Ali of Camara Kenya. After which participants were grouped for a breakout brainstorming session to identify all the governance related challenges affecting the specific counties. After lunch, they regrouped and clustered the challenges in a plenary for purposes of establishing the overall challenge statements.

In Kisumu, workshop participants ranged from the county government, academia such as Maseno University, religious establishments, media such as Kenya Weekly, youth groups such as ICY Africa, private sector such KCB, technology organizations such as Sisi Hub, civil society such as Transparency International and other various organizations representing environment, energy, law, health, research and innovation, music and the arts, construction, law and advocacy, etc. In Mombasa, representation ranged from the county government, academia such as KEMU, technology organizations such as Coin Hub, youth groups such as Badilisha Youth Group, the private sector and NGOs.

In Mombasa County, the challenges were in the areas of transparency and accountability (specifically of county funds), transport issues of analog parking systems and poor infrastructure, poor service delivery (poor garbage collection), expensive internet, high unemployment among youth leading to social vices such as drug abuse (also highlighted in Kisumu County), etc. In Kisumu County, challenges ranged from insecurity, an unexploited 24 hour economy, lack of local investment, capacity building not market-driven and lack of reinforcement of policies on protection of natural resources, etc.

Both Challenge Workshops were successful in establishing the governance challenges ailing Kisumu and Mombasa Counties thanks to the active and passionate input of participants. These challenge statements will be used in the problem solution and development phase that will take place in April. In our next blog we introduce our third county and share outputs from the problem solution phase.

Prepared by:

Rhoda Omenya| Youth and Livelihoods Unit at UN-Habitat

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Youth as Leaders of Today and Tomorrow