Blue ribbon panel calls for a stronger UN-HABITAT with a focus on a “leave no one behind” mandate

The New Urban Agenda (NUA), adopted at the United Nations (UN) Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), provides a robust new framework that outlines how cities should be planned, managed, and governed to best promote sustainable urbanization.

An important yet unresolved discussion in the negotiation of the NUA was the question of implementation, and more specifically and urgently, what role UN-HABITAT holds in advancing sustainable urbanization within the UN system. This hot-button issue was pushed off by UN Member States onto an eight-member blue ribbon panel convened by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. In early August the panel came back with their answer: an urgent call for increased support to UN-HABITAT. The panel appealed for more secure and stable funding for the organisation, with an increase in Member State contributions.

Alongside this proposition for increased funding was a call for UN-HABITAT to clarify its organisational priorities. The Panel recommended that the agency focus on two priority areas. One, “a focus on the urban planning, legislation, norms and standards that will best support equitable development priorities, along with environmental sustainability and economic robustness,” was a mission that UN-HABITAT was already active in and committed to.

The second suggestion was increased attention to equity, vulnerability, and exclusion in urban development, utilizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the NUA as guiding frameworks. The Panel further expanded on the suggestion that UN-HABITAT should “keep in focus the directive to ‘leave no one behind,’” a mandate amply supported by the human rights frameworks endorsed by the UN system.

We at the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) fully support the call for UN-HABITAT to expand its focus on the UN’s mission to “leave no one behind.” As the body mandated to represent young women and men within UN-HABITAT, we fully support their full and meaningful engagement in all UN-HABITAT’s work. We also support children, women, the disabled, indigenous, LGTBI, and other groups that are marginalized within cities and urban areas.

We see that there at least three concrete ways UN-HABITAT currently engages marginalized communities, ways that can be replicated and expanded.

1. Participatory urban planning and governance

The full engagement of marginalized communities in planning and governance is a field that has been worked on (but not fully achieved) for the last 40 years. In 1961, before public participation became a popular term, Jane Jacobs stated: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

UN-HABITAT has excellent examples of participatory planning and governance. One such project is Block by Block, a partnership between Mojang, the makers of Minecraft (one of the most popular video games in the world), and UN-HABITAT. This project uses Minecraft as a participatory planning and design tool and is a particularly creative and hands-on initiative to involve people, particularly youth, women, and slum dwellers in urban design. Through participatory design workshops, UN-HABITAT and partners bring people together to visualise their ideas in Minecraft and present their creations to city authorities and local government officials. The Minecraft designs are then used as part of the process to implement real public space improvement projects.

Youth presenting their Block by Block study.

A team working on their Block by Block project.

Another key programme which engages youth in governance is the YAB itself. Elected every four years through a global online ballot, the YAB has one woman and one man representing six UN regions. Additionally, there are special advisors for slums and informal settlements, housing, and post-conflict areas. The YAB is a critical voice for youth at the decision making table of UN-HABITAT, influencing the development of programmes, research, and policy. Recently, the YAB released the Berlin Declaration, which outlines the roles and responsibilities of youth in relation to the New Urban Agenda.

2. Land tenure

UN-HABITAT has partnered with the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) to address persistent tenure insecurity and high levels of informal settlements that severely impact the livelihoods of today’s youth. Youth need land not least for public spaces, shelter, security, employment and entrepreneurship. To address the issue of limited youth inclusion in land reform processes, GLTN and UN-HABITAT developed land tools to strengthen the capacity of countries and communities to implement youth-responsive land reforms. The Youth and Land Responsive Criteria was created to assess land programmes and policies to ensure that youth and land issues are equitably addressed so as to achieve tenure security for all.

3. Conflict and post-conflict

UN-HABITAT has partnered with local governments, youth-led NGOs, and other youth allies to address the needs of youth living in conflict and post-conflict cities. Some programmes developed include the One Stop Youth Resource Centres, which bring together youth with local governments and allies to operationalise safe and generative spaces in cities. The most recent One Stop was established in Mogadishu, Somalia, with new Centres planned for 27 districts of Rwanda, and Juba, South Sudan.

The road ahead

More work is needed to ensure that UN-HABITAT can achieve its “leave no one behind” mandate. The focus of the agency for many years has been one of “build and they shall come”—an agenda which places experts at the forefront of urban development, with little thought to communities, and often without even speaking about people who are most marginalized. Concepts such as planned “urban extensions” and “urban infills” sound weighty but leave out the “people” component of the city. Cities cannot be successful without the goal of full participation of its urban residents; sometimes lofty goal such as this becomes a necessary guiding light when designing programmes, conducting research, and developing policies.

The NUA and the SDGs—especially goal 11 of sustainable cities and communities—provide a critical road-map for UN-HABITAT to take the lead in sustainable urbanization for the UN, but like the contemporary critique of “self-driven” cars, humans need to be at the wheel to assure the safety and sustainability of the community. While UN-HABITAT can and must do more, there is hope in our constant struggle to achieve our vision of cities that “leave no one behind.”

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High Level Panel on the New Urban Agenda and UN-HABITAT

Eight people, who directly decided the Secretary General, António Guterres , presented the UN-Habitat Evaluation Report, which diagnoses and issues recommendations to provide the agency with the necessary tools and capacities to Effectively address the new challenges and commitments under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda (NAU). The Panel came to the consensus that UN-HABITAT has key areas of opportunity and its role is more important than ever.
With information from UN-Habitat

Urban challenges are substantial, growing and global sustainable development will be increasingly linked to what is happening in cities. Given the need to reconcile this inevitable reality within Agenda 2030, it is necessary to have an urban leader .

In this way, the Panel was urged to make bold recommendations to improve UN-HABITAT’s effectiveness, efficiency and accountability, ensuring that the Agency is prepared to address the requirements of inclusive and sustainable urban development, Which implies greater transparency, responsiveness to a rapidly changing global and urban landscape, and flexibility to seize opportunities as they arise.

To this end, the Panel responsible for this report was established to conduct an independent, objective and evidence-based review and evaluation to make recommendations for improving effectiveness, efficiency, accountability and oversight of the agency in four areas Operational mandates, governance structure, partnerships and financial capacity.


The role of UN-HABITAT

2) Recognizing that UN-HABITAT plays a key role in addressing sustainable urbanization but faces challenges that compromise its ability to respond effectively, the Panel recommends that the first priority be to rapidly stabilize and strengthen UN-HABITAT.

(3) Considers that UN-HABITAT is the appropriate entity of the United Nations to play a promotional role around the importance of urban issues. In this way, it would assist and support Member States, United Nations agencies and other stakeholders in integrating the New Urban Agenda and urban aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals into their development operations, providing guidance And tools to strengthen urban work at the national level.

4) In complementing the role of UN-Habitat, the Panel proposes that UN-Urban be established as a coordination mechanism similar to UN-Water or UN-Energy as part of the United Nations system-wide reform, With a small secretariat based in New York.

The mandate of UN-HABITAT

(5) The Panel recommends that with ODS and NAU as guiding frameworks, UN-HABITAT’s normative role is to “leave no one behind”, a policy widely supported by human rights frameworks backed by the United Nations system . This implies promotion and supervision with Member States to ensure that urban work reflects this guide as well as guidance on the best means to achieve this goal.

(6) Further recommends that all operational work be clearly linked to policy priorities and a closer link to global strategic policy and governance oversight.

(7) The Group recommends two priority areas in this regard: attention to equity, vulnerability and exclusion in urban development and a focus on urban planning, legislation and standards that best support the equitable development priorities together With environmental sustainability and economic soundness.

😎 In particular, it is recommended that UN-Habitat provide guidance on informality as the engine of exclusion.

9) Clear project documentation is recommended to demonstrate the complementarity of normative / operational work and the interpretation of the normative / operational distinction in each project.

10) In the urban definition, the Panel calls for a conceptual change towards a more territorial approach, focusing on the metropolitan regions, including the cities, towns, outlying areas and villages they contain, and avoiding excessive simplification of the rural-urban dichotomy.

(11) The Group recommends that UN-HABITAT, in its data support role, pay particular attention to gaps in the collection and analysis of data obscuring the realities of excluded groups.


(12) The Group agrees that the current governance model suffers from systemic problems affecting accountability, efficiency and effectiveness and recommends some key changes, focusing on the need for participation of all Member States and capacity for Reflect the complexity of the urban development landscape with its multiple actors.

13) Recommends a new governance structure that includes the universal membership of the 193 Member States in a General Urban Assembly and the addition of a small Policy Board focused on providing strategic and policy advice as well as project oversight. The Policy Board would integrate input from the CPR, the Secretariat and the Executive Director, but also a committee of local and subnational authorities and a committee of urban stakeholders, both with capacity to assess and revise resolutions and provide coordinated guidance to the Policy Council . UN-Urban would also advise this Board.

(14) The Group recommends that the Urban Assembly organize its calendar and the location of its meetings to maximize the potential for overlap with both the United Nations Environment Assembly and the General Assembly.

15) UN-HABITAT should also have a greater staff presence in New York, especially high-level staff to improve coordination and closer relations with United Nations entities in New York.

16) UN-Habitat should have more staff in Nairobi, New York and regional offices, with gender parity to fulfill its mission and mandate to support Member States, subnational governments and United Nations country teams.


17) In order to have active, effective and inclusive partnerships that can contribute to the fulfillment of its inclusion mandate, the Panel recommends that UN-HABITAT explore and strengthen relations with representative organizations of local governments and civil society, as well as Strengthening partnerships with the United Nations and the Regional Economic Commissions.

18) Also urges UN-HABITAT to explore ways to encourage private sector actors to examine the unwanted negative impacts of their investments and to find ways to mitigate them.

19) Finally, it recommends institutionalizing the World Urban Forum (WUF) to help keep NAU firmly on the global agenda. It proposes that the results of the WUF be integrated into the UN-Habitat strategic plan and program of work and budget. This should be done through a report on the results of the Policy Board for its integration into the resolutions of the Urban Assembly.

Financial capability

20) The Group recommends that an urgent appeal be made to Member States to support UN-HABITAT with committed funds for several years. In addition, it recommends that UN-Habitat develop a medium-term plan and expenditure framework for four to five years.

21) In order to encourage voluntary contributions from Member States, the Group recommends that UN-HABITAT specify the percentage of core funds spent on staff and other administrative costs.

(22) In order to reinforce the priority assigned to normative work, the Panel recommends that part of the financing of specific technical cooperation be earmarked for linkage with the normative mission and firmly proposes a limit to the funds allocated from Member States Which are intended for operational work.

(23) The Group recommends that UN-HABITAT explore the benefits of grant modality, giving the organization more management flexibility and responsiveness, while allowing it to remain a part of the United Nations Secretariat.

24) In order to explore new and innovative sources of funding and increase available resources for inclusive and sustainable urbanization, the Group recommends that UN-HABITAT develop a strategy of cooperation with multilateral banks, financial institutions and private sources of funding. The potential for funding and fundraising inherent in local urban relations could also be explored.

25) Finally, the Panel recommends the creation of a Global Trust Fund to serve as a platform for alternative funding for sustainable urbanization efforts.

In order to maintain momentum for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and reflect on the position of UN-HABITAT in this regard, the President of the UN General Assembly convened a High-level Meeting of the General Assembly On 5 and 6 September 2017 to discuss, inter alia, the Independent Panel Report of the Secretary-General to assess and improve the effectiveness of UN-HABITA



Panel de Alto Nivel sobre la Nueva Agenda Urbana y ONU-Habitat

El Panel de Alto Nivel, conformado por ocho personas que decidió de manera directa el Secretario General, António Guterres, presentó el Informe de Evaluación de ONU-Habitat, el cual diagnostica y emite recomendaciones para dotar a la agencia de las herramientas y capacidades necesarias para enfrentar con efectividad los nuevos retos y compromisos asumidos en el marco de la Agenda 2030 para el Desarrollo Sostenible y la Nueva Agenda Urbana (NAU). El Panel llegó al consenso de que ONU-Habitat tiene áreas clave de oportunidad y su papel es más

Los desafíos urbanos son sustanciales, crecientes y el desarrollo sostenible mundial estará cada vez más ligado a lo que ocurre en las ciudades. Dada la necesidad de conciliar esta realidad inevitable dentro de la Agenda 2030 es necesario contar con un líder urbano.

De esta forma es que se instó al Panel a que hiciera audaces recomendaciones para mejorar la eficacia, la eficiencia y la rendición de cuentas de ONU-Habitat, asegurándose de que la Agencia esté preparada para abordar los requerimientos del desarrollo urbano incluyente y sostenible, lo que implica mayor transparencia, capacidad de respuesta ante un panorama mundial y urbano rápidamente cambiante y flexibilidad para aprovechar las oportunidades a medida que surgen.

Para ello, el Panel encargado de este informe fue establecido para llevar a cabo una revisión y evaluación independiente, objetiva y basada en pruebas para formular recomendaciones para mejorar la eficacia, la eficiencia, la rendición de cuentas y la supervisión de la agencia en cuatro esferas específicas: Mandatos operacionales, estructura de gobierno, asociaciones y capacidad financiera.


El papel de ONU-Habitat

2) Reconociendo que ONU-Habitat desempeña un papel fundamental en el tratamiento de la urbanización sostenible, pero enfrenta desafíos que comprometen su capacidad para responder eficazmente, el Panel recomienda que la primera prioridad sea estabilizar y fortalecer rápidamente a ONU-Habitat.

3) Considera que ONU-Habitat es la entidad apropiada de las Naciones Unidas para desempeñar un papel de promoción en torno a la importancia de las cuestiones urbanas. De esta forma, ayudaría y apoyaría a los Estados Miembros, a los organismos de las Naciones Unidas y a otras partes interesadas a integrar la Nueva Agenda Urbana y los aspectos urbanos de los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible (ODS) en sus operaciones de desarrollo, proporcionando orientación y herramientas para fortalecer el trabajo urbano a nivel nacional.

4) Para complementar el papel de ONU-Habitat, el Panel propone que se establezca ONU-Urban, como un mecanismo de coordinación similar a UN-Water o UN-Energy, como parte de la reforma a nivel de sistema de las Naciones Unidas, con una pequeña secretaría basada en New York.

El mandato de ONU-Habitat

5) El Panel recomienda que con los ODS y la NAU como marcos rectores, el papel normativo de ONU-Habitat sea “no dejar a nadie atrás”, una directiva ampliamente apoyada por los marcos de derechos humanos respaldados por el sistema de las Naciones Unidas. Esto implica la promoción y supervisión con los Estados Miembros para asegurar que el trabajo urbano refleje esta guía, así como una orientación sobre los mejores medios para lograr este objetivo.

6) Recomienda además que todo el trabajo operacional tenga un vínculo claro con las prioridades normativas y una conexión más estrecha con la política estratégica global y la supervisión de la gobernanza.

7) El Grupo recomienda dos esferas prioritarias a este respecto: la atención a la equidad, la vulnerabilidad y la exclusión en el desarrollo urbano y un enfoque en la planificación urbana, la legislación y las normas que mejor apoyen las prioridades equitativas de desarrollo, junto con la sostenibilidad ambiental y la solidez económica.

8) En particular, se recomienda que ONU-Habitat brinde orientación sobre la informalidad como motor de la exclusión.

9) Se recomienda una documentación clara sobre los proyectos que demuestre la complementariedad del trabajo normativo y operacional y la interpretación de la distinción normativa / operativa en cada proyecto.

10) En la definición urbana, el Panel pide un cambio conceptual hacia un enfoque más territorial, enfocándose en las regiones metropolitanas, incluyendo las ciudades, pueblos, áreas periféricas y aldeas que contienen, y evitando la simplificación excesiva de la dicotomía rural-urbana.

11) El Grupo recomienda que ONU-Habitat, en su función de apoyo a los datos, preste especial atención a las lagunas en la recopilación y el análisis de datos que obscurecen las realidades de los grupos excluidos.


12) El Grupo está de acuerdo en que el actual modelo de gobernanza sufre problemas sistémicos que afectan a la rendición de cuentas, eficiencia y eficacia y recomienda algunos cambios fundamentales, centrados en la necesidad de la participación de todos los Estados Miembros y una capacidad para reflejar la complejidad del paisaje de desarrollo urbano con sus múltiples actores.

13) Recomienda una nueva estructura de gobernanza que incluya la membresía universal de los 193 Estados Miembros en una Asamblea Urbana General y la adición de una pequeña Junta de Política enfocada para proporcionar asesoramiento estratégico y de políticas así como la supervisión de proyectos. La Junta de Política integraría las aportaciones del CPR, la Secretaría y el Director Ejecutivo, pero también de un comité de autoridades locales y subnacionales y un comité de interesados urbanos, ambos con capacidad para evaluar y revisar resoluciones y ofrecer orientación coordinada al Consejo de Políticas. UN-Urban también asesoraría a esta Junta Directiva.

14) El Grupo recomienda que la Asamblea Urbana organice su calendario y la ubicación de sus reuniones para maximizar las posibilidades de superposición tanto con la Asamblea de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente como con la Asamblea General.

15) ONU-Habitat debería contar también con una mayor presencia de personal en Nueva York, en especial del personal de alto nivel para mejorar la coordinación y estrechar las relaciones con las entidades de las Naciones Unidas en Nueva York.

16) ONU-Habitat debería tener más personal en Nairobi, Nueva York y oficinas regionales, con paridad de género para cumplir con su misión y mandato de apoyar a los Estados Miembros, los gobiernos subnacionales y los equipos de las Naciones Unidas en los países.


17) Con miras a tener asociaciones activas, eficaces e inclusivas que puedan contribuir a cumplir su mandato de inclusión, el Panel recomienda que ONU-Habitat explore y refuerce las relaciones con las organizaciones representativas de los gobiernos locales y la sociedad civil, así como el fortalecimiento de las asociaciones con las Naciones Unidas y las Comisiones Económicas Regionales.

18) Insta también a ONU-Habitat a explorar maneras de alentar a los actores del sector privado a examinar los impactos negativos no deseados de sus inversiones y a encontrar formas de mitigarlas.

19) Por último, recomienda institucionalizar el Foro Urbano Mundial (FUM), para ayudar a mantener la NAU firmemente en la agenda global. Propone que se integren los resultados del FUM en el plan estratégico y el programa de trabajo y el presupuesto de ONU-Habitat. Esto debería hacerse mediante un informe sobre los resultados de la Junta de Política para su integración en las resoluciones de la Asamblea Urbana.

Capacidad financiera

20) El Grupo recomienda que se haga un llamamiento urgente a los Estados Miembros para que apoyen a ONU-Habitat con fondos comprometidos para varios años. Además, recomienda que ONU-Habitat elabore un plan y un marco de gastos a mediano plazo de cuatro a cinco años.

21) A fin de alentar las contribuciones voluntarias de los Estados Miembros, el Grupo recomienda que ONU-Habitat especifique el porcentaje de los fondos básicos gastados en personal y otros gastos administrativos.

22) Para reforzar la prioridad asignada al trabajo normativo, el Panel recomienda que se destine una parte de la financiación de la cooperación técnica específica, a la vinculación con la misión normativa, y propone con firmeza un límite a los fondos asignados de los Estados Miembros que se destinen al trabajo operacional.

23) El Grupo recomienda que ONU-Habitat explore las ventajas de la modalidad de donación, dándole a la organización más flexibilidad de gestión y capacidad de respuesta, al tiempo que le permite seguir formando parte de la Secretaría de las Naciones Unidas.

24) A fin de explorar fuentes nuevas e innovadoras de financiación y aumentar los recursos disponibles para una urbanización inclusiva y sostenible, el Grupo recomienda que ONU-Habitat desarrolle una estrategia de cooperación con bancos multilaterales, instituciones financieras y fuentes privadas de financiación. También se podría explorar el potencial de financiamiento y recaudación de fondos inherente a las relaciones urbanas locales.

25) Por último, el Panel recomienda la creación de un Fondo Fiduciario Global que funcione como plataforma para obtener financiación alternativa para los esfuerzos de urbanización sostenible.

Con el fin de mantener el impulso en torno a la implementación de la Nueva Agenda Urbana y reflexionar sobre el posicionamiento de ONU-Habitat en ese sentido, el Presidente de la Asamblea General de la ONU convocó a una reunión de Alto Nivel de la Asamblea General los días 5 y 6 de septiembre de 2017 para debatir, entre otras cosas, el Informe del Panel Independiente del Secretario General para evaluar y mejorar la eficacia de ONU-Habitat

UN-Habitat Celebrates Youth, Peace and Sustainability

UN-Habitat, the UN programme for sustainable urban development, is celebrating youth, peace and sustainability leading up to the International  Day of Peace on 21 September.

The goal of this celebration is to raise the awareness of the general public about the vital role of young men and women in peace building.

According to UNDP, more than 600 million young people live in fragile and conflict-affected regions and countries. But beyond their status as victims, the International Day of Peace, with the theme “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All,” aims to recognize the role young people play as agents for peace.

“Today, thousands of young women and men work tirelessly, often under very dangerous conditions and with very little support or recognition, to build peace and promote security for all…[Young people} are the most valuable force: we have to shape a better future,”said Jayathma Wickramanayake, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth.

This celebration will consist of a number of on and offline events culminating in the International Peace Day Celebration at the United Nations compound in Nairobi, Kenya. The event on 21 September will bring together dignitaries and youth to celebrate and advocate for youth and peace globally.

The online events will highlight evidence-based promising practices in youth peace building –  such as the Colombia Urban Peace Labs initiative –  and peace building projects and activities in gender, governance and sports.

“As youth we should keep on engaging in developing our communities by using whatever resources we get either from the government or through our organizations. Our unity and idea’s are what we have for now and we don’t have to bleed so that they lead, but we can lead our generation to a better tomorrow,” said Isaac Mwasa, Coordinator One Stop Environmental Centre, Mathare, Kenya 

We encourage the media and public to join our online conversations to learn about innovative research and practices that show great promise in the field of youth peace building. Youth are called upon to air challenges affecting youth in urban places and contribute possible solutions to mitigate contributing negative factors.

The attached fact sheet provides a schedule for the IPM events and key hash tags throughout the month.

For more information about International Peace Day event, please visit: UN-Habitat Youth

To arrange feature interviews with project coordinators, contact:

Douglas Ragan, Chief, Youth and Livelihoods Unit, Email:

Or Jeanette Elsworth, Head of Press and Media:

International Peace Month Events:

Urban Peace Lab Training (28 Aug to 2 Sept , Cali, Colombia)

The ten youth groups selected will undergo a week long training undertaken by UN-Habitat, SENA, Ashoka and IMPACT HUB in the areas of small business development, social entrepreneurship, social innovation, peace building and programme management.


Awarding of the Urban Peace Labs recipients (29 Aug Colombia, Nairobi).The Urban Peace Labs initiative is a partnership between UN-Habitat and Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (SENA) with the goal of promoting peace and entrepreneurship amongst Colombian youth. Ten youth groups will be awarded grants to undertake social entrepreneurship projects that advance the goal of peace in Colombia.


Inclusive Cities Summit (29 – 30 Aug)
The Inclusive Cities Summit will bring together leaders to translate the New Urban Agenda into a Toronto and Canadian cities context. The Summit will examine how we can build better cities, and based on trends, a better world of the future through a New Urban Agenda and 2030 Agenda lens that also advances the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Innovate Counties Challenge (3 to 7 Sept )

The project seeks to establish ICT based mechanisms for democratic and inclusive participation at local level to enhance youth engagement in local governance in Kenyan small and medium sized cities. The project seeks to accomplish increased youth participation in decision-making processes at the local county government level and; Increase transparency and accountability of local county governments.

#InnovativeYouth4Peace     #IYP

Sports and Peace Building (8 – 12 Sept)

UN-Habitat is committed to continue using sports as a powerful tool for building culture of peace in conflict and post-conflict countries. Organized sport activities are regularly delivered to vulnerable and marginalized young people in the One Stop Youth Centers, unique model of community youth hubs set up to mobilize, empower and inspire the young generation to become active citizens and contributors to the efforts of rebuilding their countries.


Peace Now! – Goyang, South Korea (13 – 17 Sept)

On International Youth Day 2017, 500 youth gathered in Goyang, South Korea and launched the Peace Now! Declaration calling for immediate cessation of hostile intent: in the Korean peninsula and the start of talks leading to peace. The initiative is part of the Youth 21 youth and good governance programme which seeks to engage youth in


International Peace Day Celebration – UN Compound and Mathare, Nairobi, Kenya (21 September)

The event will highlight evidence-based promising practices in youth peace building, such as: the Urban Peace Labs initiative; gender and peace building; governance and peace building; sports and peace building  The event will be graced by Elizabeth Taylor Jay, Colombian Ambassador to Kenya, Aisa Kaciyra; Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat; Isaac Musa, Coordinator, Mathare Environmental One Stop Centre, and others.



International Youth Day | Youth Building Peace

“On the cusp of International Youth Day and its theme of “Youth Building Peace” this year, UN-Habitat calls for all youth to spread the message of peace,.”

At the beginning of 2012, the world population surpassed 7 billion with people under the age of 30 accounting for more than half of this number (50.5%). According to the survey, 89.7% of people under 30 lived in emerging and developing economies. In matters conflicts, youth play a significant role. Every estimate of direct conflict deaths suggests that more than 90% of all casualties occur among young adult males. Young women make up 10-30% of armed forces and armed groups worldwide. In 2008, an estimated 100,000 girls under 18 were fighting in armed conflicts globally. In 2011, around 14 million youth were forcibly displaced by conflict and disasters. Today, that number is much higher. Conversely, youth have a substantial role in peace building.

The 2017 theme of the International Youth Day couldn’t be more apt: “Youth Building Peace”.

This day, observed on August 12th is dedicated to celebrating young people’s contributions to conflict prevention and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace. Further, it should include efforts made towards promoting and engaging young people in governance processes and decision making. UN-Habitat has been at the forefront in engaging youth across the globe in the peace building processes and today’s call for all youth in Kenya to spread the message of peace through out and after 2017 Kenyan elections.

Dr. Kacyira, Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat, highlighted that the youth centers provide at risk youth with safe, generative space where they can develop leadership skills, ICT, entrepreneurship and vocational training as well as access to health services.  “The centers serve as a place where youth can develop soft and transferable skills to enter the labor market,’ said Dr. Kacyira, while speaking at the YouthConnekt Africa Summit 2017 held at Rwanda, July 19-21st 2017.

Residents of Mathare informal settlement – one of the biggest in Nairobi, Kenya – are one of Nairobi’s beneficiaries of the One Stop Youth Resources Ccenters in Kenya. Peter Kaka, head of Mathare One Stop Youth Centre, recently shared that the center had secured and established the new Slum Soccer football pitch. Peter mentioned Innovative Kenya, ICT center , as another measurable success by the UN-Habitat efforts in peace building  process.

Across the border in Rwanda, more than 312,000 Rwandan youth in just five years have gained training from the centers. Rwanda is a state that suffered a genocide which saw over 800,000 Rwandans killed in 100 days. The one stop centers have contributed to inclusion of youth in governance – a key contributor to the transformation of Rwanda as an ICT nation. It is important to note that Rwanda also held successful-peaceful national elections on August 4th 2017.

Kenyan youth have embraced the model and taken the same empowerment route to engage in building resilience and conflict resolution against the volatile tribal gaps in the country. “We will keep our interactive social media conversations with active online community members to sensitize on the essence of maintaining peace before and after elections”, said Peter Kaka in his closing remarks about the elections fever.

UN -Habitat will also recognized efforts by youth building peace in Colombia and awarded the Colombia Urban Youth Fund to successful organizations following prior submission of project proposals. This is a timely move as the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia insurgents are about to reach a comprehensive peace agreement after almost four years of peace negotiations in Havana.

Youth are the next leaders and problem solvers and so should be getting involved now since they are the ones that have to live with the consequences of choices that are made. Awareness needs to be raised to governments and powerful decision makers that the youth have skills and abilities that should be utilized and harvested rather than ignored. Consequently, both the youth and governments need to work together to create a positive and beneficial peaceful relationship.

UN-Habitat is committed to working with local governments to create opportunities for youth to participate in the decisions making process and play a major role maintaining peace in their cities, as these approaches create conducive environments for investment, innovation, business, employment and civic participation.

ALSO READ:News Letter Brief; Strengthening Policy for Young Women in the Changing World of Work, Case Study: Kampala Municipality, Uganda

Is Urban Farming Impossible?

By Achmad Solikhin

The adoption of the Urban New Agenda remains challenging for urban think tanks, most notably agriculturists who strive to resolve a dilemma between urban population expansion and agricultural land use. For instance, in Bandung, Indonesia, the increase in urban population growth needs two hundred hectares of agricultural lands to be converted into human settlements, industries, and other public properties. The increase also exacerbate the ecological burdens, such as pollution, water crisis, fossil fuel energy issues, and climate change.

Besides Bandung, the lack of agricultural landscape for farming that would feed the urban inhabitants has been an emerging issue throughout Indonesian cities. This is not in line with the Indonesia Government Regulation No. 19, 2016, which demands sustainable farming land for food. In addition, it is contradictory to paragraph 95 of the New Urban Agenda, that clearly supports urban agriculture and farming. Furthermore, if interlinked with nexus approach and Indonesian commitment for green house gas emission reduction and food security, 41% GHG reduction will be very tricky to be implemented in urban area over rural area.

With all these challenges, urban farming seems impossible on a scale. On the other hand, with new technologies and willingness to make a change, it can be done. As a possible solution, urban farming has been introduced to the urban sites, using various innovative techniques such as vertical gardens, aquaculture, small agriculture and rooftop agriculture,to name few. These techniques are demonstrated in the following projects, which are potent for tackling alarming urban farming burden, such as: Food Field, Farm, Sky Green, The Distributed Urban Farming Initiative, and Sharing Backyard. Inspired by these great initiatives as a potential urban landscape solution, a project called : “Carbon Farming Schools” initiated by the Indonesian Green Action Forum emerged.


The Carbon Farming Schools are suported by UNEP Eco-Peace Leadership Center, Yuhan Kimberly, YUNGA UNFAO, UNESCO, and Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition. The project focuses on both food source and education. I tis run in Bogor, approximately 2 hour drive from Jakarta. Two elementary schools are engaged and supported young agriculturists of Bogor Agricultural University. Around 500 students have been actively involved.


There is a wide participation also from other segments of society including other youth and local farmers. In the schools, the students are educated about climate change, urban farming, and ecological issues to find solutions and suggest innitiatives to tackle these issues. Subsequently the innitiatives are translated into real action plans. To test-run and implement them, they use a small agroforest in abandoned lands and limited spaces. And how does it look in practice? For example, a small number of fast growing and multipurpose tree species are coupled with vegetable plants. A vertical farming is also alternative technique suitable for limited spaces in front of a house or backyard. The great thing about the project is that it supports the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, making it more than just a collection of words on paper.



Courtesy of Rhoda Omenya, UN-Habitat

Pic 1

Hacking. A word more often than not, heavy with negative connotations – specifically with reference to digital technologies. Today, mainstream use of hacking still refers criminal activities but has also given rise to a positive meaning – use of technical computer expertise to solve problems. Extrapolated to the term hackathon – an intense 24 or 48 hour event that provides a venue for self-expression and creativity through technology where people with technical backgrounds come together, form teams around a problem or idea, and collaboratively code a unique solution from scratch — these generally take shape in the form of websites, mobile apps, and robots.

UN-Habitat, Youth and Livelihoods Unit in collaboration with SwahiliBox, held a hackathon on May 20th – 21st, in Mombasa County to solve urban challenges that the county is facing. This hackathon is part of a project dubbed Innovate Counties Challenge Project that seeks to include local government partnerships in enabling governance technology applications developed by youth, have tangible impact at the community level. These challenges were identified in a challenge workshop previously held with 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.

The hackathon had participation from students as a result of outreach sessions done at Technical University of Kenya, Mount Kenya University, Kenyatta University and Kenya Methodist University. From the sign-up sheet, 71% were participating in their first hackathon, an indication of both the novelty of the hackathon and the challenges that would be faced therein. As such having the participants take part in a continuous 48 hour hackathon would be strenuous and thus was split in two full days.  Web4All, an ICT Enterprise founded with the sole aim of utilizing ICT to Improve the Livelihood of People in Africa, facilitated the hackathon.

In the first day of the hackathon, participants were grouped into the challenges they wanted to solve and taken through ideation and theme matching, meeting user needs and problem solving and low fidelity prototypes and placeholder sites under rotational mentorship. This enabled them to immerse themselves into the problems they were trying to solve by understanding the main person faced with the challenge – in line with human centered design’s core principle of empathy. Ultimately aiding the teams to narrow their thinking to one solution – what they were envisioning, for whom and how the solution would ameliorate the user(s) life. Day 1 concluded with hacking of their solutions.


Figure 1 Participants at the end of Day 1


Figure 2 Working through the Idea Canvas


Figure 3 John Paul from Web4All taking participants through the Business Model Canvas


Figure 4 Taking a break to fuel the body

Day 2 of the hackathon had the participants hacking and finalizing their solutions, as the mentors took them through deck preparation and pitching for the presentation.


Figure 5 Mock pitching to mentors

The hackathon had four judges:

  1. Nyevu Karisa – County Government of Mombasa Officer, Department of Trade, Energy and Industrial Development
  2. David Ogiga – Director, Sote Hub
  3. Adam Chagani – Consultant, UNODC
  4. Sharmaarke Abdullahi – Project Management Officer, UN-Habitat

The air was stiff as teams began presenting their seven minute terse pitches, with a three minute follow up Q&A from the judges. There were thirteen teams exhibiting solutions on varied governance problems from service delivery (waste, transport and water management), tourism promotion, urban farming, county government transparency, to the often forgotten social and intangible human facets of drug abuse, etc. The judges evaluated the presentations based on the tangibility of the solution (thus showing the team’s grasp of the problem being solved), the solution’s feasibility on a technical level, its creativity and originality. Further, the teams had to show that the solution is socially acceptable, economically viable and environmentally sustainable. The teams were additionally judged on their cohesiveness and presentation skills.

The judges then went into weighty deliberations, finally agreeing on the top three teams:

  • Winners: Mji Safi with their innovative solution of preventing food produce at markets turning into organic waste. This would be done using an inventory control system, working with a market management authority and vendors.


Figure 6 Winners: Mji Safi

  • First Runners Up: Azucorp with a hardware solution of delivering urgent medical supplies using drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) thereby reimagining transport modes. This solution comes an opportune time as the Government of Kenya has recently approved the use of commercial drones.


Figure 7 First Runners Up Azucorp

  • 2nd Runners Up: Veve with an interactive web portal for both locals and tourists to restore Mombasa as a tourist destination and thereby reversing the drop in Foreign Direct Investment and specifically the five year drop in tourism earnings.


Figure 8 2nd Runners Up – Veve

Special mention is given to Aqua Harvesters who came in sixth with their novel solution of a solar desalination and pump system that sanitizes and distributes water by exploiting road traffic movement to push water without fuel – consequently tackling water scarcity and quality.

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Figure 9 Judges

Looking ahead, the top six teams will be taken through a fundamental training on the startups and entrepreneurship to give them the starting block to techpreneurship whereas the winners, Mji Safi will continue on with the incubation to develop their solution for piloting and provide them with the necessary skills to develop a business model for scale.

The two days captured the vision, creativity, resourcefulness, and imagination of youth despite the newness of a hackathon in Mombasa County. Emboldening them should be a never ending exploit.


Call for applications Global Urban Peace Labs: Colombia Urban Youth Fund project

Paz for Colombia

DEADLINE for submissions: 6th July 2017
DURATION: from July to December 2017

Are you a youth-led organization in Colombia or a Servicio Nacional De Aprendizaje (SENA) apprentice or alumni? Does your organization have an innovative youth leadership model or idea on promoting peace and resilience in cities in Colombia? Is your youth-led organization non-political and non-religious? Does your project aim to promote peace through, but not limited to;

  1. Improving the livelihood of the community and target groups?
  2. Creating jobs or promoting entrepreneurship towards peace and resilience?
  3. Providing ICT driven solutions towards peace building and resilience?
  4. Building peace and resilience through research and training?
  5. Sports and development or creating safe spaces for dialogue towards peace building and resilience?
  6. Building peace and resilience through Art and Culture?
  7. Encouraging/involving youth in governance and governance structures?

Does your project have a keen focus on reintegrating Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) members or integrating vulnerable communities and target groups including young women and men in difficult conditions?

Then, Servicio Nacional De Aprendizaje (SENA) and United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat) have a great platform for you!

SENA and UN-Habitat are excited to launch the call for applications for the Global Urban Peace Labs programme. This is a grant program that will make an enormous contribution to the peace building process and will provide a platform for young people to develop their potential to serve as catalysts, implementer’s and partners in building a peaceful, more productive and resilient Colombia. This will be achieved not only through the demobilization of former youth combatants part of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia but also providing opportunities to SENA apprentices and the victims of the armed conflict to provide models towards contributing to peace and resilience in Colombia.

We are happy to hear from you!

Please visit the Frequently Asked Questions page which will guide you through the application requirements.

For SENA apprentices and alumni please submit your ideas and models through: before or on 6th July 2017 to be eligible for a grant.

For non-SENA apprentices and alumni please submit your ideas and models through:  before or on 6th July 2017 to be eligible for a grant.

Please remember to attach the necessary documents to the indicated email addresses including the budget

News Letter Brief; Strengthening Policy for Young Women in the Changing World of Work, Case Study: Kampala Municipality, Uganda

Courtesy of Judith Mulwa, UN-Habitat

StWOW Publication Capturerengthening Policy for Young Women in the Changing World of Work, Case Study: Kampala Municipality, Uganda, is a research publication sponsored by UK-AID to Plan International UK. UN-Habitat played a key advisory role on policy at municipal level, to the innovation hub, which aimed to challenge social norms and practices that keep girls and young women in positions of powerlessness in the World of Work (WoW). This resonates to the Commission on the Status of Women 61, 2017: Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work. The research aims to elaborate the need for an enabling policy environment and/or enforce legislation that enhances gender equality for girls and young women in the WoW.

The publication appreciates that local governments are the key vehicles for formulating interventions, and a key partner in the implementation of a Local Economic Development (LED) strategy. In this regard, the local government is discussed to work hand in hand with other stakeholders in contextualizing gender gaps and addressing gender imbalances. This is relevant in addressing social and cultural practices that keep young women in positions of powerlessness in the WoW.

As a result, the publication contextualizes the position of the Republic of Uganda, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), on gender integration, mainstreaming and implementation, while also proposing interventions to progress the proposed recommendations and achieve the goals of inclusion and equality for women in the WoW. This was achieved through a Desk Study, a gender lensed policy analysis and a Key Informant Discussion (KID) to the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).

The methodology provided the background to existing policy as well as recommendations towards improving women’s economic, social, and political status. These recommendations include working with a variety of stakeholders to help strengthen partnerships, involving the private sector in gender mainstreaming and awareness raising, advocacy and lobbying, entrepreneurship training, and bridging the gaps between legislation and communities at the KCCA. This resonates with the gender-responsive nature of the recently adopted New Urban Agenda (NUA), which has been adopted to guide urban centers. In addition, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015, in particular Goal 5, to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls and Goal 11, to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

To download the publication, click

Peace, Progress and Employment Opportunities for Youth


Courtesy of Rhoda Omenya, UN-Habitat

‘Opportunities for the effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) – an apt theme of the twenty-sixth session of the Governing Council (GC26) delving into prospects for attaining the NUA – a global roadmap setting global standards of achievement in sustainable urban development, rethinking the way we build, manage, and live in cities by fostering cooperation with committed partners, relevant stakeholders, and urban actors at all levels of government as well as the private sector.

Commitments have been made in the NUA such as: “Everyone has the right to benefit from what their cities offer. The New Urban Agenda calls on local governments to take into account the needs of women, youth and children, people with disabilities, marginalized groups, older persons, indigenous people, among other groups.

With this in mind, experts and practitioners from the UN, World Bank, private sector, and national and local government; were brought together to deliberate in a side event dubbed Combating Poverty and Promoting Peace through Job Creation Opportunities for Young Men and Women in African Cities that took place on 8th May 2017.

John Sibi Okumu, a Kenyan media consultant, editor and translator; moderated the event that began with a moment of silence and remembrance for the late H.E. Abass Siraji, Somali Minister of Public Works, Housing and Reconstruction, who was killed in an accident involving bodyguards of another government official. The late Abass, who was Somalia’s youngest member of cabinet, was to give the keynote address that was given by Mr. Mahmoud Mohieldin, World Bank Group Senior Vice President for the 2030 Development Agenda.

Mr. Mohieldin shared on the World Bank’s researches on Africa showing dense and disconnected cities that are expensive for households. Further city growth in Africa has not in tandem with economic growth as is the case in Asian nations such as China and Vietnam. He also shared on the collaborations that World Bank has with UN-Habitat such as – municipal finance. Improved municipal finance, infrastructure investment and improved land management as some of the key action points for policy makers to focus on in light of sustainable growth of cities. Moreover, he emphasized on the need to incorporate technology in order to gain the involvement of youth in city growth.

‘Before proposing a new idea, it is useful to eliminate existing bad ideas’ – Mr. Mohieldin.

Dr. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, the Deputy Executive Director, UN-Habitat then thanked all participants of the side event, welcomed them to GC26 and specifically to the discussion on youth, women and jobs.

Her opening remarks were followed by a case study presentation on Shaqeso  Training Programme – part of the Youth Employment Programme (YES) in Somalia. As an integrated 3 month training programme targeting youth aged between 17 and 25 – launched in Oct 2016; YES aims to capitalize on recent security, governance and reconciliation achievements in Somalia. Through the programme youth acquire comprehensive life skills, construction skills training, how to build your own business, among others. Through the programme Mogadishu youth are able to meet, socialize an acquire skills that will increase their employability given the bleak employment landscape in Somali especially for youth and more so in the formal sector.

The case study presentation was part of a moderated discussion on the same by a panel comprising:

  • Ms. Aminata Traore, Former Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mali
  • Mr. Nick Langford, Country Head, Kenya, Tatu City
  • Ms. Mary Kawar, Director, ILO Country Office, East Africa
  • Ms. Margaret Koli, UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board
  • Joyati Das, Senior Director, Urban Programs, World Vision International

Here are some snippets of their comments:

  • Ms. Aminata Traore: ‘The more important thing is to question the economic model. Is it creating jobs? If the economy is not able to create jobs, then the country is in trouble. Peace building starts by job creation’.
  • Mr. Nick Langford: ‘Kenya’s most pressing problem is youth unemployment’.
  • Ms. Mary Kawar: ‘African women have a higher economic participation in comparison to the Arab States and yet the work is not paying enough. Peacebuilding has direct implications on labor relations – fair working conditions for everyone (both employer and employee)’.
  • Ms. Margaret Koli: ‘Collaboration among young people has resulted in a myriad of innovations’.
  • Joyati Das: ‘With guidance and active involvement, youth can become peace builders’.

Throughout the session, the emerging theme was that youth are not only leaders of tomorrow but leaders of today and they matter. When equipped with the right tools and given opportunities to lead, youth are catalysts of progress and peace.

In his last speech at TEDxMogadishu 2017, the late H.E. Abass emphasized the importance of young people in rebuilding a nation. Before he finished the talk, Abass posed a very emotional question: “Everyone should ask themselves, what can you do for your country?

We ask: “What can you do for your youth?”


Youth as Leaders of Today and Tomorrow