Tag Archives: Africa

Football Pitch Make-over through Design Thinking

A lot was happening in Mlango Kubwa’s football pitch last week. Mlango Kubwa is a ward in the Mathare informal settlement in Kenya. Mathare has approximately 500,000 residence; Mango Kubwa itself has approximately 50,000 residents of which 70% of the population is 24 and under.

After its inauguration by the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, it became the centerpiece of Design Thinking workshop organized to give it a sustainable make-over.

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The football pitch is the cornerstone of the community, strategically placed and accessible for all Mlango Kubwa’s residents. Used primary for football, sport and play, at times it’s also a place for talent shows, celebrations and other community events. But time, weather conditions and lack of resources have left a toll on its appearance and condition. What was once an astonishing sport facility in the midst of a slum is now rapidly deteriorating public space.

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To try to help out and bring new ideas and perspectives on the issue, UN-HABITAT teamed up with GIZ Sport for Development Africa programme and Prof. Dr. Falk Uebernickel from University of St. Gallen, an expert in Design Thinking methodology, to run a 2-day workshop with the community. Ran as a pilot in a difficult context of poor urban community, the hope and expectation was to come up with new strategies to revitalize and sustainably maintain the field.

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Despite slow start, the community members attending the workshop came up with some amazing ideas of how to improve the current state of the pitch.  Through rather complex and at times quite challenging steps of the Design Thinking methodology, the community looked at the most pressing issues, including safety and security, drainage, waste management and communication. Here are just few examples of simple interventions that were born that day:

  • Adequate fence around the pitch perimeter, with some kind of roofing to protect from rains
  • Paid caretaker(s)
  • Build-in drainage
  • Regular clean-ups, with competitions between school
  • WhatsApp group to inform the community of events and happenings at/around the pitch

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Funding remains a challenge and will determine the successful implementation of all the ideas that the community envisioned for the football pitch but everyone remains hopeful that over time, they will achieve everything what they set themselves for. UN-HABITAT will continue to support the Mlango Kubwa community and hope that together we can make it happen.

Being an Intern in Rwanda – Story by Mina Lee

I was excited to come to Rwanda for my internship in ‘sports for development’ field with UN-HABITAT. Although I have lived in Rwanda for two years before, (volunteering with Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA)), I couldn’t wait to be back. Rwanda is a fascinating place with so much beauty, green spaces and amazing people that I knew that my new adventure will be worthwhile. But funny enough, when I came to Kimisagara One Stop Youth Center in Kigali for the first time, I couldn’t conceal my surprise. So much space, gym with roof and even floodlights for night games! I thought I knew Rwanda, but this has proven me wrong! I have never seen such excellent sports facilities anywhere else.

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The center itself is a wonderful oasis of hope for young people in Kigali. More than 1000 of them visit the center every day, enjoying various services provided. It’s run by unpaid volunteers who organize training sessions, workshops, events and activities related to IT, good governance, health and entrepreneurship. Sport is naturally extremely important and the state-of-art facilities offer space to practice football, basketball, handball, inline skating and modern dance. Personally, I was very impressed with the “disability football team”. In Rwanda, there is a huge number of people with disabilities, the sad legacy of 1994 events. The disability team in Kimisagara is just so inspiring! They play on crutches and you wouldn’t believe how fast they can be!

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During my five months stay I have learned a lot about partnerships. The Center was initiated by the UN-HABITAT but is now 100% managed by the Ministry of Youth and ICT. Yet their ongoing collaboration and mutual support makes it work and thrive like no other. The Kimisagara center serves as a model to other youth centers across East Africa. On a different level, Cho and I (both UN-HABITAT interns in Rwanda) formed a partnership to complete tasks given by the Center as well as UN-HABITAT. There were many challenges, many unforeseen changes to plans and many unpredictable communication hiccups but we’ve managed.  It would be very difficult for me to do it on my own but together, we’ve learned to adapt. This, I consider a very useful skill for the future.

I’ve had a lot of plans at the beginning but unfortunately, I haven’t been able to make them all work. I wish I had more time to develop new sports programme to involve wider community, create a project tackling the youth unemployment, which is a huge problem over there and perhaps find ways to bring even more young people into the Center. Maybe next time. For now, I am happy and grateful for the experience. I have learned a lot and had wonderful time in Rwanda, the beautiful country on the rise to prosperity.

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THE FIRST EVER SPORTS DAY IN KARIOBANGI, Powered By UN-HABITAT

Written by Emily Onyango on behalf of our partners

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The beginning of April meant a lot to different communities in Kariobangi who gathered as early as 7:00am to prepare for the sports day organized by UN-HABITAT in cooperation with CHRISC Kenya, Simama Africa, SWAGA and SOPA. One of the main objectives of the day was to recognize and reward all committed teams, groups and individuals who dedicated their time to promote community development and Sustainable Development Goals through sports.

And as one of the testimonies suggests, the anticipation for the day was overwhelming. “This is one of the biggest day that I have been waiting for. I brought my team of football players to participate in the Community Sport Day activities. The different types of games, like rope skipping, dodge ball or tag of war are perfect for them to learn something new, something different” said Steven Oduor, one of the youth leaders from Kariobangi.

The event, organized as a celebration of April 6th, the International Day of Sports for Development, was coordinated by UN-HABITAT’s interns, Yunhee and Suheon, who also spent 4 months prior to the event teaching young people in slums different sports, hygiene and biomechanics lessons to improve their health and well-being.

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“I have been attending Saturday classes about hygiene and biomechanics. It was extremely interesting as I’ve learned a lot of new things. I know now the structure of my body, different types of bones I have, how much water I should be drinking on a daily basis and also different exercises that will help me to stay fit”, said Carole Jones from Tarumbeta dancers.

Over 200 children and young people attended the celebration. They played, they sang, they danced all day and were rewarded with different gifts at the end of the day. Some got books, some pens and some caps, most importantly, no one went home empty-handed.

The event was a success. Everyone involved on either side, participants and organizers alike, were very happy with the result and are hoping to organize a similar event next year again. Once again, we could have witnessed how sport is a powerful tool for community transformation and peaceful coexistence among different communities.

 

 

Celebrating April 6th in Kariobangi, Kenya

Community Sports Day – Empowering Youth Through Sports

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Just a few days prior to a very significant day for all sports for development enthusiasts, April 6th, UN-HABITAT, in close collaboration with CHRISC Kenya, Simama Africa, Sports With A Goal Africa and Seeds of Peace Africa, staged a Community Sports Day at Marura Primary School in one of Nairobi’s infamous informal settlements – Kariobangi. Around 200 young people from different communities gathered to celebrate the International Day of Sport for Development while having fun, playing sports and working on strengthening social cohesion among the various groups.

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Using various team-sports and games was our strategy to instill some core values, such as fair-play, ethics, tolerance and compassion. But what was truly fantastic was to watch young people playing together not only for the sense of achievement and victory, but for something bigger than that, the Sustainable Development Goals. We took the opportunity to introduce and promote the recently adopted SDGs, in particular SDG 3 (Good Health), 4 (Quality Education), 5 (Gender Equality), 6 (Clean Water), 11 (Sustainable Cities) and 16 (Peace and Justice).

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In the spirit of SDG 17 (Partnerships) we placed extra emphasis on the collaboration and partnerships not only of the organizers, but the community leaders and the youngsters themselves. It never stops amazing us, how much further we get when we join forces with others. As a huge international organization, we do need partners on the ground to help us execute our vision and plans and for April 6th celebrations, we found the perfect ones.

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Our work didn’t stop on April 6th. In fact, it was just the beginning. Youth leaders from participating communities underwent extensive training prior to the event to gain additional skills to use when working with young people on daily basis. They were partners in organizing the event from the beginning and they were instrumental in running the show on the day.

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As we see it, the day was a huge success and we can’t wait for our next opportunity to work with these wonderful organizations and young people. Despite their daily challenges and hardships, they are inspiring bunch with so much to say and do for a greater good of their communities and country. We’d be privileged and happy to be part of their journey of social transformation and community development.

 

 

 

How ICT is helping to change Kenya

The Innovate Kenya programme is a partnership between UN-Habitat. Samsung and local communities to foster innovation in Kenyan youth. One component of the programme is establishing 6 youth and ICT centres in Nairobi, Kenya, which will provide technology and entrepreneurship training to thousands of youth and youth-led groups. The backbone of this programme is an e-learning programme on social entrepreneurship developed by UN-Habitat which trains youth and youth-led organizations on how to start-up their own social enterprises.

Vote Now for the next Youth Advisory Board 2015-2017!

The Youth Advisory Board is a youth consultative body that advises the UN-HABITAT on strategies to engage young people in sustainable urban development. Currently heading to its fourth term, the YAB has made tremendous progress in mainstreaming youth issues into UN-HABITAT’s work over the past 7 years.

On Friday 31st July, the voting for the next Youth Advisory Board (YAB) has opened its lines for exactly one month. If you are between 16-32 then use this opportunity to cast a vote for your future regional representative! 14 members with equal gender representation per region will work hard to put youth at the forefront of high-level discussions and decision-making processes.

Quick look at the candidates fighting for your support:

Africa

Mr. Abel Williams Cheayan, Youth and Environment Advocate, Liberia Mr. George Ndung’u, Country Coordinator for Organization for African Youth, Kenya Ms. Harimbolam Alala Rakoto Andrianjaf, Town Planner Technician, Madagascar Ms. Irene Ikomu, Youth Activist on Governance and Democracy, Uganda Mr. Josias Ambeu, Global Internship Program Director at AISEC, Côte d’Ivoire Ms. Margaret Koli, Social Entrepreneur, Kenya Mr. Mathews Mhuru, Program Lead for Youth Engagement at Marie Stopes International, Zambia Ms. Sarah Mwikali Musau, Project Officer at Action Network for the Disabled, Kenya Mr. Usman Muhammad, Coordinator for Africa at the UN University’s Regional Center of Expertise – Global RCE Network, Nigeria Ms. Vanessa Phekani, Social Entrepreneur, Malawi
Mr. Abel Williams Cheayan, Youth and Environment Advocate, Liberia
Mr. George Ndung’u, Country Coordinator for Organization for African Youth, Kenya
Ms. Harimbolam Alala Rakoto Andrianjaf, Town Planner Technician, Madagascar
Ms. Irene Ikomu, Youth Activist on Governance and Democracy, Uganda
Mr. Josias Ambeu, Global Internship Program Director at AISEC, Côte d’Ivoire
Ms. Margaret Koli, Social Entrepreneur, Kenya
Mr. Mathews Mhuru, Program Lead for Youth Engagement at Marie Stopes International, Zambia
Ms. Sarah Mwikali Musau, Project Officer at Action Network for the Disabled, Kenya
Mr. Usman Muhammad, Coordinator for Africa at the UN University’s Regional Center of Expertise – Global RCE Network, Nigeria
Ms. Vanessa Phekani, Social Entrepreneur, Malawi

Arab States

Ms. Aya Chebbi, Blogger, Activist and Founder of African Youth Movement and Voice of Women Initiative, Tunisia Mr. Fadi Abushammala, Youth Program Manager at General Union of Cultural Centers, Palestine/Gaza Mr. Hossam Hassan Ibrahim Ali, Social Activist and Co-founder of Open Space Egypt, Egypt Mr. Hussein Murtaja, Spokesman for Victims of Wars and Armed Conflict and Founder of Youth Letters Group, Palestine Mr. Karam Alhamad, Human Rights Activist and Freelance Photojournalist, Syria Ms. Lama Alghalib, Social Activist and Founder of Shababuna non-profit, Saudi Arabia Ms. Maria Difallah, Medical Doctor and Human Rights Educator, Algeria Ms. Olfa Lazreg, Social Activist, Tunisia Ms. Ru’a Al-Abweh, Architect and Urban Planner, Jordan Mr. Salah Algabli, Founder of One Hand NGO, Yemen
Ms. Aya Chebbi, Blogger, Activist and Founder of African Youth Movement and Voice of Women Initiative, Tunisia
Mr. Fadi Abushammala, Youth Program Manager at General Union of Cultural Centers, Palestine/Gaza
Mr. Hossam Hassan Ibrahim Ali, Social Activist and Co-founder of Open Space Egypt, Egypt
Mr. Hussein Murtaja, Spokesman for Victims of Wars and Armed Conflict and Founder of Youth Letters Group, Palestine
Mr. Karam Alhamad, Human Rights Activist and Freelance Photojournalist, Syria
Ms. Lama Alghalib, Social Activist and Founder of Shababuna non-profit, Saudi Arabia
Ms. Maria Difallah, Medical Doctor and Human Rights Educator, Algeria
Ms. Olfa Lazreg, Social Activist, Tunisia
Ms. Ru’a Al-Abweh, Architect and Urban Planner, Jordan
Mr. Salah Algabli, Founder of One Hand NGO, Yemen

Asia Pacific

Mr. Achmad Solikhin, Founder of Indonesian Green Action Forum, Indonesia Ms. Alexandra (Sacha) King, Social Worker, Australia Ms. Anoka Primrose, Environmental Conservationist, Eco-Social Entrepreneur and Youth Policy Advocate, Sri-Lanka Mr. Brabim Kumar K.C., Activist, Researcher, Writer and Youth Leader, Nepal Mr. Ho Yin William Chan, Urban Designer, Australia Mr. Kabir Arora, Coordinator of Alliance of Indian Wastepickers, India Ms. Koel Wrigley, Community Engagement Consultant, Australia Mr. Senel Wanniarachchi, UN Youth Delegate, Sri-Lanka Mr. SM Shaikat, Youth Leader and Manager of SERAC, Bangladesh Ms. Uditi Agarwal, Architect, Urban Planner and Culture Professional, India
Mr. Achmad Solikhin, Founder of Indonesian Green Action Forum, Indonesia
Ms. Alexandra (Sacha) King, Social Worker, Australia
Ms. Anoka Primrose, Environmental Conservationist, Eco-Social Entrepreneur and Youth Policy Advocate, Sri-Lanka
Mr. Brabim Kumar K.C., Activist, Researcher, Writer and Youth Leader, Nepal
Mr. Ho Yin William Chan, Urban Designer, Australia
Mr. Kabir Arora, Coordinator of Alliance of Indian Wastepickers, India
Ms. Koel Wrigley, Community Engagement Consultant, Australia
Mr. Senel Wanniarachchi, UN Youth Delegate, Sri-Lanka
Mr. SM Shaikat, Youth Leader and Manager of SERAC, Bangladesh
Ms. Uditi Agarwal, Architect, Urban Planner and Culture Professional, India

Europe

Mr. Abdelkarim Bellafkih, Engineer and Founder of Free Hands youth NGO, Belgium Ms. Caroline Romero Trueba, Teacher and UNICEF Volunteer, Spain Ms. Cecile Pilot, CliMates Youth Activist, France Mr. Christophoros Pavlakis, Un-HABITAT Youth Fund Mentor, Greece Mr. Jonas Freist-Held, Student Assistant at the Research Institute Fraunhofer FOKUS, Germany Ms. Katerina Gavrielidou, Young Leader and Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum, Cyprus Ms. Lise Weltzien, Social Activist and Researcher, Norway Ms. Meloe de Reuver, Student and Young Professional, UK Mr. Peter Mladenov, Human Rights Advocate, Bulgaria Ms. Wasima Khan, Social Entrepreneur and Blogger, the Netherlands
Mr. Abdelkarim Bellafkih, Engineer and Founder of Free Hands youth NGO, Belgium
Ms. Caroline Romero Trueba, Teacher and UNICEF Volunteer, Spain
Ms. Cecile Pilot, CliMates Youth Activist, France
Mr. Christophoros Pavlakis, Un-HABITAT Youth Fund Mentor, Greece
Mr. Jonas Freist-Held, Student Assistant at the Research Institute Fraunhofer FOKUS, Germany
Ms. Katerina Gavrielidou, Young Leader and Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum, Cyprus
Ms. Lise Weltzien, Social Activist and Researcher, Norway
Ms. Meloe de Reuver, Student and Young Professional, UK
Mr. Peter Mladenov, Human Rights Advocate, Bulgaria
Ms. Wasima Khan, Social Entrepreneur and Blogger, the Netherlands

Latin America & the Caribbean

Ms. Alexandra Pierre, National Coordinator of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network, Haiti Mr. Aldo Arce, Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Puerta Joven, Mexico Mr. Anis Badi Zarate Khalili, Youth Leader and Community Developer, Mexico Ms. Debora Gouveia, Social Entrepreneur, Youth Advocate and Founder of Engajamundo, Brazil Mr. Geraldo Porteny Backal, Philanthropist, Social Innovator and Human Rights Activist, Mexico  Ms. Jamilla Sealy, Regional Chairperson of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network, Barbados Ms. Jodykay Maxwell, Programme Manager at UNEP-Caribbean, Jamaica Mr. Julio Lima, National Social Director of TECHO, Brazil Mr. Leonardo Parraga, Founder of BogotArt, Colombia Mr. Luis Wilson Lechon Sanchez, Youth Activits, Ecuador
Ms. Alexandra Pierre, National Coordinator of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network, Haiti
Mr. Aldo Arce, Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Puerta Joven, Mexico
Mr. Anis Badi Zarate Khalili, Youth Leader and Community Developer, Mexico
Ms. Debora Gouveia, Social Entrepreneur, Youth Advocate and Founder of Engajamundo, Brazil
Mr. Geraldo Porteny Backal, Philanthropist, Social Innovator and Human Rights Activist, Mexico
Ms. Jamilla Sealy, Regional Chairperson of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network, Barbados
Ms. Jodykay Maxwell, Programme Manager at UNEP-Caribbean, Jamaica
Mr. Julio Lima, National Social Director of TECHO, Brazil
Mr. Leonardo Parraga, Founder of BogotArt, Colombia
Mr. Luis Wilson Lechon Sanchez, Youth Activits, Ecuador

North America

Mr. Aaron Joshua, Founder of the Canadian Youth Think Tank, Canada Ms. Chiara Camponeschi, Founder of Enabling City, Canada Mr. Hung Ho, Researcher, Blogger and Social Activist, USA Ms. Jordana Vasquez, Social Activist and Architect, USA Mr. Liam O’Doherty, Director of Digital Youth Engagement Programs at TakeITGlobal, Canada Mr. Marvin Mathew, Youth Activist Mr. Mohammad Asideh, Process Engineering Consultant, USA Ms. Olivia Labonte, Urban Economist and the Program Director of Young Diplomats of Canada, Canada
Mr. Aaron Joshua, Founder of the Canadian Youth Think Tank, Canada
Ms. Chiara Camponeschi, Founder of Enabling City, Canada
Mr. Hung Ho, Researcher, Blogger and Social Activist, USA
Ms. Jordana Vasquez, Social Activist and Architect, USA
Mr. Liam O’Doherty, Director of Digital Youth Engagement Programs at TakeITGlobal, Canada
Mr. Marvin Mathew, Youth Activist
Mr. Mohammad Asideh, Process Engineering Consultant, USA
Ms. Olivia Labonte, Urban Economist and the Program Director of Young Diplomats of Canada, Canada

 

Although the first impression matters, take couple of minutes to read the short bio of your regional candidates to make the right choice. Visit the UN-HABITAT Homepage and don’t forget to vote before 31st August!

Good luck to all candidates! We’re excited to work with the new Board soon!

 

 

 

 

Youth & Public Space Workshop in Mathare

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Saturday was fun! UN-HABITAT visited the Mlango Kubwa community in Mathare slums, Nairobi to run a workshop on public space planning with local children and youth. Our friends from Up with Hope, Spatial Collective and Mathare Environmental Conservation Youth Club helped us to put this event together.Though we planned for 30 participants, dozens more children showed up in the youth center, our main venue. Some of them were too young to participate, so they just watched and played. Some were eager to join the group work and we didn’t stop them. Why would we – after all, it is them, the children and young people of Mlango Kubwa that live there and thus have the right to say, what they would like to see happening with the space around them.

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Joao took over the ice-breakers and energizers throughout the day to keep everyone sharp and in good mood. Dana and Tone facilitated the process. Building on the success of the Youth & Urbanization workshop that we ran at the East Africa Cup in Tanzania a week earlier, the participants started with drawing their community maps the way they see it. Unlike in Moshi, each group was working with different type of public space: Hang out spaces, sport spaces, green spaces, art spaces and safe spaces. This way we could get more comprehensive understanding of what’s going on in the community and create broader wish-lists to work with.

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Once the brain work of space assessment and wish-lists was done, each group went to visit the physical spaces they identified as the best one right now and the new one to be created in future. Interestingly enough, many places overlapped (e.g. same place was chosen as the best sport space, the safest space and the best space to hang out) and also some of the things on their wish-list fitted well in more categories (e.g. swimming pool has been identified as a desirable space intervention by the safe space group as well as the hang out group). Various types of sport fields (volleyball, rugby, basketball etc.) have been also marked by more than one group.

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The final poster making and presentations were fantastic too! Young people put together their work and added some action points to kick off the transformation process. With confidence and pride they presented their work to the rest of the group and few guests. The posters remain in the community for others to admire their work and as a reminder for the participants.

Well done everyone! Job well done!

What’s next for EAC & UN-HABITAT?

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With the finals played on Saturday, it is safe to say that the East Africa Cup 2015 has been a huge success. It was the first time UN-HABITAT has been present and we couldn’t have been more thrilled about the experience. Our Youth & Urbanization workshop was amazing, a creative space where excellent ideas and action plans were born. Tough topic to discuss, perhaps a little challenging too, but the young participants mastered it so well, making us super proud. Some of them stepped up the game even more, leaving their comfort zones and overcoming their own fears from public speaking in English when presenting their work and strategies. Well done!

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It wasn’t just our workshop that left us happy – the whole event was inspiring! Seeing hundreds of kids and young people playing and having fun while learning skills they wouldn’t pick up in formal education, was priceless. EAC is a testimony on how sport can help with capacity building, personal development and social change. It is fantastic mobilizing tool that can simultaneously teach a thing or two in a fun way. One week in Moshi definitely leaves a long lasting positive impact on the communities involved.

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For UN-HABITAT, EAC represents a great arena for youth & community development and we have identified three ways of how we can contribute to support this wonderful event and the amazing organizations behind it.

  1. Since most of the participants come from challenging urban settings, the need for our Youth & Urbanization workshop is rather obvious. Young people need to know they can play important role in finding solutions to some of the urban challenges and we should strive to empower them to do so. For next year, we will try to bring an additional facilitator to reach even more young people. We can also add other thematic workshops that could be useful for the young participants or organize a training of trainers to expand the pool of facilitators able to deliver the urban challenges workshop worldwide.
  2. EAC has been working with youth groups from Somalia for couple years now. There is a possibility to join our efforts on advancing our initiatives in Somalia, building on our individual experiences and expertise.
  3. UN-HABITAT has a great network of motivated and inspirational young people globally and can support EAC to expand to other corners of the world.

Being part of East Africa Cup 2015 has been extremely valuable for UN-HABITAT and for our new Urban Sports Programme. We take the experience, the knowledge and the spirit and try to build on it to advance our work with young people worldwide. We hope that this is just a beginning of a long-lasting partnership and we cannot wait to be involved next year again.

3rd Public Spaces Biennale – Public Spaces in Africa

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Streets and Public Spaces as Drivers of Urban Development in Africa

The second day kicked off with very interesting session dedicated to the various interventions of public spaces across Africa. Panellists from various institutions and organizations showcased their work in some of Africa’s major cities, including Kigali, Nairobi and Porto-Novo. And what are the main findings?

First of all, it is important for us to understand that public spaces in Africa are nothing like the ones in Europe. Not only they look different, they have different functions. Public spaces in Africa are there for people to meet, interact with each other, buy and sell food, exchange goods and most importantly, they are spaces for dialogue. Traditionally, people are meeting in the streets or any other outside open space to discuss anything from politics to football.

What is public and who’s in charge of it? That is a question that many people ask as the word “public” does not necessarily have a positive connotation due to government’s scandals and reputation. Also, many public spaces are not so public after all. Unfortunately, urban divide and class segregation is a growing phenomenon in the African capitals, providing nice public spaces such as swimming pools, parks and gardens for the upper class, nicely gated from the rest. Another challenge is the lack of space in informal settlements, making it very hard to provide for any area that could be turn into well designed and functioning public space. Accessibility goes without saying – what kind of public space would it be if you need a car to get there?

People need to be consulted and engaged in the mapping and design, otherwise we’re asking for trouble and failure. Urban planners and architects do not know it all, although they may possess a piece of paper that says otherwise. Not taking the complexities of culture, tradition and people’s opinions into account is a recipe for disaster.

Having said all that, the city of Nairobi has shown a lot of good examples of how they’re turning their public spaces from shady and violent corners to vibrant and exciting areas to hang out. The city has committed to improve 60 public spaces over the next few months, which is a great promise for the city and for the people.

State of the Civil Society – Rustler’s Valley Retreat, South Africa

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Dana (YAB Europe) and Joao (former YAB Latin America and the Caribbean) joined 60 other young people from around the world for a three day meeting in the mountains of South Africa, to discuss the state of the Civil Society. Here is what came out of it:

We are 60 diverse young people from all continents of the world who met in Rustler’s Valley, South Africa from November 16 to 19, 2014 to discuss the state of civil society around the world and consider our role as young people within it. We do not claim to speak for all youth, or for the diverse views from within our own countries, but rather we seek to lend our voices to the on-going debate about the role of civil society in the social, political and economic transformation of the world. We also want to respond to and further develop the conversation begun by the Open Letter for Activists as young people engaged at grassroots, national and international levels.

Increasingly, the face of civil society around the world is a young one. Yet, we recognize much may be learned from other generations; their struggles, histories and lessons. Although we will face many of the challenges of the future, we believe that with intergenerational partnerships and a shared responsibility, we can transform civil society and therefore global society.

Current strategies to address restrictions on civil society space are failing. To create the necessary space at the national level, we should develop radical tactics to mobilize non traditional civil society groups, create platforms for international solidarity, and develop safe spaces where we can come together in a conducive environment to address these issues.

After much reflection, we collectively arrived at four primary topics of concern to those present: race, gender and sexual orientation; democratization of our own organisations and power structures; reform of relationships between civil society and donor organisations; and the divide between grassroots movements and civil society organisations (CSOs).

Eliminating discrimination: Race, gender and sexual orientation

As youth, we witness and experience the on-going reality of discrimination in civil society based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. We call on all sectors, especially media, governmental, non-governmental, and religious organizations, and the private sector to acknowledge and combat discriminatory practices. Civil society should lead the way by respecting diversity and completely eliminating all forms of discrimination from our own environments.

Democratization of CSOs and power structures

As youth, we acknowledge that current political, social and economic systems and organizational structures favour the few, not the many. We emphasize our duty to democratise:

  • Public dialogue through the use of inclusive and accessible language to broaden participation and break down the hierarchy among civil society and the communities we seek to serve.
  • Structures of power that prevent us from collaborating across issues and themes to establish civil society-wide avenues of influence and the elevation of our collective voice.
  • Access to intergovernmental and civil society processes for local and grassroots social movements.
  • Relationships between large civil society organizations and grassroots movements through the adoption of and respect for higher ethical standards.
  • Additionally, we should establish new methods of ensuring transparency, through the development of:
  • Conflict of interest indices;
  • Organization-wide gender parity measures;
  • Reporting on executive salaries and board fees;
  • Cooperation indices, and;
  • Mechanisms that ensure the full integration of all stakeholders into decision-making processes, including volunteers. As youth, the driving force of our work is our own vision, passion and values. To better serve those with whom we work, we must question the current relationships between donors and recipients. We pledge to:
  • Rethinking relationships between civil society and donor organisations
  • Acknowledge the need to be financially autonomous through self-sustainability.
  • Mobilize unions through membership fees as a way of engaging our own constituencies to ensure their ownership and responsibility in our work.
  • Create alternative and innovative solutions to generate funds for our work.
  • Encourage donors to explore avenues of promoting collaboration between and with civil society organizations.
  • As youth, we see the increasing danger in becoming more accountable to funding sources than the communities we purport to serve. We recognize the need to first hold ourselves to account, and then:
  • Increase accountability of the international community to its by commitments and constituents
  • Develop the advocacy skills of community members to more effectively claim their rightsThe increasing importance of grassroots actors, both formal and informal, is undeniable in today’s world. Gone are the days where NGOs may claim to represent the “voices” of communities. Our communities can and do speak for themselves and stand on their own work. They invert power structures through community-driven development and building people-power globally. We believe in the following tenants:
  • Relationship between Grassroots and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
  • Access. NGOs should work to access, identify and develop leaders and existing solutions within communities. Serving as enablers, we can support accessibility to and sharing of the core resources needed to foster greater impact.
  • Sustainability. NGOs should promote capacity-building and community ownership to both catalyse the emergence of new grassroots groups and ensure existing groups continue their work self-sufficiently and sustainably. Instead of providing ready-made solutions, the focus should be on connecting likeminded leaders in decentralized networks of information sharing.
  • Measuring success. NGOs should work with communities to develop new, community-supported, ways of measuring and interpreting success around the values of sustainable change and community ownership.
  • Reimagining the playing field. NGOs should work to reorient all funding systems to align with these tenants and the under acknowledged needs of grassroots organizations.We perceive the vision of our letter as an invitation to all—including young people and those in decision-making positions—to take immediate action to transform civil society. Let this letter stand not only as our message to civil society, but also as a broader commitment to move forward with confidence and purpose towards a just, sustainable and peaceful world.
  • As young people fighting for social justice, we make these criticisms and suggestions with the hope that they will contribute to a reimagining of the role, vision and methods of civil society. We recommit our lives to the struggle against inequality, poverty, environmental degradation and all injustices in whatever shape they assume.