Tag Archives: UN

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.


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.


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.


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


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.


Launching #UrbanAction in Quito

In October 2016, the world leaders and representatives of the member states will gather in Quito, Ecuador to adopt the New Urban Agenda, a brand new road map to deal with all urban issues and a guide to achieving SDGs particularly in the urban context. For the first time in history, young people were recognized as stakeholders in the drafting process and are frequently referred to throughout the document. That is why UN-HABITAT wants young people to be placed in the front line of the action that will follow. Acknowledging young people’s enormous potential and capacity, UN-HABITAT works with top global youth networks to ensure that Quito marks the beginning of the youth “#UrbanAction”.


What is #Urban Action?

#UrbanAction is a global campaign calling on young people to actively engage in positive urban development. Youth groups, organizations and individuals alike will be encouraged to design and develop #UrbanAction projects in their city that build on the commitments outlined in the New Urban Agenda, and positively contribute to achieving one (or more) of the SDGs. We aim to implement over 150 youth projects related to New Urban Agenda and SDGs within the first year of NUA adoption.


Why Youth?

Youth represent an essential and dynamic resource. Globally, 85% of the world’s young people live in developing countries and ever-increasing number of them is growing up in cities. We have the largest youth population ever – 1.8 billion young people are below 24 years of age. This is not a small number and as such, youth should be brought on-board as partners and assets.

Youth participation and engagement is the cornerstone of the #UrbanAction, empowering them to increase their level of engagement in local governance and activate their participation in sustainable urban development activities socially, politically and economically. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without significantly transforming the way we build and manage our urban spaces. The success lies in participatory and inclusive approaches that leave no-one behind.


While Quito will mark the launch of the #Urban Action, with first few project ideas implemented, the real work comes after Habitat III is over. Coordinated through the AIESEC international network and other partners, youth all over the world will commit and implement their #UrbanAction projects in their cities, in line with the New Urban Agenda and one (or more) of the SDGs. Join #UrbanAction today!

Youth Joining Voices with PrepCom3 Multi-Stakeholder Delegates

Written by Ying Gao, edited by Jasdeep Randhawa

#H3Youth kept up the momentum built after the huge success of WUYM and other youth parallel event(s) at PrepCom3.  Their activities were in good cooperation with the broader multi-stakeholder groups who worked hard to bring about a more inclusive New Urban Agenda with an eye toward its implementation, monitoring and evaluation.  Youth groups voiced their staunch and great support for cities and local governments, as well as for the Right to the City initiative, together with the broader civil society and advocates for local governments.  Youth activists with disability linked up with stakeholder group(s) to lobby with great effectiveness to mainstream important considerations for people with disability and those living in extreme poverty in urban settings.

Two official side events at PrepCom3, both on 27 July 2016, gave centre stage to discuss youth empowerment and contribution in the sustainable and inclusive urban agenda.  The first was “Prioritizing Children & Youth Within the New Urban Agenda” that brought together youth representatives, development partners (including UN-Habitat), and child centred agencies such as World Vision International.  The session emphasized the critical need of the youth to unite and work together in partnership with local authorities and partners.

The second was “Civic and Youth Participation in the Wired Age” made up of city governments, network of cities (CityNet), private sector companies, youth inclusive initiative (Block by Block), data initiatives Pulse Lab Jakarta (part of UN’s big data labs), among others.  Here, Microsoft Indonesia’s Ruben Hattari cautioned PrepCom3 participants that all the new technology in cities could go to waste in the absence of a people-centered approach and engagement with citizens, especially the next generation.  Youth contributed with lively Q&A from the floor, saying that social inclusion should be ensured in technologies and city development.  It was another demonstration of just how youth engagement in urban policy issues should work.



On the Road to Quito and Beyond

Going forward, UN-Habitat will support youth groups in their last one mile on the road towards Quito, and their journey beyond the New Urban Agenda.

We urge governments to accept youth as development partner – working together with cities and local governments, and ALL urban actors – in achieving the New Urban Agenda and meeting the SDG’s, especially SDG 11.

So, thank you so much Surabaya!  Congratulations to all youth leaders who contributed to PrepCom3 last week!  Don’t forget to get ready for Quito – and beyond!

Youth Said: We Can Be Partner in New Urban Agenda Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation

Written by Ying Gao, edited by Jasdeep Randhawa

Even before PrepCom3 proceedings got started, local Indonesia youth-led organizations IYMM and Kota Kita impressed everybody by organizing World Urban Youth Meeting.

This full-day parallel event brought together around 500 youth participants in a showcase of “Youth Perspectives and Actions Towards People-Centred City” on 24 July 2016 (Sunday), the day before PrepCom3.  UN-Habitat, together with UNTAG university and Surabaya city government, supported the joint effort.  With cooperation from Microsoft, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and UN country teams in Asia-Pacific, WUYM plenary sessions were livestreamed and linked with six cities beyond Surabaya, as well.


Firstly, UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director Aisa Kirabo Kacyira captured the moment and said (at the opening ceremony), “the next generation [and women] must be treated as development partner if we were to succeed in New Urban Agenda.”  Her opinion received enthusiastic support from youth during the event, which ran non-stop all day, from 7am to 7pm.


Perhaps more importantly, WUYM demonstrated that youth could be “doers” of inclusive urban development and policies that will be enshrined in the New Urban Agenda.  Youth-led and youth-inclusive initiatives presented  a range of variety expanding from the local to global: e.g. Urban Citizenship Academy, c2o in Surabaya, Safetipin for Manila, Youth 4 Global Goals, SDSN-Youth…just to name a few.

The Meeting was significantly diverse and highly participatory. The organizers directed the dialogue and focus group discussion (FGD) methodology; the youth volunteers facilitated the discussions, and the youth leaders shared best practices on urgent issues facing the urban youth such as “Good Government and Rights to the City”, “Urban Youth Against Extremism” and “Youth, Cities & Disaster Risk / Climate Change” (full schedule: here).  WUYM participants and speakers represented who’s who from PrepCom3.  Young people from 30 communities (kampungs) in Surabaya also joined forces.

To conclude a full day charged with youth energy, the APUFY 2015 delegate and urban planner, Emmy Yuniarti Rusadi declared at closing plenary, “We as youth have big responsibility in our own future.”  Having contributed to Indonesia’s national Habitat III consultations and also becoming one of the independent candidates for Mayoral elections in her city (after participating at APUFY in October 2015), Emmy sent powerful message to #H3youth, urging young people to see beyond “these big UN conferences,” and commit to act on the ground to improve communities and cities.  Joce Timoty Pardosi, Executive Director of IYMM, said their organization and actions in Indonesia, including contributions at PrepCom3, were the tangible legacy of APUFY.  Many youth speakers similarly expressed determination to stay engaged for the long haul, and to act as change agents both locally and globally.

Habitat III is all about cities. The UN should give them a seat at the table

Habitat III will be the UN’s first urbanization conference in 20 years – and some countries are trying to prevent cities from participating. Yet from the global economy to climate change, cities offer our best hope for solutions.

Favela Morumbi, one of Sao Paulo’s biggest slums. With a population of 20 million, the city is the largest in South America. Photograph: Alexandre Meneghini/AP
Favela Morumbi, one of Sao Paulo’s biggest slums. With a population of 20 million, the city is the largest in South America. Photograph: Alexandre Meneghini/AP

UN conferences on urbanization occur just once every 20 years. The third, Habitat III, will convene in Quito, Ecuador late next year. It is a unique opportunity for the world’s nations to debate the future of their cities, as urbanization becomes the defining social phenomenon of our time.

There’s just one problem. It remains possible that the cities of the world – from small metropolises to New York and London and Tokyo – may not get a seat at the table. Even in a world that is now majority urban for the first time in history, the issues of city economies, slums and climate crises may well be discussed without a single mayor or city councilperson able to speak.

It’s up to the nation states to decide whether to allow in cities and spokespeople for civil society. A clear precedent to welcome them was set at the last Habitat conference, in Istanbul in 1996; the General Assembly’s resolution authorizing Habitat III added that the Quito conference should exceed that level of public participation. But negotiating the details is complicated, and at a recent UN session in Nairobi, some nation-state delegations blocked agreement on a similar open-door policy for Quito. Now the issue will have to be shoehorned into an already crowded agenda of the General Assembly meeting in New York this fall.

It’s not just Habitat III where this is happening. Roughly three-quarters of all carbon emissions are generated in cities, or for the benefit of urban dwellers – but cities were effectively excluded from the global climate negotiations in Lima last year. They fear the same may happen at the next, potentially decisive round of negotiations in Paris this December. In preparatory documents for the conference, cities weren’t even mentioned.

Yet while they’re the prime polluters, cities are also on the forefront of climate solutions – and not just by setting goals. Some are cutting their carbon emissions already. A recent UN-Habitat study shows that at least 19 cities – among them Berlin, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Mexico City, New York and Toronto – can prove they’ve reduced their annual CO2 emissions.

Some nation-state leaders do recognize the importance of cities in the battle for a safer environment. US Secretary of State John Kerry, expressing concern that the Paris negotiations would set unambitious goals, recently told the Washington Post that it’s time to bring the weight of global civil society to bear, starting with cities and mayors. And in a dramatic broadside issued 30 June, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced they would co-host the Climate Summit for Local Leaders in Paris on 4 December, timed to coincide with the climate negotiations there.

Tiny rural nations such as Burundi have an equal vote in the UN General Assembly. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian
Tiny rural nations such as Burundi have an equal vote in the UN General Assembly. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

Bloomberg, who is the UN special envoy for cities and climate change, was also a key actor in last year’s announcement of a Compact of Mayors representing key global associations of cities. Among them are the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, representing metropolises such as Tokyo, New York, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires and Jakarta, and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, which has roughly 1,000 city members worldwide. The effort is supported by United Cities and Local Governments, the major worldwide network of cities.

With all this organized experience, it’s not always clear why nation-states are so reluctant to welcome cities into their official sessions. Some national delegations may simply consider local and regional governments inferior. Politics can play a role as well: national leaders may be reluctant to give a stage to big-city mayors, who are sometimes their political rivals. Or it could just be indifference. In the recent debate over the UN’s sustainable development goals, it took a concerted campaign by urban strategists to get a specific goal related to urbanization.

“The more the world is urbanized, the more difficult it becomes for nations to accept this,” said Yunus Arikan, head of global advocacy for ICLEI. “If nations don’t get the point that they have to work with local and subnational governments, they’ll not just miss a huge opportunity. They’ll be on track for failure.”

The quandary is that opening the UN’s door to cities as real players depends not just on heavily urbanised states such as the US, Brazil, India and China. Tiny, rural nations such as Burundi and Tonga have equal votes in the General Assembly. That may have made sense back in 1945, when a much more rural world founded the UN. But does it make sense now that we’re close to 55% urban, and headed for 70% or higher by mid-century? From climate talks to Habitat III and a host of other pressing issues, that’s the question.

The original article has been posted on the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/aug/05/habitat-iii-is-all-about-cities-the-un-should-give-them-a-seat-at-the-table#img-3

Neal Peirce is editor-in-chief of Citiscope.org, a news service covering innovation in cities as well as the lead up to Habitat III.



What’s next for EAC & UN-HABITAT?


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!


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.


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.

Young people rocking the Youth & Urbanization Workshop at East Africa Cup 2015


Every morning, 46 participants from different communities in Arusha, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya (Dandora) join the Youth & Urbanization workshop organized and run by the UN-HABITAT. For two hours a day, they work in small groups on assessing their communities and towns in terms of sports equipment and facilities using various participatory methodologies.


The interactive workshop is structured in three parts. Firstly, young people work on mapping their communities. They draw a map of their community and mark the existing landmarks and sports facilities. They discuss and make a wish-list of sports infrastructure that they would like to have. At the end, they are asked to find a space where they think these new facilities could be placed, using their community maps.


In the second part, they work on their road maps. They think about the current and future scenarios more critically. They discuss the challenges they have and the roots of these problems. They paint the ideal scenario that they would like to see in the future and try to identify enablers – what is going to help them to achieve their dreamt vision. Ultimately, they are guided to come up with action points to bridge the problems with the goals.

On the last day, they will explain the current situation to wider audience and present their strategies to reach their goals.


The workshops have been a great fun. The energy and ideas of the participants was fantastic, giving is a lot to think about and a lot to work on. The direct consultations with young people are priceless for the UN-HABITAT and we appreciate the enthusiasm that these young people put into this. We can’t wait to see the follow up actions and the first steps of the community change!


3rd Public Space Biennale – Launch of the Toolkit


Launch of the Global Public Space Toolkit

Last day of the Biennale witnessed the launch of the Global Public Space Toolkit, a unique publication to help the local governments and service providers to improve the availability, quality and distribution of good public spaces. Often, public spaces are marginalized topic in planning discussions so having a document with various case studies, best practices, references and actionable ideas can be as useful for mayors and policy makers as for students, NGOs and interested individuals.

The importance of public space is undeniable, yet often underestimated. The challenge often starts with simple understanding of what public space is and who’s responsible for it. People should be aware of their role in creating and managing (or maintaining) public space; they should know that public space belongs to them, and thus strive to work together with the governments to have spaces socially acceptable for everyone. Governments cannot do the job alone, people cannot do the job alone, and private sector cannot do the job alone. Good governance and collaboration of all parties is a key to successful management of public spaces.

The toolkit will be a practical reference for local governments to frame and implement principles, policy recommendations and development initiatives on public space and for central governments to aid their efforts with material support and enabling legislation. It will also serve the purpose of demonstrating the value of the involvement if the citizenry and civil society in securing, developing and managing public space in the city.

This first editions aims to kick off the series of discussions around public space globally. With more input and changing policies and environment, the toolkit will be updated and altered to make it as relevant and appropriate as possible.



Don’t miss out on the UN-Habitat Youth Events in NY!

2014-09-18 09.34.46

The UN-Habitat Youth Unit is organizing a series of youth events in New York next week, to discuss issues related to youth participation in governance, peacebuilding and leadership.

The events will be happening on May 27th and 28th in New York, on the margins of the High-Level Event of the President of the General Assembly commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth on Friday, 29 May 2015.

The events, include:

1- Side-event: Youth 21 – Building for Change!

Venue: Conference Room D, UNHQ

Date: May 28th, 10 AM – 12 PM

 Summary: This will be an open side-event hosted by the Task Team at the UNHQ to present the Youth 21 initiative, the progress so far to all the stakeholders and to explore more in depth the six different scenarios currently at the table. The event will also explore the need for better engaging youth in governance at all levels, and share some best practices from member states and youth groups.

Issues to be addressed:

  • What are the scenarios can directly benefit youth?
  • How can we look into the different alternatives with a more systematic approach?
  • What are the steps to develop and strengthen mechanisms for youth participation in the UN?
  • What role young people can play in the process of creating such mechanisms?

2- Roundtable: “Enhancing youth participation and political inclusion in governance at all levels”

Venue: Conference Room A, UNHQ

Date: May 28th, 1:15 pm – 2:45 pm

Co-organized by: UNDP and UN-Habitat

Summary: The discussion in this roundtable will address the importance of enhancing youth participation and political inclusion in governance at all levels. A key notion of sustainable development is youth participation. The event will also discuss the importance of enhancing the coordination and coherence within the UN system itself, and the need for a greater formal participation of youth in the UN.

The Post2015/SDG process is entering its final round with the SDG summit coming up in September this year. The discussion in the roundtable will also address the importance of involving youth at the SDG summit, and in the national processes designing the national action plans for the SDGs once approved.

We will learn from good practices from the field in terms of youth participation at the local and national level, as well dive into the discussion around how to address the linkages between WPAY, SWAP and the SDGs as different frameworks but with a common goal of youth empowerment. There will also be room to discuss the gaps in the WPAY and the lack of a good discussion forum for member states to discuss youth empowerment on a regular basis.

The speakers at the roundtable represent the various key stakeholders in this field: UN agencies, governments and youth-led organizations.

Issues to be addressed:

  • Importance of enhancing coordination and coherence within the UN system
  • Centrality of youth participation at all levels for development
  • Importance of youth participation in national processes developing action plans for SDGs
  • Lessons learned from the field – examples of interventions at local and national levels


3- Side-event: Engaging youth in peacebuilding in fragile states

Venue: Conference Room D, UNHQ

Date: May 28th, 03 PM – 04:30 PM

Summary: There is a growing recognition globally that youth can play a positive role in building peace even in the most fragile of states.  We have seen both in Somalia and Afghanistan government and youth working together to craft national policies and develop programmes that assure youth’s engagement in governance. In the Democratic Republic of Congo youth and peacebuilding centres are being established based on the successful Kimisigara One Stop Youth Resource Centre in Kigali, Rwanda.

This session will highlight different models of youth engagement in peacebuilding in fragile states, with the goal to initiating a discussion on the factors that go into creating successful initiatives, and what the roles of youth, local and national governments, and the UN have in supporting these.

Questions to be addressed:

  • What role young people play in peacebuilding?
  • What are the good experiences from the field, and models we could scale up?
  • How can we create enabling environments for youth to actively engage in peacebuilding?

If you will be in NY and would like to receive more information and attend them, please, fill in this form and we will soon get in touch with you!

(Please note, UN-Habitat Youth Unit has no resources allocated to support participation at this stage, therefore you will be responsible for covering the expenses related to your participation in NY).

3rd Public Spaces Biennale – Public Spaces in Africa


Streets and Public Spaces as Drivers of Urban Development in Africa

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

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

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

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

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