By Ariana MacPherson (on behalf of SDI secretariat) and Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)
Today marks the last day of the 7th World Urban Forum (WUF), which took place in Medellin, Colombia from 5-11 April 2014. Patrick Maghebula, Rose Molokoane and Marlene Don – national co-ordinators of the South African Alliance – attended the forum together with numerous members affiliated to Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI). Convened by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), WUF is regarded as the ‘World’s Premier Conference on Cities’ that examines the most pressing issues concerning “human settlements, including rapid urbanization and its impact on cities, communities, economies, climate change and policies” (WUF 7). Given that the design, governance and infrastructure of cities directly impacts on social, cultural and economic inequality, this year’s forum was themed “Urban Equity in Development – Cities for Life’.
SDI launches the ‘Know Your City’ campaign
A lot of discussion at the past week’s WUF focused on the use of data as a key tool in the development of inclusive, sustainable cities. Key to this discussion is how data can be used in the cities of Africa, Asia and Latin America, most of which still face major challenges around urban poverty and whose city development strategies, for the most part, continue to exclude the large majority of these cities’ populations – the urban poor.
But at SDI’s networking event on Wednesday, a strategically different approach to data was presented and discussed. The ‘Know Your City’ campaign – a global campaign for gathering citywide data on slums as the basis for inclusive partnerships between the urban poor and their local governments – was presented as a critical component of the push for urban data. When communities of the urban poor collect data about their own communities, in partnership with their local and national governments, they are armed with the necessary tools to become key players developing urban development strategies that take into account the realities and needs of the city’s urban poor majority.
SDI-affiliated federations of the urban poor have been collecting information about themselves for decades. This data has led to upgrading projects in affiliates across Africa, Asia and Latin America, and has formed the basis of large-scale slum upgrading interventions in India, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and more recently, Uganda. Read more about the ‘Know your City’ campaign here.
SA Alliance on People Centred Strategies, Community-Collected Data and Partnerships with Local Governments
On Monday, Patrick Maghebhula joined alliance leaders from Kenya and Uganda in a discussion around how to put poor people at the centre of strategies on urban development. They highlighted how organised urban poor communities triggered new institutional responses to poverty in their cities and how urban poor communities across the Global South are developing relationships with governments that can lead to scaling up slum upgrading and improving quality of life.
Rose moderated an event on “Creating Resilient & Equitable Cities through Partnerships for Community –Collected Data” on Tuesday. The focus was on the critical role of such partnerships at the city-wide and global scale which can serve as a means to explore how data collected by the poor, about the poor and for the poor can become standard benchmarking data used by urban policy makers and planners. The key point was that every city can and should be generating data about urban poor communities with urban poor communities.
Yesterday’s UNDP event on “Strong Local Government for Development through Partnerships in Ghana, South Africa & Uganda” highlighted a new partnership between the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and SDI. This partnership aims to support deliberative engagements between local governments and organised slum dweller communities to build a base of data and skills. This approach is based on the experience that, all too often, city development initiatives have been based on a narrow comprehension of the cultural and socio-economic dynamics of the urban poor. However, informal settlement communities have begun organizing and networking at city wide and national scales in order to catalyse innovations with formal authorities for responding to land, sanitation, shelter, and opportunities for employment.
At today’s event, Marlene joins the discussion on “Smart Cities from the Bottom Up” which will look at the scarcity of hard data on which communities, governments and international agencies base development decisions. The discussion will elaborate on how community-driven profiling, enumerations, GIS mapping and data management are some core methodologies of urban poor federations such as the South African Alliance and other federations linked to SDI. By working together with experts in urban data analysis and research at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) the data collected by slum dwellers becomes of a standard suitable for local poverty analysis, advocacy and planning.
As WUF7 comes to a close, it is all the more evident that
“There cannot be transformation of the city if slum dwellers are not integrated” (Rose Molokoane, National Co-ordinator SA SDI Alliance)