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Reflections on H3 Pretoria: Can we Implement Progressive Outcomes?

By CORC, ISN, SDI No Comments

by Ava Rose Hoffman, Yolande Hendler and Skye Dobson (on behalf of CORC)

From 7-8 April 2016, the SA SDI Alliance together with Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) participated in the United Nations Habitat III Thematic Conference on Informal Settlements in Pretoria, advocating for the inclusion of  the voices of the urban poor in crafting the “New Urban Agenda” (NUA).

SDI Team

SDI Team

The Problem of Mass Housing, The Potential of Informal Settlements

In his opening address, Dr. Joan Clos, emphasised that informal settlements and housing should be “put at the centre” politically and physically. Mass housing projects on the periphery of cities would need to be diminished because without economic activity and mixed (land) use they become dormitory neighbourhoods for the poor. Clos suggested that urbanisation needed to be used as a tool for socio-economic development through well-planned and managed cities, proposing that the following three dimensions of urbanisation need to be considered:

  • The Legal Dimension (requiring new rules and regulations)
  • The Physical Dimension (spatial planning and land use)
  • The Financial Dimension (enabling economic design and finance)

While Clos noted that each dimension requires strategic instruments to address the “proliferation of slum dwellers”, we wonder where the “Social Dimension” featured in this discussion. The absence of shack dwellers as central agents and decision makers in planning, implementation and access to finance produces limited and brittle results. The South African Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, alluded to this effect: “We [the Department of Human Settlements] experienced challenges from time to time because we did not always understand the environment we were going in to. We are looking to adjust this legislation.” Whereas adjusted legislation carries some impact, the underlying value lies within the experience that informs strategic contributions of slum dwellers themselves.

Opening address by Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN Habitat

Opening address by Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN Habitat

Where Planning Falls Short…

However, what purpose do master plans render if they are not implemented? And, how do we rethink the relationship between living spaces and workplaces? In a panel on the role of urban planning and land use, Julian Baskin (Head of Program Unit at Cities Alliance) emphasised that the urban agenda was not only about housing but how we access cities and livelihoods. Slum dwellers are no longer waiting for government, Baskin explained, but are organising themselves, forming their own plans and collecting their own data.

Slum dwellers are arriving at local governments around secondary cities saying, ‘We have our own information, partner with us’. When you have people in communities who understand plans and how to control their own development, you suddenly gain multiple planners….National governments need to build enabling legislation for cities, between local governments and communities, so that planning can be transferred to slum dwellers themselves.

Informal Settlements: Productive Centres for Resident Organising and Livelihoods

In two side events, community leaders affiliated to SDI spoke of the connection between informal settlements, livelihoods and mobilisation strategies through savings and data collection. The conversation was grounded by the very personal account of Catherine, a young mother from Johannesburg who spoke of her experience as a waste picker and recycler. In a soft, and, at moments, shaky voice, she recounted,

“I am a waste picker because this is how I support my children. This is how my mother supported us. I mainly work with cardboard and scale it every day. For 1Kg I am paid 90c.”



Based on Catherine’s account and a further presentation by SDI partner movement, Women in Informal Employment: Globalising and Organising (WIEGO), it was evident that daily life in informal settlements significantly co-exists and intersects with livelihood activities such as waste picking, street vending and home based work. Therefore,

  • Informal settlements are spaces of productivity and economic activity: homes are productive assets that contribute to economic livelihoods.
  • Basic services are inputs for informal workers’ productivity and function as a direct link to livelihoods.
  • Informal settlements are intricately connected to economic migrants and livelihood opportunities.

Rose Molokoane, Coordinator of FEDUP and Deputy President of SDI spoke about the broader involvement and mobilisation of shack dwellers in global discussions on development:

“As informal settlers we ask ourselves, what was achieved by the MDGs discussed twenty years ago ? Will the SDGs really attend to the needs of poor people in informal settlements? People who are planning for us without us are making a mistake. Informal settlements keep growing because most of the time we are taken as the subject of discussion without including us in the discussion… We use the power of savings and information about our informal settlements to organise ourselves, to reach out to our communities, to do something and to allow government to meet us half way” (Rose Molokoane, SDI & SA SDI Alliance)

Victoria Okoye (WIEGO) and Rose Molokoane on the left,

Victoria Okoye (WIEGO) and Rose Molokoane on the left,

As a collective of global movements, WIEGO, SDI and the Huairou Commission seek to ensure that the NUA promotes inclusion and produces equitable social and economic outcomes. Some of these include:

  • Recognition of all forms of work, both informal and formal
  • Greater access to affordable financial services, training new technologies and decent and secure workplaces for all women and men
  • Adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services
  • Security of tenure for the urban poor and a stop to all forced evictions

Know Your City: Community Collected Data for Collaborative City Planning

With panelists clad in Know Your City T-shirts and the presentation of a KnowYourCity explanatory video set to an upbeat soundtrack, the mood was set for a different kind of panel. Thus far, the voices of informal settlement dwellers had been sparse in the conference. That was, until the Know Your City side event.

SDI’s Know Your City (KYC) campaign emphasises that the “data revolution” is central to the New Urban Agenda (NUA). It constitutes a true data revolution as shack dwellers are organised across the Global South not only to gather invaluable data on informal settlements, but to use it as the foundation for partnerships and collaborative urban planning. While “partnerships” between communities and government are widely accepted as critical to the success of the NUA, the mechanisms for actually realising productive partnerships are poorly understood. The KYC campaign has proven a highly effective strategy for catalysing such partnership and sustained dialogue between communities and government.

Mzwanele Zulu and Joyce Lungu, community leaders of urban poor federations in South Africa and Zambia, spoke of their experience profiling, enumerating and mapping their cities. Joyce spoke of the Zambian federation’s work to profile Lusaka through the strong organisational capacity in slum dweller communities. While the challenge for non-residents concerned entering and gathering reliable data, the power this information constituted for residents was evident when it was shared with government partners in the city council to identify incremental upgrading of settlements through prioritising needs and projects.

Mzwanele Zulu appreciated the large audience at the event, but gave an impassioned plea for more government officials to make the effort to attend the panels of informal dwellers. He highlighted the critical role of household level enumerations in organising his community in Joe Slovo, Cape Town.  Initially, the government claimed there were too many shack dwellers to accommodate in the planned upgrade and advised on relocations to the outskirts of the city. The enumeration revealed the actual population to be far smaller and negotiations with government resulted in an agreement to undertake an in situ development. The enumeration data was also vital to the beneficiary registration process – something often mismanaged in upgrading projects, often at the expense of the poorest residents.


Joyce Lungu, Zambian Federation Leader

Julian Baskin (of Cities Alliance) reminded the audience that a tremendous change is required to create an environment that catalyses the efforts of the urban poor to improve their communities instead of simply “controlling” urban poor communities. He applauded the efforts of organised slum dweller communities in SDI to gather critical data, plan for settlement improvements and seek partnerships with government. To meet the demand of informal settlement upgrading in the Global South, partnerships that bring the efforts of a billion slum dwellers to the service of city development will be essential.

CORC Deputy Director, Charlton Ziervogel, wrapped up the discussion by explaining the process undertaken by the SDI network to standardise profiling data. Such standardisation makes it possible to aggregate data at the regional and global level which is currently hosted on SDI’s Know Your City online platform. In South Africa, FEDUP and the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) are working on two government tenders to gather data on hundreds of informal settlements in the Western Cape. Affiliates in Uganda and Kenya are making similar progress. These cases serve as powerful examples of authentic government partnership and a data revolution that chooses communities over consultants to gather data and serve as the foundation for inclusive, collaborative planning.


Know Your City Side Event

How Can we Implement Progressive Outcomes? 

The two day thematic meeting ended with the adoption of the Pretoria Declaration on Informal Settlements, which is considered as official input on informal settlements to the New Urban Agenda. UN Habitat also launched its “Up for Slum Dwellers – Transforming a Billion Lives’ campaign, hosted by UN Habitat’s Participatory Slum Upgrading Program (PSUP) and the World Urban Campaign with the aim to bring about a new paradigm regarding global responses to slum upgrading.

In its current version, the Pretoria Declaration presents progressive and people-centred recommendations that relate to embracing the importance of in-situ participatory slum upgrading approaches, pursuing a focus on people-centred partnerships as suggested by “People-Public-Private Partnerships”, using participatory and inclusive approaches to developing policy, strengthening the role of local government and recognising civil society as a key actor in participatory processes. The Declaration also emphasises that the NUA should be action-oriented and implementable.

Although the declaration indicates that action should be concentrated at the local government level and that UN Habitat support to states occurs through tools such as the PSUP (See Point 9 in the Declaration), “the how” remains a strong concern for members of the South African SDI Alliance, and SDI network. While the SDI network and “Know Your City” approach was characterised by a strong presence and the message of “plan with us, not for us” was well received the mechanisms for implementation remain unclear:

“We have this beautiful constitution, but how will South African municipalities act? Politicians and officials talk very nicely – I hope that they will open doors for us when we engage them. Since I joined ISN in 2009 we are battling to sign Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with municipalities for upgrading. We only have the MoU with the City of Cape Town and eight provincial agreements with national government, but those are for the People’s Housing Process and not for upgrading. Do we know what is really happening on the ground or are we just becoming advocates of theory?” (Mzwanele Zulu, SA SDI Alliance)

“The highlight for me was making sure that our voices and messages were heard. Part of my concern was when I looked at the expenses of this event. There are a lot of people who don’t have and here is our government spending so much money on this event. But when you go and ask them to assist poor people you don’t get that response” (Melanie Manuel, SA SDI Alliance)

Watch Rose Molokoane’s input to the NUA on behalf of SDI here.

Community organisations engaging Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality

By FEDUP, ISN, News One Comment

By Kwanele Sibanda, CORC
Representative of Freedom Square West seeks clarity after the presentation

An ISN leadership meeting was held in Bloemfontein on the 8th of March 2012 where 76 leaders represented 14 informal settlements falling under the Mangaung Metro Municipality. This was the first ISN leadership meeting that brought together all the Bloemfontein informal settlement leaders. The main objective of the meeting was to ensure that community leaders were familiar with the core activities and principles of the ISN. More importantly, the meeting was used as a platform for the leaders to identify the first pilot settlement where an enumeration will be conducted and to elect a coordinating team for the Mangaung region. The pilot project suggested was Pieter Swaart informal settlement because of its dire need for water provision (residents are forced to buy water from nearby formal houses at premium rates).

At the meeting, leaders were afforded the opportunity to ask questions relating to ISN. This discussion triggered many responses about the nature of community mobilisation and engagement with local government, and briefly presented the common challenges amongst the settlements that are potential ISN pilot projects. These challenges related to sanitation and water provision, access routes for emergency services and community halls. Other bigger challenges noted included the need for schools, electricity, churches and police stations. Unlike numerous informal settlements of Gauteng and Cape Town, most of Mangaung informal settlements are situated on municipal land and shacks are widely spaced.

On Wednesday 13 March, the newly elected regional ISN delegation met with the Mangaung Metro officials. Ten informal settlements were represented. The official was impressed with ISN’s approach to upgrading and further more requested the team to make a presentation to the Mayor, town planners and other relevant departments that he is going to invite. After the meeting with the Metro officials, a large gathering in Pieter Swaart settlement was organized, and more than 170 community members attended the meeting. Once again, the regional ISN coordinating team was introduced to the wider community and the core activities of the ISN, especially that of enumeration, were introduced to the gathering.

The groups also expressed solidarity and a commitment to working together. This was concretised when the coordination team tracked a number of households who were evicted from a settlement close to Bloemfontein’s CBD. The households have been sheltering in a hostel building. Following up on evicted families will be a defining characteristic of the regional coordinating team’s programme of action for future negotiations.

Partnerships for change: New approaches to financing informal settlement upgrading

By CORC, ISN, News No Comments

By Walter Fieuw, CORC, and Vernon Bowers, Stellenbosch Municipality


The creation of a new Urban Poor Fund was the highlight of the event: The community contributed R12,000 in savings

The enduring nature and extent of homelessness and landlessness in post-apartheid South Africa has compelled new approaches to housing the urban poor. Informal settlement upgrading – an incremental approach to securing tenure and improving basic service delivery – has gained recognition at local and national levels. The central participation of shack dwellers in the planning and implementation of settlement upgrading is integral to the creation of sustainable human settlements and inclusive cities. The anticipation for ‘deepening democracy’ through governance reform and extensive participation is arguably precursory to the prospects of ameliorating the depressing living conditions of slum dwellers. There has possibly never been a greater need for establishing effective partnerships between civil society and the state capable to navigate the turmoil currents of the urban crisis.

international delegation, sign sbos </p> <p>New political actors have emerged that are influencing the national upgrading agenda. Among these are the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), a bottom-up agglomeration of local-level and national-level organisations of urban poor in Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini (Durban), Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth), and Stellenbosch. ISN, together with the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) – a woman-led federation of slum dwellers practicing savings, enumerations and partnerships with the state – and support NGOs Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC), iKayalami, and uTshani Fund, promote pro-poor and inclusive cities through people-centred development. These organisations are linked to Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), a global network of similar organisations of the urban poor in 33 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America. SDI builds partnerships with government that put shack dwellers at the centre of upgrading their built environment. As the South African SDI Alliance saying goes: “Nothing for us without us”.</p> <p>The Alliance promotes the establishment of citywide “Urban Poor Funds” which are community-driven development funding facilities that support community-initiated projects. Urban Poor Funds are financed by contributions from the local municipality combined with the savings of the poor, and are often strengthened by international donor funding. These funds are co-managed between organised communities and the municipality, and tend to by-pass the red tape and costly bureaucracy of state delivery mechanisms. These precedent-setting funds build on the collective capacity of local savings groups and link local upgrading efforts to wider policy change. This form of development-finance has particularly gained currency in South East Asian countries where institutional innovation, transparency and accountability resulted in empowered communities and significant poverty alleviation. In South Africa, the Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF), located in uTshani Fund, has provided seed capital for more than 50 pilot upgrading projects. Communities are expected to contribute ten percent to the total project cost, a significant contribution considering the depth of poverty in many settlements.</p> <p>Stellenbosch Municipality has been a trend-setter in pledging support and partnership toward such ends. The sheer scale of the housing need – a backlog of 19,701 housing subsidy applications paired with roughly 9,000 backyarder households and 9,000 informal settlement households – compared to the meagre 300 housing subsidy allocations per year, illustrates the extent of the urban crisis Stellenbosch Municipality is facing. The partnership-in-the-making has evolved over two years and key city officials, such as Mr. David Carolissen (manager of the informal settlements department) and Mr. Johru Robyn (town planner in the housing department), were exposed to upgrading projects in Uganda through the SDI learning exchange programme. “We were investigating alternative solutions to the problems being faced by shack dwellers and approached SDI about two years ago in the hope that we could not only investigate potential partnerships but also note key lessons learned in managing informal settlements. The involvement of community members is crucial in achieving any form of success and partnering with SDI cements this involvement,

The South African SDI Alliance and Stellenbosch Municipality signed an important Memorandum of Understanding


At a spirited event on 12th November in the informal settlement of Langrug on the outskirts of Franschhoek, the Executive Mayor, H.E. Mr. Conrad Sidego, said: “The benefits of this partnership are far-reaching and should be viewed as a paradigm shift in municipal governance.” This historical event was centred on the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the South African Alliance aligned to SDI and the Stellenbosch Municipality. The establishment of an Urban Poor Fund servicing informal settlements in the borders of the Stellenbosch Municipality concretised this pledge of partnership and renewal to “municipal governance”. Delegates from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Swedish International Development Agency, the Governments of Norway and Uganda, and representatives from poor people’s federations in India, Namibia and Malawi were present. The Urban Poor Fund was financed by contributions by the Alliance and the municipality to the value of R3.5 million. Perhaps most significantly, R12,000 of hard-earned savings by the poor of the Stellenbosch region were also pledged.

In the first financial year, in addition to the capital and operational expenditure of community-initiated projects, the Fund will aim to “build an urban poor platform through a network of informal settlements and informal backyarders” by surveying, mapping and profiling settlements with the view of up-scaling upgrading across the municipality. Provisions are also made to invest in the social institutions of the poor in order to manage the partnership projects (e.g. setting up mini offices in five strategic clusters). Tiers of government and other interested parties to participate, especially role players in urban development, will also be engaged with the view of researching and designing “financial facility that incentivises community participation in informal settlement upgrading”.

Jockin Arputham, the president of SDI and of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of India, addressed the residents of informal settlements across the municipality: “If everyone depends on the waiting list, it might be 25 – 40 years. And then you won’t even get water or a toilet. I think that the Municipality of Stellenbosch has taken a lead, and they have come forward with a very, very big blessing that where ever you live, that is your land of ownership. If you have your land, you can improve your housing and living condition, which is designed by you. It is our pleasure to set up the urban development community fund where people will have access to the money and the work has to be done by you, the way you want it. Your frustration list is the waiting list.”

The Mayor added: “Today is about changing mindsets in providing housing … Just days ago we contemplated that we now have seven billion people on the planet and the challenges going with that … For us as the local government, we also need to understand and face the reality of what we need to do. If we continue with our old thinking, there is no way that we are going to change this.”


International delegates from SDI were present to support the new partnership with Stellenbosch Municipality