Nairobi , 20 May 2005 - UN-HABITAT organized the first Somaliland urban forum from the late last month
The event brought together over 80 participants from 7 key municipalities and representatives from Somaliland Ministries, local NGOs and international organizations to discuss urban development and urban governance issues. It built on the achievements of UN-HABITAT's EC-funded ‘Good Local Governance and Leadership' Training Programme and its UNDP-funded ‘Support to the Priority Areas in the Urban Sector' Programme. It also marked the launch of Somaliland component of the new EC/UNDP-funded Urban Development Programme (2005 – 2008).
Cities presented the results of the participatory planning processes launched in their cities, and their plans for the future in an urban fair. In each city, councillors were first trained on ‘Local Leadership and Management Skills using a Somali version of UN-HABITAT's “Training for Elected Leadership Series” training manuals. Broad based City Consultations have been held and a wide range of action plans are being implemented. It's the first time that UN-HABITAT combines an intensive training package with support to participatory strategic and action planning processes. The training package further included training on participatory planning techniques for different type of stakeholders (local NGOs, businessmen, municipal officers, etc.) and training on the role of men and women in local development.
The achievements in the different cities are remarkable. The Ministry of Interior confirmed that the level of conflicts within councils has decreased and that their focus is much more on improving services and infrastructure in their district. In Sheikh, the authorities planted 1800 trees, protected the main water source from risk of flooding and started the rehabilitation of the main hospital with an immense contribution of the community and hardly any external support.
Prior to the Programme, there was no relationship between the community and the authorities. In Burao, Neighbourhood Committees were set up, with an assured representation of 30% women, to facilitate the mobilization of the community. The Committees have since already improved the garbage collection in town. In Hargeisa, over 800 vendors are voluntarily opening up streets which have been blocked for over 14 years. This major operation will enhance accessibility and hygienic conditions in the area. In Erigavo, the garbage collection system was greatly upgraded with assistance of the private sector and the community and no external support. In Gebiley, the municipality joined hands with a women's group in order to rebuild the main hospital from scratch.
Project funds were used to reconstruct the perimeter wall. The private sector and the central government committed themselves to build a number of out-patient rooms as a first step. In Boroma, informal vendors, which were blocking the main street since ten years, agreed to relocate to other areas, reviving smaller markets and allowing for the rehabilitation of the main road facilitating the traffic flow. In Berbera, the main playground was rehabilitated with important contributions of the community.
The achievements were judged by a jury, which included the Ministry of Interior. The first prize of the Somaliland Good Governance Award (first edition, 2004-2005) was given to Sheikh, the smallest of all towns but with a regional vocation for education and health services. Hargeisa, the capital was awarded the second prize while Erigavo received the third prize.
During a strategic planning workshop held between 25 th – 27 th April 2005 municipal officers and decision makers came to a common understanding on the importance of urban planning and design in developing their cities and agreed on the key issues to be dealt with, taking into account the specific characteristics and challenges of the Somali context. The UN-HABITAT team is basing its approach on the lessons learned from the “Localising Agenda 21” Programme, documented in UN-HABITAT's recent publication “Urban Trialogues”. The key issues defined will help to prioritize actions undertaken in the new Urban Development Programme.
UN-HABITAT was previously criticized by the authorities for not giving enough publicity to their activities. A new media strategy is being drafted. As a first step, UN-HABITAT initiated daily live media debates during the Forum discussing hot topics like land disputes, taxation, resettlement of IDPs, the role of the media in local governance and the performance of the councils in general.