Resolving to place their urban poverty crisis at the top of the national and international policy making agenda, African ministers responsible for housing and urban development on Tuesday discussed a 10-point game plan designed to reduce urban poverty, defuse potential social unrest, and reverse the perception that governments are not doing enough, quickly enough.
The ministers from more than 30 African countries were meeting on the second and final day of the Special African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (AMCHUD) in Nairobi, Kenya.
The conference hosted by government of Kenya and UN-HABITAT, and chaired by South Africa was expected to translate its deliberations into a new set of resolutions aimed at reversing the urbanisation of poverty in a continent where over 70 percent of urban populations live in slums.
The 10 key points of discussion revolved around:
- The decentralisation of authority and the role of the State in granting greater decision making authority to local officials. They agreed that there could be no sustainable development without sustainable urban development, institutional and policy frameworks. This called for decentralisation of powers of the allocation of fiscal resources, improved service delivery, better integration of urban and rural development, promoting more effective governance and the participation of local communities in improvement plans.
- On institutional and policy frameworks, many states said they were revising or developing new urban or housing policies. Many saw a role for government in low and middle-income housing and strengthening governance. They agreed that housing delivery was not something that should be deal with on its own, but rather as part of national policy involving all sectors of government. They also sought medium-term policy frameworks for better environmental management, housing development plans that incorporate slum upgrading, and tighter coordination between housing and land ministries.
- On land management and development, they cited a need to make sufficient land available to all sectors and sought an end to the politicisation of land, especially land-grabbing. Many ministers also presented a range of tenure systems and approaches in their countries.
- The conference agreed that there is a need to develop sustainable housing finance mechanisms, and that the private sector had to be brought into new, profitable public-private partnerships. Some countries suggested targeted assistance to different income and social groups, others recommended that a portion of national budgets be allocated to housing. They also raised pro-poor financing mechanisms and a formula for low-cost housing delivery that could be emulated through regional and international best practices.
- The conference felt capacity building at the local and national levels had to be improved in areas ranging from town planning and engineering to HIV/AIDS, tackling corruption, post-conflict management, strengthening the role of women and financial management.
- On governance and participation they all cited the importance of working with civil society organizations, including women’s groups, in the delivery of land and housing. Several stressed the impact of corruption and called for better leadership. The ministers called for a common vision for housing, shared by the public, the private sector and civil society.
- They agreed that problems of urbanisation caused by natural disasters and conflict could only be dealt with in an atmosphere of peace and freedom.
- When it came to empowerment, several suggested community approaches to housing delivery and community savings schemes.
- On partnership, the ministers called for better and more coordinated support from development partners, specific intra-regional, north-south, and south-south capacity building partnerships, stronger exchanges among slum dwellers on improvement options, and a special role for AMCHUD in supporting south-south exchanges.
- The conference, finally felt that enforcement of existing land regulations and building codes was crucial. They also agreed that ways had to found to minimise squatting on public lands allocated for the development of site and service schemes.
Asked bluntly at a news conference what they would be taking home to their capitals, after the two-day meeting, Chad’s Ministers for Regional Development and the Habitat, Ms. Chene Adoum reflected the views of her colleagues when she replied: “We will be taking home a set of new resolutions aimed at galvanising awareness of our social housing problems, demanding that the fight against the urbanisation of poverty is instituted at national level with national budget allocations as well as donor support.”
Pledging to keep urban poverty high on the national agenda, the international agenda and in the public eye, the ministers were also set to agree on a date for their next meeting and on the country which will host it.