UN-HABITAT developed this programme in response to requests from the Governments of Somaliland and Puntland, as well as UNDP (which financed the Preparatory Assistance Phase). It started in early 2003, with a view to formulating a programme in support of the urban sector and addressing a number of priorities to facilitate a process of sustainable urban development:
- Building capacities to improve the planning and management of Somaliland cities
- Improving local revenue collection while delivering basic services
- Identifying and executing priority capital investment projects
The objective of the project was to increase efficiency in urban planning, management, and development control, as well as service delivery and financial management – all the while strengthening governance instruments.
The Support to Priority Areas in the Urban Sector Programme carried out rehabilitation work on government buildings, using a similar participatory approach as applied in the Berbera Technical and Institutional Assistance Programme. The rehabilitation and expansion of the Hargeisa municipal building was completed in 2004. Other rehabilitation projects included the Boroma municipal building, the new governor’s office, an annexe to the Ministry of Interior building in Hargeisa, and the Garowe municipal building in Puntland. These were not mere infrastructure inputs, but stepping stones towards establishing strong organizational structures.
The projects also familiarized local authorities and construction companies with transparent tender procedures. Regarding legal support, initial assessments on existing urban law were conducted in Somaliland and Puntland. Assistance was given to the writing of the Hargeisa City Charter, the Decentralization Law of Somaliland, and several other urban laws in Somaliland and Puntland, after which the process started to discuss their adaptation in parliament. As this is a long-term process, it was further taken up in UN-HABITAT and UNDP follow-up programmes.
With the Somali region’s outdated, inaccurate maps and dysfunctional urban cadastral systems, as well as the absence of geodetic reference data for many decades, there were serious land management needs. Towards the end of 2002, UN-HABITAT set up a Geographic Information System (GIS) and did a pilot land survey in Gebiley, Somaliland. A second pilot survey followed in Burao during the first half of 2003. However, the programme’s GIS and land management component fully took off with the setting up of an Urban Land Information System in Hargeisa in 2004. Experts first vectorized a high-resolution satellite image of the city, digitized all the properties and building blocks visible on screen, and then organized a door-to-door housing survey to gather information on each building’s status.
The property information system generated from the survey data and the digitized imagery form the base for new tax collection systems. In addition, this vital information is an important tool for a wide range of urban planning and development activities. The approach has been replicated in Boroma and Berbera, and other cities will follow. At the same time, multi-purpose base maps have been created for more than 20 cities throughout the Somali region, none of which had up-to-date town maps.
Municipal finance training material has been developed and an assessment has taken place on the status of financial management and administration in Somaliland. A programme was organized to train trainers, followed by trainings in the cities.
The Support to Priority Areas in the Urban Sector Programme initiated urban analyses and planning activities, starting with assessments on the situation of IDPs and returnees and a Rapid Urban Spatial Analysis in several cities in all three regions. The programme also contributed to the joint-agency tsunami assessment in early 2005. From mid-2005, activities were fully integrated into the Urban Development Programme for the Somali region.