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“Africa’s Urban Infrastructure Must Be People-Centered” – says Kacyira
Nairobi, 6 May 2015 – “Provision of urban infrastructure must not be an exclusive preserve but more importantly it should be people-centered” UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director, Aisa Kirabo Kacyira gave this advice to African Mayors at the Second Urban Infrastructure Investment Forum which was held recently in Luanda, Angola.
In framing the process of systematizing best practice in post-conflict reconstruction, Dr. Kacyira urged governments to adopt a people-centered approach and insure an integrated planning process. She identified some guiding principles and policies that would help address the aspirations of the vulnerable and populations emerging from conflict, bearing in mind that infrastructure is not limited to physical infrastructure, but includes community participation and ownership, inclusive access to basic infrastructure and social services in order to lead to community reconciliation and restoration, post conflict resilience.
According to Dr. Kacyira, sustainability during post-conflict and imminent development must be secured through proactive, coordinated and participatory urban planning and design based on sound urban governance and the rule of law. The UN Assistant-Secretary-General also explained that leaders should facilitate planning to focus both on the urgent needs while upholding the long term strategic principles for instance the delineation of adequate public space and protection of ecological vulnerable land areas needs to be considered.
This ensures the safety and security of the affected communities, enables a more smooth transformation from emergency to rehabilitation and development and fosters sustainable development. This is especially important given the fact that many settlement areas created during times of emergencies finally often times stay much longer than earlier envisioned (for up to over 20 years).
Security of land tenure in post-conflict infrastructural development
Dr. Kacyira emphasized the importance of security of land tenure and property especially housing as a fundamental risk factor in conflict and post-conflict areas. This is further exacerbated by the drastic increase in land value and demand that follows public infrastructural development, especially in places where there is no existing policies on land value capture systems.
Thus as people migrate fast in the post conflict situation to those areas where there are no inclusive conventional land tenure systems it is important that a realistic, practical, inclusive and simple system of land tenure security be adopted. Through this UN-Habitat has invested with its partners the Global Land Tool Network (GLNT) which addresses this problem by drawing a continuum of land rights.
The network has a number of practical tools that enable acquisition of a continuum of land rights with a gender and youth perspective and a social tenure domain model identifying the existing social fabric and engaging the community owner to develop and manage this model. This enhanced the community’s security of tenure. In addition its land readjustment tool enables acquisition of land for infrastructure development in an amicable manner, empowering the individual community members and government.
The role of local leadership in establishing all these principles cannot be over-emphasized, Dr. Kacyira said. While government collaboration with the communities will guide and adopt good policy, implementation is the local government level. She thus then said that UN-Habitat recognizes this powerful role of local government and local government structures and supports their capacity building to enable sustainable developing especially in this fast urbanizing world.
Furthermore she noted, technical competence is an imperative for effective planning and development of Africa’s urban infrastructure especially given the fast pace of urbanization and changing leadership at top local government level.
Looking beyond the crisis
She also said that Governments needed to empower the post-crisis and conflict communities by engaging them in identifying their potential in order to build their capacities and create jobs to facilitate their social economic well-being.
Finally, Dr. Kacyira stressed the significance of urban rural linkage in sustainable urban development as Africa builds infrastructure in the central urban areas. “Governments need to build infrastructure in intermediate towns and villages for sustainability since much of the continent’s population is still rural, much depending on agriculture” she said.