Nairobi, June 2021 – The question of how innovations help deliver improved basic services in cities under pinned a review of basic service innovation projects being implemented by UN-Habitat and partners.

With the newly established Innovation Unit  and as a part of wider efforts to encourage cross-team collaboration and a culture of innovation, UN-Habitat recently ran a call for innovations impact stories. Staff were encouraged to submit examples of innovative projects addressing the provision of and access to urban basic services.

The range of projects submitted demonstrated that innovation in urban basic services can apply both digital and non-digital mechanisms including digital technologies and new technical approaches as well as dynamic partnerships.

Three projects were awarded a certificate of recognition for their successful adoption of innovative design, implementation efficiency, inclusiveness and maximized impact in their respective contexts.

In her remarks to the winning teams, UN-Habitat Executive Director, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, urged colleagues “to be innovative in your interventions and bring along new ideas and tools to deliver our mandate".

The project to transform the Haddadine Public Space in Lebanon was described as being unique in its design, process, and partnerships. The design included the use of locally sourced permeable materials to build an underground reservoir with a capacity of 150,000 litres to irrigate nearby vegetation. The process involved co-creation processes with local residents to design the features of the public space and partnerships with local authorities and other stakeholders. 

In Aleppo, Syria, UN-Habitat and partners adopted innovative approaches and tools to promote sustainable models of recovery and urbanization. Area-based participatory local planning and consultations supported community integrative planning, implementation, and social safeguarding. Based on results of the comprehensive damage assessment, municipal and community representatives jointly prioritized needs in developing the Recovery Plans. The project also adopted a holistic approach to address a number of urban challenges simultaneously whilst considering COVID-19 related mitigation measures. This has triggered a new municipal approach to encourage dialogue between the municipality and the community to promote social accountability and ownership of recovery interventions.

The efforts to extend water and sanitation services provision to vulnerable communities in Egypt during COVID-19 employed an innovative combination of planning, financing and technology solutions. The programme brought together a new planning methodology that incorporated spatial, social, financial and environmental factors. River-Bank Filtration technology and blended sources of financing from public and private sector played an important role in enabling and maximizing the scope of the project and providing new opportunities for scaling up. New technologies and solutions were introduced to maximize social and environmental outcomes and ensure site specific efficiency.

The Sector Head of Research and Development at the Holding Company for Water and Wastewater in Egypt , Dr. Rifaat Abdel Wahaab, said: “River-Bank Filtration units in Egypt now serve more than 2 million inhabitants, saving more than EGP 800 million of the capital value, implemented around 15 per cent of the time, and operating at around 11 per cent of the operational cost of typical water production units.”