Addis Ababa/Nairobi, July 2021 –  UN-Habitat is working in the capitals of Ethiopia and Nairobi to enhance their public space networks and create vibrant green urban spaces.   

In Nairobi, UN-Habitat’s Global Public Space Programme is working with various government agencies to restore the city image to the ‘Green City in the Sun’ and position the city as a global environmental capital. Jointly with the Government of Kenya, UN-Habitat is embarking on implementing the Nairobi River Life Project, an ambitious initiative to transform the Nairobi River corridor into a shared public good for all. 

A recent Report on the state of public spaces in Nairobi revealed the capital has two urban forests measuring a combined area of 1930 hectares, along with two nature reserves, all near high-income neighbourhoods. The Report provides a starting point for developing an evidence-based strategy and policy for the protection, revitalization, creation, and management of public spaces, so that they can be places that local people can enjoy.

“As we lead the green renaissance, we will shift focus to neighbourhood level green and public spaces to connect neighbourhoods and open up informal settlements, taking the co-benefits of green and public spaces where they are needed the most,” said Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Forestry Keriako Tobiko

In Addis Ababa, UN-Habitat is working to increase city resilience through a focus on green public spaces, specifically river regeneration and working to link the riverbanks with the broader urban heritage of the city. The Ras Mekonen Riverside Rehabilitation and Saba Dereja Historical Stair Restoration projects which were opened to the public in 2019 have helped prevent landslides, provide shade and restore previously damaged ecosystems attracting a wide range of birds and insects.

In August this year UN-Habitat will launch a second pilot public space project a few kilometres downstream as part of the larger Sheger Beautification Project. Residents are leading the effort to reimage and restore the riverfront and its urban agriculture component will provide green job opportunities for residents. The riverfront will also be equipped with amenities including smart technologies, a network of bike lanes and a bike sharing scheme and walkways and small bridges that connect with the network of public spaces.

“UN-Habitat supports cities by inspiring both bottom-up and top-down action, providing technical assistance, building capacity, and supporting the development of catalytic pilots and citywide public space strategies,” said Cecilia Andersson of UN-Habitat’s Global Public Space Programme. “These spaces highlight the broad impact that restoring public and green spaces can have in improving urban life and restoring lost ecosystems.”

UN-Habitat is developing Park Management Manuals, River Front Design Guidelines for the Sheger River and The People Centred Public Space Design Manuals to support and preserve the lessons learned from these projects, as well as ensure that their impact is a lasting one.