National Urban PoliciesNairobi, 22 May 2015 - Seventeen representatives from nine global organizations recently met in Nairobi and agreed to set up a Global Exchange Platform on National Urban Policies (NUP). The Platform will serve as a knowledge management facility on NUP that will foster peer-to-peer learning and provide a space for exchanging experiences on developing and implementation of NUP.

The following organizations participated in the establishment of the NUP Platform: UN Habitat, UNECE, Cities Alliance, GIZ, UNECA, UNCRD, the Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements, OECD, and UCLG ASPAC. Ms. Mariam Yunusa, Director, Partners and Inter-Agency Coordination of UN-Habitat gave an overview of the critical role partners play in the formulation, advocacy, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies.

She called for the Platform organizations to work together to develop approaches to NUP which reflect what is happening locally and can project this onto what is happening globally in order to put local priorities on the global agenda. Platform members recognised that a coordinated approach and clear policy directions are needed to harness the opportunities presented by urbanization, mitigate its negative externalities, and promote an “urban paradigm shift”.

In doing so, international organizations can effectively support NUP that asserts the power of urban space and territoriality, the positive role of urbanization in national socio-economic development, and provide an overarching framework to address urban challenges.

Tools to Support National Urban Policy

Besides the NUP Platform meeting, Mr. Elkin Velasquez, Director of the Regional Office for the Caribbean and Latin America of UN-Habitat facilitated a seminar on Tools to Support NUP and Territorial Planning. The event brought together staff from UN-Habitat and country representatives in order to share country experiences from Rwanda, Cameroon, Columbia, Angola, and Zambia.

The discussion highlighted the ability of NUP to direct urbanization in a way that will promote prosperity and the need to “think urban” when designing policy. Mr. Velasquez commented that, “we can be successful in social policy, it does not necessary mean that we are successful in urban policy. Urban policy requires more and without thinking spatially when considering social policy it means that we are implementing social policies without added urban value.”

The francophone afternoon session Vers les Politiques Urbaines et l’Urbanisation Durable was moderated by the Minister Gatta Ngoulou of Chad, and brought together 35 Francophone participants including 5 women from Africa, France, and the Caribbean. The discussion emphasized the importance of NUP in francophone regions and highlighted the need to produce NUP that are more effective and implemented in a multi-stakeholder framework.

Participants expressed their eagerness to engage in the development of French language technical assistance material on NUP and engage in sharing of NUP experiences in francophone countries including policy transfer and development of francophone training programs in order to develop the skills of urban professionals who would then be able to assist in the development of NUP. Moving forward, UN-Habitat will be working with francophone partners to diversify the NUP tools avaliable in French.

Innovation, a key area of focus for Urban Policy Development

Lastly, participants from six countries – Madagascar, Mali, Senegal, Indonesia, Kenya, Rwanda, as well as representatives of UN-Habitat – gathered for a high-level breakfast meeting, entitled Sharing Experiences on National Urban Policies. The first keynote speaker, Mr. Alioune Badiane, UN-Habitat’s Director of Programmes, highlighted that innovation should be the focus in the area of urban policy development in order to create enabling conditions for social and economic development.

He invited and encouraged all high decision makers at national level to engage in the development of the NUP with this long-term vision in mind. The second keynote speaker, The Minister of State of Madagascar, Mr. Ravi Rokotovao, emphasized the need to align long-term policy objectives with the immediate needs of people in order to improve quality of life.

All the events gave opportunity to develop new partnerships and exchange information and experiences regarding the formation of NUP in different regional and country contexts. Moving forward, the Regional and Metropolitan Planning Unit and UN-Habitat are looking forward to working with country partners towards the development of French language tools as well as looking towards the development of a National Urban Policy Exchange Platform.