--  The Cities Alliance Assembly has elected Aníbal Gavíria Correa, former mayor of Medéllin, as its new president.

  --  The 2019 Assembly provided members and partners with the opportunity to experience the Cities Alliance Liberia Country Programme through field visits and learning exchanges.

Cities Alliance is pleased to announce that Aníbal Gavíria Correa, former mayor of Medéllin, has been elected president of the Cities Alliance Assembly. Mr. Gavíria was elected during the Cities Alliance Assembly held 25-27 April 2019 in Monrovia, Liberia. 

Mr. Gavíria is recognised internationally for leading Medéllin’s transformation from a high conflict area to an award-winning, high-performing city. During his tenure from 2012 to 2015, he addressed issues related to informality, conflict resolution, sustainable infrastructure, and access to essential services. This hands-on experience makes Mr. Gavíria well-suited to help the Cities Alliance continue changing the narrative and action around urbanisation. 

The Cities Alliance Assembly convenes annually to provide leadership and overall direction for the partnership. It is held in a different city each year to highlight a specific component of the Cities Alliance’s work programme. 

This year, the Assembly was held in Monrovia, Liberia to highlight the progress of the Cities Alliance Liberia Country Programme. Members and partners had the opportunity to experience the programme first-hand through field visits to project sites and learning events – all of which will help shape the programme’s future activities. 

The Assembly kicked off with a high-spirited opening ceremony featuring musical performances, chants from local community elders, and powerful remarks from various figures about the state of development in Liberia and the contributions of the Cities Alliance Liberia Country Programme. 

The event set the tone for the next three days of lively discourse among the Cities Alliance membership, the Secretariat, and local stakeholders to lay the foundations for the partnership’s future.  

A series of knowledge workshops provided space for discussion on three key topics: city resilience, informal economies, and the global agendas for cities. The learning sessions gave participants a chance to see how Liberian partners are working to address these issues through the Country Programme, and how the experiences can inform the Cities Alliance work programme moving forward. (Learn more about the learning event here)

A new Management Board and Chair

One of the core functions of the Cities Alliance Assembly is to provide leadership and overall direction for the partnership. This year, in addition to electing a new president, the Assembly elected a new Management Board to oversee the partnership for 2019-22. 

The new Board comprises 15 members: 
•    Local authorities: Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) and United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) 
•    National governments: Germany, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Uganda, and the United States 
•    Multilateral organisations: UN-Habitat 
•    NGOs: AVSI, Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI), Slum Dwellers International (SDI) 
•    Foundations: Omidyar Network 
•    Universities: Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS) 
•    UNOPS (ex officio)

Former UK Cabinet Minister for Overseas Development Clare Short was re-elected Chair of the Management Board.

Field visits to see the Country Programme in action

As part of the Assembly, participants made field visits to observe and document the ongoing work of the Cities Alliance Liberia Country Programme. Highlights included visits to a newly constructed nursery in West Point and water kiosks in the Popo Beach and King Peter communities.

These three projects were all realised through the Cities Alliance Community Upgrading Fund (CUF), which provides financing for small-scale infrastructure projects selected by the communities themselves to improve living conditions. They are good examples of how a small intervention can make a big difference in people’s lives. 

For instance, before construction of the water kiosks in Popo Beach and King Peter Town communities, residents – especially women and girls – had to walk as far as two kilometers and queue for long hours, sometimes into the night, before receiving water. This situation was time-consuming and exposed the women and girls to sexual violence. With the new water kiosks, water collection is much easier and safer for members of the community.

In Popo Beach, during the rains the community becomes flooded, preventing residents from going out to fetch water. As a result, they often relied on rainwater that poured down from the rooftops of their houses over corded Zinc sheets. Drinking the rainwater from the rooftops is a health hazard and caused an outbreak of cholera in the community. With the newly constructed water kiosk, the community now has access to a regular supply of safe drinking water. 

The field visit also included visits to the Red Light and Broad Street markets to highlight the issues faced by informal traders in Monrovia and Paynesville. Through the Country Programme, Cities Alliance and our partners, notably Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), have worked to negotiate better working conditions for petty traders and to assist with solid waste management at the trading places.

The interventions have been extremely successful. In 2018, thanks to WIEGO’s efforts, Monrovia City Corporation and the Federation of Petty Traders and Informal Workers Union of Liberia (FEPTIWUL) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that stipulates a mapped area for traders to tend their stalls and trade without harassment. This agreement is a clear sign of a new and positive approach from the city authorities towards the petty traders, viewing them as contributors to the economy rather than nuisances to be managed and moved on. 

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