The National Urban Forum is an important part of the Cities Alliance Country Programme framework, as it provides space for all stakeholders to engage in dialogue about urbanisation and urban policy issues.
Recently, Ghana and Burkina Faso both held milestone National Urban Forums as part of their respective Country Programmes. For Burkina Faso, it was the first National Urban Forum in the country’s history; while in Ghana, the event provided a new opportunity for international knowledge exchange.
Burkina Faso holds first-ever National Urban Forum
Burkina Faso held its first-ever National Urban Forum in Ouagadougou 26 October 2015, a significant step in the country’s efforts to promote inclusive development and bring citizens into the urban planning process.
The Government of Burkina Faso hosted the Forum, and it was clear that the urban agenda has strong support at the highest level. President Michel Kafando and Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida were both in attendance, as was Minister of Housing and Urban Development Bessolé René Bagoro, other sectoral Ministers, regional Governors and additional high-ranking officials.
Cities Alliance, which supported the Forum as part of its Burkina Faso Urban Country Programme, was represented by Lead Urban Specialist Serge Allou, who also served as a high-level panelist. UN-Habitat, a major implementing partner of the Country Programme, was represented by Professor Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, Director of the Regional Office for Africa.
Participants clearly relished the historic opportunity to debate Burkina Faso’s urban transition. Discussion was lively and thoughtful, with representatives from the national government, municipalities and communities eager to contribute and share experiences on themes such as civil society participation, resilience and climate change and the role of local governments.
The event concluded on 27 October with a declaration stressing the importance of the Forum as a platform for dialogue and consultation, and that it should – and will – be institutionalised. A second Forum is already planned for Bobo Dioulasso in 2016.
The National Urban Forum follows four Municipal Urban Forums in the secondary cities of Bobo-Dioulasso, Dori, Dedougou and Tenkodogo. These Municipal Forums feed into the National Urban Forum, which aims to address the main challenges identified at the municipal level and reach agreement on how to put the national urban policy into practice. It also seeks to coordinate the various efforts of partners supporting city planning in the country.
Learning Exchange Brings New Perspective to the Ghana Urban Forum
Ghana has an established history of successful National Urban Forums, and the event held on August 25, 2015 – its fifth – was no exception. Cities Alliance supported the Forum through a grant to the German Organisation for International Cooperation (GIZ), a key implementing partner in the Ghana Country Programme.
The Forum drew more than 215 participants from across the country to discuss the theme Building Resilient Cities – Deepening Spatial Planning and Land Value Capture for Development.
It concluded with a message that local governments have to strengthen their participatory spatial planning approach to assure that all interest groups are involved, and that land value capture can be an important source of revenue for local governments. (Land value capture is a method of funding infrastructure improvements that successfully recovers all or some of the increase in property value generated by public infrastructure investment.)
This year, a new element was added: a learning exchange with Liberia and Uganda, two countries with which the Cities Alliance has long-term partnerships.
Ghana’s Urban Development Unit requested the exchange because it was interested in seeing how other Cities Alliance Country Programmes carry out National Urban Forums and use them to support the national urban agenda.
The Cities Alliance supported the participation of six representatives from various levels – national and local government, and groups active in mobilising the urban poor. The Ugandan delegation included Joseph Pade, Commissioner, Urban, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development; and Lutwama Muhammed, Director of the NGO ACTogether.
From Liberia, participants included Ms. Ellen Pratt, Urban Planning Advisor, and Mr. Eugene Cain, Sanitation/Environmental Coordinator, both for the Monrovia City Corporation; Mr. Bestman Toe, President of SDI’s Liberia affiliate SLUMDAL; and The Hon. Robert S. Bestman, Assistant Minister of Urban Affairs for the Government of Liberia.
The exchange brought a welcome international and regional perspective to the Ghana National Forum, as the representatives shared experiences about how their respective countries were trying to include the urban poor in planning and promote the national urban agenda. For example, Liberia holds municipal forums, while Ghana does not.
Participants found the exchange to be extremely valuable, and it laid the foundation for more such exchanges in the future. One area of particular interest was strengthening networks among local Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) affiliates in the various countries, and exchanging methodologies on how to do slum profiling and set up community investment funds.