Enabling Inclusive Urban Policy and Planning in Liberia
This is the first of three articles highlighting Cities Alliance Country Programme results in Liberia, which will host the Cities Alliance Assembly from 25-27 April 2019. This article focuses on the national level, while two additional ones will cover municipal and community level results.
Emerging from the combined ravages of a brutal civil war and the Ebola virus, the people of Liberia embody the concept of resilience. In 2018, the country underwent a peaceful and orderly transfer of power with the inauguration of President George Weah.
Despite the burdens of many developmental and other challenges, the Liberia of today is a country with ambition, aiming to achieve middle income status by 2030.
The Cities Alliance Country Programme is designed to help Liberia realise these developmental objectives. It mobilises a range of partners to provide long-term, programmatic support with coordinated activities at the national, municipal and community levels.
At the national and sub-national levels, Country Programme activities help frame the vital enabling policy and planning environment that is essential for national development. It is also important that this environment fosters resilient, inclusive urbanisation that benefits and recognises the urban poor.
Now in its third year of implementation, the Country Programme is already achieving concrete results in this area. There is a growing recognition that efficient, effective cities are critical to developing the national economy, along with mechanisms for mobilising capacity and engaging citizens. Slum dwellers are also increasingly recognised as citizens who need to be fully engaged in city planning and development.
Some of the key Country Programme results at the national level include:
Establishment of a Slum Upgrading Unit within the National Housing Authority
As a result of the Country Programme, the Liberian government has begun promoting slum upgrading as a pro-poor developmental approach to cities. In September 2017, the National Housing Authority (NHA) established a Slum Upgrading Unit that recognises the need to work in slums, provide housing solutions to low-income families, and take the needs of the urban poor into consideration in national planning.
The decision to establish the new unit was influenced by an evaluation by Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) of existing NHA housing programmes, findings of the assessments undertaken by HFHI, and exposure to new approaches and thinking through the Country Programme.
“In all of its history, the National Housing Authority had never addressed the housing needs of those people of the low-income level. The Cities Alliance Liberia Country Programme supported HFHI in assessing the housing sector in Liberia and building the capacity of the government to address this issue," said Es-Samir Bropleh, coordinator of the NHA’s Slum Upgrading Unit.
"We have learned a lot through what has been done in other African countries, especially Kenya and South Africa.”
A Liberia National Urban Policy
A National Urban Policy is crucial to achieving inclusive economic growth and sustainable urban development. It defines a vision, guiding principles, and set of linked actions by national governments to realise the potential and to tackle the problems arising from rapid urbanisation. It is also a valuable tool to help a country implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and New Urban Agenda.
Through the Country Programme, UN-Habitat is facilitating the development of a National Urban Policy in partnership with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The policy aims to integrate the urban economy into national development policies and help create the conditions for Liberia to achieve its long-term development goal of reaching middle-income status by 2030.
A National Urban Policy discussion paper has been finalised, and a wide range of stakeholders are being engaged countrywide for a more participatory approach.
A National Urban Forum
The National Urban Forum is the space for all urban stakeholders in Liberia – urban poor organisations, representatives of governmental and non-governmental institutions, academia, and the private sector, among others – to meet, discuss priorities, and develop a common vision for Liberia’s urban future. First launched in 2015, the National Urban Forum is providing a basis for the development of a National Urban Policy for Liberia, guided by UN-Habitat.
About the Liberia Country Programme
The Cities Alliance Country Programme is designed to provide long-term, programmatic support to help Liberia realise its developmental objectives, in a way that benefits the urban poor. Programme activities aim to improve the lives and opportunities of up to 400,000 slum dwellers in Greater Monrovia, with interventions at the community, municipal and national levels.
Through the Country Programme, the Cities Alliance works with a diverse range of Liberian partners to support local authorities in Greater Monrovia with implementation, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Department of Urban Affairs, organised civil society groups in cities, and the private sector.
International development partners include United Cities and Local Governments Africa (UCLGA), UN-Habitat, Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), Comic Relief, DFID, International Growth Centre, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), StreetNet International, Habitat for Humanity International, UNOPS, and the YMCA.