Archive for ‘Blog’

Special Bulletin on Habitat III

March 16, 2016
Habitat III Timeline of Events
March 16th 
The City We Need
Final proposal submitted for approval
March 16th -18th
Regional meeting: Europe
Prague, Czech Republic
March 19th
General Assembly of Partners Meeting
Prague, Czech Republic
April 4th-5th
Thematic meeting: Public space
Barcelona, Spain
April 7-8th 
Thematic meeting: Informal settlements
Pretoria, South Africa
April 18th-20th
Regional meeting: LAC
Toluca, Mexico
April 25th-29th
Open-ended Informal Consultative Meetings
New York
Early May
New Urban Agenda ‘Zero draft’ document due
May 16th - 117th 
Local Authorities Informal Hearings
New York
June 6th - 7th 
Civil Society Informal Hearings
New York
July 11th - 20th
SDG High-Level Political Forum, first review of implementation of SDGs
New York
July (TBD)
General Assembly of Partners meeting
July 25th - 27th 
Third meeting of the Habitat III Preparatory Committee
Surabaya, Indonesia
October (TBD)
General Assembly of Partners meeting
Quito, Ecuador
October 17th - 20th
Habitat III conference

It has been a busy spring, as preparations continue for the upcoming Habitat III conference taking place in Quito, Ecuador in October of this year. The planning and engagement of such a significant conference is immense, and has been made significantly more complex by the tremendous and positive efforts to enable civil society and non-state actors to have a meaningful say in the process.

This Special IHC Update reports on the road map to Quito as well as the current status of several parallel processes feeding into the planning and outcomes of Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda.
Policies, Products and Other Input into Habitat III Preparations:
Habitat III Regional Meeting for Europe and North America
This week, national government representatives and many civil society organizations are meeting in Prague for a Habitat III regional meeting for Europe and North America. In addition to the official member state meetings and negotiations, many civil society organizations will be holding side events focusing on topics such as urban planning, resiliency, local governance, and the role of new research and learning.
Several key documents will be released this week as part of the meetings.
  1. The City We Need 2.0. This document sets out a vision of the city of the future and has been drafted by a sub-committee of the World Urban Campaign, including IHC. It incorporates a year’s worth of “Urban Thinker’s Campuses,” events hosted by WUC members focusing on a variety of topics related to cities and urbanization, each of which made recommendations to WUC. The TCWN 2.0 paper distills the lessons learned from all 26 UTCs and has crafted recommendations for a “new urban paradigm for the 21st century.” It consists of 10 principles of a successful and thriving city, as well as 10 drivers of change that will affect the success of the 10 principles. The document recognizes the central role that adequate housing, land rights and equitable delivery of services play in ensuring the creation of inclusive and sustainable cities, among other elements. The steering committee of the World Urban Campaign is meeting today March 16th in Prague where it is likely to officially adopt the TCWN2.0 document. If it is adopted as expected, TCWN 2.0 will represent the formal input from the World Urban Campaign into the General Assembly of Partners and the New Urban Agenda, which will be an outcome of Habitat III. Read the draft document here.
  1. General Assembly of Partners: Partnerships for the New Urban Agenda. The GAP, a temporary working group of the World Urban Campaign, was created with the hope that a unified civil society voice going into Habitat III would help amplify its voice in a conference that is ultimately in the hands of national governments. The GAP will be debuting this week its framework of recommendations focusing on “the day after” Habitat III and how any agreements or global targets might be operationalized and implemented. The document recommends the creation of four new bodies:  (1) an Intergovernmental Panel on Sustainable Urbanization, (2) a United Nations Advisory Committee on Sustainable Urbanization, (3) a Partners Lab for Urban Sustainability and (4) a Partners’ Dashboard for Sustainable Urbanization. The first two bodies would be focused on UN institutions and ensuring continued global leadership on cities. The latter two would harness the implementing power of donors, the private sector and civil society, and attempt to create more robust and meaningful partnerships and learning across sectors. Read more about the Gap document here.
UN Habitat Policy Unit Papers
Parallel to the efforts of the GAP and the World Urban Campaign, the official UN Policy Units formed of 200 experts from around the world have released comprehensive policy papers on 10 related topic areas. These papers have been through extensive review and revision, and are expected to form the basis of the official outcome document of Habitat III, the New Urban Agenda.
IHC was particularly interested in the Policy Paper focused on housing. The 60+ page document is dense and well-reasoned, setting forth many principles of inclusive growth, adequate housing, and slum improvement that IHC has long advocated for. We were particularly interested to see a major focus on an integrated housing framework. The paper underscores that housing does not exist in a vacuum and that any housing plans must be integrated into new and existing plans for transportation, livelihoods, basic services and infrastructure.   This has been a key point in IHC’s advocacy, so we are glad that this policy paper holds a similar view.
The policy unit papers are ambitious, and the housing paper ends with concrete recommendations for monitoring and evaluation of success at a municipal and national level. As with the Sustainable Development Goals, the challenge after Habitat III and the expected adoption of a New Urban Agenda will be to both build capacity and hold nations and cities accountable for achieving the goals. Read the housing policy paper here. Find the other nine papers here.

ICMA Guest Blog on South Africa-Florida Climate Partnership

How Local Governments are transcending their Borders to Fight Climate Change:  The story of Durban and Southeast Florida

Guest Post by Jessica Johnston
Senior Program Manager,  International City/County Management Association (ICMA)

The Durban  ̶  Southeast ­Florida Climate Change Partnership began in 2013 when CityLinks, a program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and implemented by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), connected Broward County and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with Durban, South Africa, to address common climate change challenges including sea level rise, flooding, and storm water management, as well as community and municipal engagement.

Durban, a leader in eco-system based adaptation, was introduced to ICMA through the Durban Adaptation Charter (DAC). The DAC was launched at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) 17 held in the City of Durban (eThekwini Municipality), South Africa in December 2011. The DAC commits signatories to ten principles that will assist their communities to respond to and cope with climate change risks thereby reducing vulnerability. Since then, the DAC has grown to over 1,100 local government signatories around the world, the majority of which represent communities in the global south.

Although Durban was successfully addressing many climate challenges in their own back yard, they recognized that climate impacts do not pay attention to political boundaries. Finding an innovative way to work with surrounding municipalities on shared climate challenges was critical to creating sustainable and effective adaptation strategies.

Knowing that Durban was interested in looking at innovative governance models around climate change, ICMA reached out to its members in Southeast Florida that were involved in the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact. The Compact was formed in 2009 when Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach counties joined forces to work cohesively on climate change. The Compact calls for the counties involved to work cooperatively to advocate for state and federal policies and funding, dedicate staff time and resources to create a Southeast Florida Regional Climate Action Plan, and meet each year to measure progress and identify concerning issues.

Over the course of the partnership CityLinks facilitated exchange visits between Southeast Florida and Durban to see if and how the compact model might work in South Africa. During a trip to Southeast Florida, municipal staff from Durban took an in-depth look at the technical and policy solutions Fort Lauderdale and Broward County are implementing to address climate change. The delegation also met with key community members to better understand the level of citizen engagement the Compact required. In addition to the nuts and bolts of the Compact, the delegation toured Southeast Florida to see how they are preparing for climate change through storm water management solutions, ecosystem restoration, coastline management, and public/private sector engagement.

As a result of the partnership Fort Lauderdale and Broward County became the first U.S. signatories to the DAC in November 2013. In true partnership fashion, the team in Durban took the compact model back home. The Central KwaZulu-Natal Climate Change Compact, now in its second year of operation, has brought together the municipalities around Durban in a consortium that allows for them to work collectively toward regional climate resilience.

To learn more about ICMA’s work in Durban and the CityLinks program, visit the CityLinks website and the Notes from CityLinks blog, follow us on Twitter at @ICMACityLinks, like us on Facebook, and join the climate change discussion in the Climate Preparedness, Adaptation, and Resilience group on the Knowledge Network. Visit ICMA International’s site for additional information on ICMA’s other global projects.

SDG 11: A Radical New Way of Thinking about the “Problem” of Slums

By Judith Hermanson (President and CEO, IHC)
September 24, 2015

With Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11, the importance of “urban” areas to global well-being is underscored.  This is truly a victory.    More people now live in urban spaces than in rural.  We passed that tipping point in 2010.  By 2050, fully two thirds of us will be urban dwellers.  That should mean that we can benefit from the stimulation and economic opportunities of city living!  Urbanization and economic progress have historically been linked, and we can hope and expect to see greater innovation, greater social cohesion, and more equitable economic opportunity as we become increasingly urban.  Overall this inevitable shift in population can be a very good thing for the world.  However, it is also not without its challenges.

Can it also be a victory for the hundreds of million who have been marginalized by urbanization?  Who have not had the benefits and opportunities of city life, but rather who live in conditions about which all of us should be ashamed and concerned?  As the urban population continues to grow, so too does the number of people living in woeful conditions.  The really good news about the “urban” SDG is the benefit that it should and can bring to those living in slums and so to the cities in which they live.

As the Millennium Development Goals draw to a close, the proportion of those living in slums has in fact been reduced.   The UN reports that the proportion of the urban population living in slums in the developing regions declined from 39.4 percent to 29.7 percent between 2000 and 2014.   So, we have made progress!   This should be acknowledged and celebrated.

BUT:  The absolute numbers of people living in slums has actually increased.  In 2000 the UN estimated that there were 760 million people living in slums.  Their current estimate is 863 million.  So, 100 million more people living in slums – and continuing to grow.  That is, until the adoption of SDG 11!

With SDG 11, the numbers and proportion of urban population living in slums will continue to be monitored and reported on at a country level.  This “global accountability” is assuredly an extremely important element in keeping focus and assuring progress.  But clearly more is needed.

SDG 11 re-frames the issues of urban poverty and implies a radical new way of thinking about slums.  This new way of thinking holds promise not only for a proportional reduction of people living in slums, but also a reduction in the absolute numbers and ultimately the transformation both of cities and of the lives of their citizens. 

The United Nations defines slums as places where people live and lack any one of these:  Access to clean water, access to improved sanitation, sufficient living area, durable housing and secure tenure.  Millions on millions of people lack at least one of these.  And many millions lack all five.

We have all seen the pictures of some of these appalling conditions.  What we might not realize however is that they live in these conditions because cities have been unable to, have been unwilling to, or some combination of those two, to keep pace with what is necessary for people to live in the most basic decent conditions.

People live in garbage-strewn conditions because there is no municipal trash collection.  They are surrounded by environmental pollution because there are not any toilets.  And too many people are crowded into cramped quarters, facilitating the spread of disease, among other things, because there are no options.  In many places people construct as best they can with cardboard and scrounged material, providing flimsy shelter from the weather and very little physical safety.  The physical precariousness of this existence is exceeded often only by the psychological impact.  People living in slums know they do not have a recognized “right” to live there.  They know they can be removed at the will or whim of something quite beyond individual control.   

Under SDG 11, there is a policy acknowledgement that even the poorest must be included in the fabric of the city – its services, infrastructure and opportunities.  As slums have been thought of as areas of the city to be ignored or razed or to be embarrassed about, now they can be thought of as areas to be uplifted and integral to the sustainability and resilience and safety of the city as a whole.

With SDG 11, cities will be encouraged to think about and address the inter-connectedness of all aspects of urban life.  SDG 11 aspires for cities to be safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.   Decent living conditions and active engagement of people now living in slums are fundamental building blocks in this process.  There is a tremendous opportunity for fundamental social and economic transformation, simply by intentionally weaving the human and social capital of the slums into the fabric of the city.    This is the exciting direction in which SDG 11 points us.

IDB Publishes Book on the Importance of Rental Housing

January 23, 2014

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) recently published an important book on the role and importance of rental housing in Latin American region. The study-“I am Looking for a House to Rent: Promoting Rental Makes Sense,” is only available in Spanish and was produced by the Agency’s Urban Development Division.

The book shows the importance of renting and its potential in solving major housing problems. Currently, one out of five households in the Latin American and Caribbean region rent their home, and it’s even more prevalent for those population groups that tend to have greater mobility such as the youth, single person households, and divorced. This suggests that supporting rent policies could help respond to the demand for rental housing and create greater residential and labor mobility.

Moreover, the study found that rental housing is of better quality than informal property and presents similar conditions of formal housing, including for the lowest income quintiles. It concludes that renting represents an efficient and cost-effective alternative to solve quantitative and qualitative housing deficit problems in the region. On the other hand, rental housing tends to concentrate in more central and consolidated areas of the city, which suggests that a rental policy framed with proper urban planning tools can contribute to generate more accessible and compact cities. For these reasons, supporting the development of the rental market should become a key instrument to complement the housing policy of the region.

IDB is the leading source of development financing for Latin America and the Caribbean. It supports efforts by Latin America and the Caribbean countries to reduce poverty and inequality. Among the leading sectors of intervention, the IDB is committed to urban development and expanding access to housing in the region.

Cities are the main engine of economic and social development. However, the concentration of population generates high demand for services. When the expansion of the supply of services is inadequate, significant deficits emerge in the coverage and quality of infrastructure and services, including housing. The situation in the region in numbers:

  • 40 million households are subject to a qualitative deficit, suffering from overcrowding and lack of basic services or secure tenure of their homes
  • 13 million households are subject to a quantitative deficit, either because they live in a make shit household or because they share it with another household.
  • One third of the deficit households belong to the poorest quintile.
  • The informality of home tenure is greater among female headed households.
  • Nearly half of the housing deficit is related to high cost of homes and lack of access to finance.
  • The mortgage market is underdeveloped, associated to a high degree of economic informality.

Access to Secure and Equitable Land in the Post 2015 SDGs

Guest Post By: Jane W. Katz (Director of International Affairs & Programs, Habitat for Humanity International)

January 16, 2015

As the UN begins to define the Post 2015 Development Agenda, an ad hoc coalition of concerned organizations has joined together to address a major omission in the Open Working Group Proposal on Sustainable Development Goals and the Secretary-General Synthesis Report on the Post 2015 Development Agenda:  the lack of attention to security of tenure and equitable access to land. This omission is especially concerning as it relates to the most vulnerable populations in both urban and rural contexts. The coalition has developed a new technical brief titled Secure and Equitable Land Rights in the Post 2015 Agenda highlighting the critical need for secure and equitable land rights be included in the Post 2015 Development Agenda. The brief takes a particular focus on those living in poverty and ensuring that monitoring progress on land rights is measurable and feasible based on the organizations’ and communities’ experiences.

Access to land often lies at the heart of poverty housing, depriving the poor of the most basic physical, economic and psychological security of adequate shelter. Huge numbers of the people in need of adequate housing struggle on a daily basis with tenure security and fear of eviction. An even greater number lack proper documentation of the land on which they live. Improving access to land can address inequalities, reduce poverty, and increase economic growth in developing countries. It can provide opportunities for investment and the accumulation of wealth and, in some cases, it can encourage business development. More than improving economic conditions, access to land can provide a source of identity, status and political power, and can serve as a basis for the pursuit of other rights. (more…)

“The Road to Dignity by 2030:” Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s Analysis of the Development of the Post-2015 Agenda

December 28,2014
By Chris Vincent, Sr. Director, Congressional Relations/International Affairs, Habitat for Humanity International

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon released his much anticipated Synthesis Report on the Post-2015 Agenda, entitled “The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet” on December 4, 2014. The report was intended to integrate all inputs into the Post-2015 Agenda thus far, including proposals, discussions, and expert consultations that have taken place over the course of the last two years, into one comprehensive and succinct report. Prior to the Synthesis Report, the Open Working Group’s (OWG) Proposal for Sustainable Development Goals, released in June of 2014, had set the stage for Post-2015 discussions, and it was expected that the Secretary General’s Synthesis Report would weigh in on the 17 goals and 169 targets laid out in the OWG’s proposal, which is substantially more than the 8 goals of the current Millennium Development Goals.  See the previous blog post on the OWG’s “zero draft” report.

Over the past three years, Habitat for Humanity International has been working relentlessly to ensure that housing is included in the Post-2015 Agenda In regards to the Synthesis Report, the biggest concern for housing advocates was that goal 11, “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” and specifically target 11.1 “By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums” remain in the Post-2015 Agenda. (more…)

IHC Hosts Panel Discussion on Rental Housing

May 14, 2014
By Bob Dubinsky (Board Chairman, IHC)

On May 6 the IHC sponsored a very interesting and important seminar on rental housing at the Washington offices of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Andres Blanco of the Inter American Development Bank was the principal speaker. Barbara McMurray moderated the event, and Larry Hannah, former economist at the World Bank; Eric Beksky, Director of the Harvard Center for Housing; and Ira Peppercorn of the World Bank commented on the presentation.

Rental housing is a much neglected and overlooked development initiative. This is despite the fact that many cities around the world have more renters than homeowners. The seminar explored the demand for rental housing, why the need for rental housing has been overlooked and identified programmatic options for expanding the supply of rental housing, particularly for those of modest income. (more…)

USAID’s New Urban Policy: A Response to Christopher Vincent

Guest Post By: Steven Feldstein  (Director of the Office of Policy, Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning, U.S. Agency for International Development)

December 6, 2013

In the weeks since USAID released its policy on Sustainable Service Delivery in an Increasingly Urbanized World, we have received a variety of responses, support for its vision, and suggestions for moving forward. Christopher Vincent’s recent post on the IHC blog praises the Agency for directing renewed attention to this important development trend, but is skeptical of the potential impact of the policy absent additional resource allocations or monitoring requirements.

Vincent equates funding with impact: “Without incentives like funding and clear metrics, USAID missions will perceive this document as an academic exercise and continue business as usual.” He is correct that the policy does not direct additional resources toward urban activities. USAID resource allocations are constrained by a number of factors, including congressional mandates. (more…)

Informal Cities Dialogue Launches Culminating eBook

By Jane Tingley (Intern, IHC)
December 4, 2013

Recently, Next City, a media non-profit which is focused on covering public policy and current affairs matters from an urban prescriptive, released an eBook, which is a compilation of the best stories from the informal sector as part of The Rockefeller Foundation’s Informal Cities Dialogues. The year-long project integrated blog posts, film, and photographs to chronicle the lives of informal workers and settlers from six cities: Accra, Bangkok, Chennai, Lima, Manila and Nairobi.  The project worked in each of these cities to highlight projects designed to alleviate issues in the informal sector, and the contributions these informal establishments have on larger formal communities.  The overall goal of the project was to provide a glimpse into the lives of those involved in the informal sector, and to emphasize its sheer size, as many developing cities continue to grow exponentially. (more…)

USAID Administrator Addresses the Challenges of Ending Extreme Poverty

By Jane Tingley (Intern, IHC)
November 27, 2013

On November 21, The Brookings Institution’s Development Assistance and Governance Initiative hosted an event, Ending Extreme Poverty: Can It Be Done? If So, How?­, in which the focus was exploring the issues that arise in ending income poverty and bringing the consumption of every person on the planet above the threshold global floor a $1.25 a day.  Introductory remarks were given by Brookings Senior Fellow and Deputy Director for Global Economy and Development, Development Assistance and Governance Initiative, Homi Kharas.  Dr. Kharas acknowledged that while there is a great deal of political support for ending extreme poverty, the real question is whether this goal is achievable, and if so, how? He emphasized that based on historic trends we could theoretically end extreme poverty in the next 20 years. However, the challenge is that pure extrapolation will not include the difficulties in reaching marginalized communities, conflict areas, and regions that are facing climate and other shocks. (more…)

USAID’s New Urban Policy: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

November 21, 2013
Guest Post by:  Christopher Vincent, Office of Advocacy and Government Relations, Habitat for Humanity International

In the global context of a broader push for a Sustainable Cities goal in the new Post-2015 agenda, USAID recently launched a policy for urban service delivery, that joins a series of documents on topics such as gender equality, climate change, and democracy that USAID created to guide its missions throughout the world.  While the long-term implications of this policy are unknown, here’s a quick glance at some of its positives, negatives and points that may leave you scratching your head and wondering what else they missed.

The Good

USAID prioritizes sustainable urban service delivery as one of its 10 areas to provide guidance to the field.   This is an important marker for the agency and shows that they understand the foundational shift urbanization presents in the coming years.  By 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population is projected to be living in urban areas, putting unimaginable strains on housing and the delivery of urban services like water, sanitation, health and education. While Congress may have encouraged USAID through the SLUM Act and Sustainable Urban Development Act, the agency should be applauded for recognizing what Steve Feldstein, USAID’s Director of Policy, Planning and Learning, called an “emerging critical issue,” especially when it comes to reducing poverty. (more…)

Shelter Response Underway in the Wake of Typhoon Haiyan

By Jane Tingley (Intern, IHC)
November 18, 2013

Last week, as live reports from Tacloban and Cebu City started to dominate the news waves, attention was focused on fulfilling the immediate health needs to those affected by Typhoon Haiyan.  However, as aid workers have begun to distribute food and medical care, new concerns over shelter are becoming a growing concern.  On November 16th, the UN Office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated that 1.02 Million homes were destroyed in the Typhoon, with the most devastated areas loosing up more than 80 percent of their housing.

While many agencies have been responding to the crisis, the Shelter Cluster has been coordinating efforts between different NGOs and reporting preliminary findings from assessments and actions being undertaken in affected regions. (more…)

Kaiser Family Foundation Polls Finds Strong Support for WASH Programs

By Jane Tingley (Intern, IHC)
November 13, 2013

Last week, The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) released the results their 2013 Survey of Americans on the U.S. Role in Global Health, this is the fifth in a survey series designed, conducted, and analyzed by the KFF and is intended to highlight the American public attitudes, knowledge, and perceptions on the U.S. role in global health.  This survey explores topics including U.S. aid’s ability to promote self-sufficiency in developing countries, aid allocation in light of the federal budget deficit, and sources of information on global health issues.

Despite continued concerns over the federal budget and national debt, the basic level of support of U.S. spending on efforts to improve global health in developing countries has remained the same in recent years.  While the majority of Americans reported that fighting terrorism, protecting human rights, and helping out in areas affected by natural disasters were top priorities, improving health in developing countries remains a priority they believe in. When asked about various health priorities, the survey found that the top health priority was improving access to clean water; with 64% of Americans reporting it is one of the top priorities, and 93% supporting U.S. investment in WASH activities in developing countries. (more…)

Creative Housing Solutions: Remarkable Adaptation or Government Failure?

By Jane Tingley (Intern, IHC)
October 23, 2013

In 1990, construction began on the Torre de David in Caracas, the third highest skyscraper in Venezuela.  After the Venezuelan banking crisis of 1994, construction was halted at only sixty percent completion, the government seized control, and the unfinished building was left abandoned.  However, due to massive housing shortages, in October 2007, some 3,000 individuals started to move into the vacant building and transformed the skeleton frame into a vibrant community, full of grocery stores, barbers, tailors, and even a church and gym open to all residents.  Last month, photographer Iwan Baan gave a TED Talk on this community as well as others around the world that are creating creative housing with limited resources, demonstrating remarkable adaptability and ingenuity.  Despite all the communities lacking the infrastructure to support basic services such as running water, sewer systems, and electricity, Baan explores how residents have developed unique solutions to mitigate the infrastructural deficits.

In Makoko, an impoverished slum community of stilt houses found in Lagos, Baan highlights the recent construction of a three-story floating school by local architect, Kunle Adeyemi.  Threatened by encroaching waters, instead of building in the traditional stilt style, he built a floating school, which would be used both as a primary school during the day, and as a recreation center and market when school is not in session.  Mr. Adeyemi said that this school represents the first step in his vision for the entire community to be rebuilt as a floating city. (more…)

The World Bank Group’s New Strategy Proposes Comprehensive Reorganization

By Jane Tingley (Intern, IHC)
October 16, 2013

Earlier this month, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, announced the “World Bank Group Strategy” designed to reorganize bank operations, and focus on reducing extreme poverty and raising equality.  Approved this weekend by the Development Committee, a joint World Bank-IMF forum, the new strategy will organize the bank around 14 “global practices,” including agriculture, education, energy and extractives, health and nutrition, and trade and competitiveness.  For the first time, the bank has a defined goal of reducing poverty below 3% of the population, and a secondary goal of achieving shared prosperity by increasing the incomes of the bottom 40% of the population.  Dr. Kim remarked that the goal of the organization is to make the bank more efficient and more responsive within countries, ensuring that the bank not turn into “a series of regional banks rather than a world bank”.  Similarly to one of his presidential predecessors, James Wolfenson, Dr. Kim highlighted that the idea was to transform the bank into a “solutions bank,” which would provide lending or grants, consulting, and technical expertise to member countries.  With an increased commitment to collaborating with the private sector, Dr. Kim said the bank will be more tolerant of high-risk, high-reward and more controversial ventures. (more…)

Post-2015 Update: Where do Sustainable Cities fit?

By: Dan Petrie (Associate Director of Congressional Relations, HFHI)
October 14, 2013

After the release of the High Level Panel’s report this summer, Habitat for Humanity raised concerns that housing, slums and urbanization were being underrepresented in discussions surrounding the post-2015 development agenda. Perhaps more worrisome is that Millennium Development Goals progress reports continue to tout Goal 7: Target 11, which aims to improve the lives of 100 million slum dwellers, as a success story despite the absolute number of people living in slums increasing by over 50 million between 2000 and 2010. With over 170,000 people added each day to cities in the developing world, it’s worth reviewing what’s happened in the post-2015 process since June and identify how this issue can gain more traction moving forward.

As July came to close, the Secretary General released his highly anticipated report, “A life of Dignity for All,” which called for the acceleration of the MDGs toward 2015 and identified key areas of focus in the post-2015 agenda. He demanded no person should “lack shelter or clean water or sanitation” as they help “form the foundations for a decent life” and urged any post-2015 agenda to “meet the challenges of urbanization.”

September witnessed a flurry of activity surrounding the U.N. General Assembly including a special event on the MDGs which produced an outcome document with member states resolving to redouble their efforts and adopt a new development agenda come 2015. (more…)

House Foreign Affairs Committee Hosts Disappointing Hearing on Aid in Haiti

October 10, 2013

On October 9, 2013, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs convened a full committee hearing titled Haiti: Is Aid Effective? Panelists included Dr. David B. Gootnick, Director of International Affairs and Trade at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Mr. Thomas C. Adams, Haiti Special Coordinator at the State Department, and Ms. Elizabeth Hogan, Acting Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean at USAID.  The hearing was held in response to a GAO report which evaluated the progress of US Government programs in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

As previously mentioned in an IHC blog post, because of higher than expected costs, USAID will be funding 3,000 new housing units in Cape Haitian instead of the 15,000 it had planned. The cost per unit will be $33,000. Ms. Hogan blamed poor original estimates coupled with enforcing stronger building and occupational safety standards as the major drivers for increasing the overall costs to almost three times the original estimate.

The committee expressed extreme concern over issues of land tenure rights.  Dr. Gootnick highlighted the lack of formal records for land ownership in Haiti and the resulting decision for all USAID home construction to occur on government-owned land, which is usually not in Port- au-Prince.  Many committee members were concerned that housing beneficiaries would never own their land (as it remains government-owned), and would be at the mercy of a historically corrupt government. When asked about the issue, Ms. Hogan said that land tenure rights are a political dilemma, and not a technical one.


Afrobarometer 5 Finds Pervasive Poverty in Africa Despite Economic Growth

By Jane Tingley  (Intern, IHC)
October 4, 2013

On October 1st, results from the Round 5 Afrobarometer Survey of 34 countries were released, and despite improved economic growth, the study reported continued shortages in basic needs, including access to water, food, and healthcare.  Just two years before the completion of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, the study found that roughly one in five Africans frequently lack access to food (17%), clean water (22%), or medical care (20%), with one in two people experiencing occasional shortages.

Each Afrobarometer survey collects data on national public attitudes towards democracy and governance in Africa, using indicators such as opinions and behaviors related to macro-economics and markets, social capital, conflict and crime, and national identity.  Round 5 included the special topic modules of taxation, gender issues, crime, conflict and insecurity, globalization, and social service delivery. The aim of each survey is to measure poverty in alternative ways to traditional indicators, such as a country’s GDP or annual expenditures.


Organizations host events on Post-2015 at the UN General Assembly

By Jane Tingley (IHC, Intern)
September 25, 2013

On September 17th, the 68th Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 68) opened in New York.  The General Debate will be taking place from September 24th – October 2nd, 2013, on the theme of “Post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage”.  The General Assembly (GA) is the deliberative assembly of all UN member states, where each country has one vote.  The principal tasks of the GA include resolving discretionary recommendations to states and suggestions to the UN Security Council, overseeing the budget of the UN, appointing non-permanent members to the UN Security Council, and make recommendations in the form of General Assembly Resolutions.  While much attention will likely be focused on the crisis in Syria and the future of US-Iran relations, civil society representatives, UN officials, development experts, and individuals will also be there to discuss possible collaborations to address remaining challenges including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the post-2015 agenda.

Below are highlighted some events focused on the MDGs and the global development agenda after 2015.  Additionally, follow along with all UNGA 68 events live via UN Web TV here (more…)

Local Nigerian Governments Take Action to Enforce Environmental and Sanitation Laws

By Jane Tingley (IHC, Intern)
September 18, 2013

In the past two months, the local governments in Ekiti and Kano, Nigeria have arrested and fined over 200 persons who were found to be in violation of environmental and sanitation laws enacted by the Nigerian Ministry of Environment and Sanitation.   In Ekiti, over 70 landlords were arrested and charged with violations under the 2004 Ekiti State Environmental and Sanitation Law and 2009 Environmental Regulations.  In Kano, the Sun Yoghurt Company in the Sharada Industrial Area was closed and 116 persons charged for failure to observe a monthly sanitation exercise.  The monthly sanitation exercise occurs one Saturday a month, and encourages all State members to clean their homes, drains, and communal spaces.  Both events indicate a strong government commitment to enforcing environmental regulations, which have a direct impact on the residents of these urban states.

The arrests in Ekiti come after an awareness campaign by the Ministry of Environment aimed at ensuring that landlords follow the Ministry’s “One House, One Toilet” policy.  Under this policy, landlords are required to provide toilets in every rented house.  Landlords were cited for violations of this policy by not providing toilets adequate sanitation.  As landlords have a reputation for constantly testing the will of the government, this decisive move is aimed at demonstrating the government’s commitment to enforcing these policies.

The closing of the Sun Yoghurt Company was precipitated by the company’s noncompliance of the State’s monthly sanitation exercise.  Despite announcements about the sanitation exercise, 116 persons did not observe the exercise and were charged with violating the law and fined 176,000 Nigerian Naira.

Both incidents come after a year-long push by local Nigerian governments to crack down on environmental and sanitation violations.  In the past year, close to 500 people have been arrested, fined, and jailed for violations of existing environmental laws.  The majority of accused have been prosecuted in mobile environmental courts, which conduct systematic inspections of both public and private state facilities.  Violations range from uncut grass to leaking piping to improper disposal of hazardous waste.  While there is a range of penalties for violations, the aim of the mobile courts is to increase awareness of the environmental and sanitation guidelines, and to instill discipline among residents.

More about the Ekiti incident can be found here and here for the Kano incident.

USAID and SIDA launch Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development (GCD)

By Jane Tingley (Intern, IHC)
September 12, 2013

On September 2, 2013, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) launched the Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development (GCD) program during an opening plenary session of the World Water Week conference in Stockholm, Sweden.  Securing Water for Food is the fifth GCD program launched in the past two years, and the third GCD supported in partnership with SIDA.  This GCD will be focused on the clear connections between water and food security.  The program is seeking scientific and technological innovations that aim to improve water efficiency along the food value chain, leading to enhanced food security and poverty alleviation.

The three focus areas of the GCD program are: water efficiency and reuse, water capture and storage, and saltwater intrusion.    While scientific innovations, such as saliency reduction methods are highlighted as possible supported improvements, the program will also support business and financial proposals that focus on increasing dissemination and adoption of science and technology solutions.

Calling innovators from all industries, including academics, business, and technology, in the first round, the program will be funding 30-40 innovations that are considered to be in the first two stages of innovation, Stage 1, Validation or Stage 2, Commercial Growth/Scaling.   Successful innovations will incorporate market-based approaches to improving water sustainability.

A website has been launched with information detailing the call for innovations, including eligibility and evaluation criteria.  This information and further details about the program can be found here.

Rockefeller Foundation Launches Resilient Cities Challenge

By Anjali Bean (Research and Policy Associate, IHC)
August 8, 2013

The Rockefeller Foundation launched a Centennial Challenge this week, on resilient cities. 100 cities with a population  over 50,000  will be selected to receive technical assistance and support while developing urban resiliency plans. The 100 winners will also participate in a Resilient Cities Network to share best practices and learn from each other.

This new project marks the 100th anniversary of the Rockefeller foundation, and the remarkable urban transformation that has occurred since 1913. The intended resiliency plans that will come from the Challenge will encompass environmental and natural disaster risks, health threats and financial instability.

The project recognizes that while solutions may be significantly different in various parts of the world, cities everywhere nonetheless form the backbone of any resilient society, and government can and should learn from each other as they adjust to a new urban reality.

A new website was launched this week to promote and organize the challenge. Also included in the website is a compilation of Rockefeller resources on resiliency as well as a blog discussing important issues in the field.

This information and more details on the competition itself is available here.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing: “The Impact of U.S. Water Programs on Global Health”

By Matt Seamon (Intern, IHC)
August 2, 2013

Yesterday, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations held a hearing focused on the importance of clean water to overall global health. The event, entitled “The Impact of U.S. Water Programs on Global Health,” featured a distinguished panel including:

  • Christian Holmes, Global Water Coordinator at USAID
  • Aaron Salzberg, Ph.D., Special Coordinator for Water Resources at the State Department
  • John Oldfield, CEO of WASH Advocates
  • Malcolm Morris, Chairman of the Millennium Water Alliance
  • Buey Ray Tut, Executive Director of Aqua Africa

Each panelist stressed the significant progress that the development community has made on these issues, and highlighted that U.S. water and sanitation programs are saving and improving millions of lives across the globe. Several of the panelists, including WASH Advocates CEO John Oldfield, discussed the critical linkages between clean water and improved health outcomes.

While celebrating the good work that U.S. programs have done, the panel also called attention to ongoing challenges. They urged the subcommittee and Congress to support increased funding for foreign assistance, while also providing the oversight necessary to ensure these funds are spent most effectively. Panelists also expressed support for pending legislation to strengthen U.S. water programs, including the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2013.

More information about the hearing, including a full video recording and transcript of panelist testimony, can be found here.

New York Times Op-Ed Highlights Complicated Issue of Mumbai Slums

By Matt Seamon (Intern, IHC)
July 17, 2013

The recent explosion of population growth in large cities all around the developing world presents opportunities for economic development, but it has also exacerbated the issue of urban slums. Slums, which are generally characterized by insecure land tenure, extensive overcrowding, squalid living conditions, and a lack of municipal services like water and sanitation, are a massive public health problem. Many cities have increasingly taken steps to eliminate slums by razing slum buildings and replacing them with rapidly constructed residential housing blocks designed to absorb excess population. However, the promotion of hastily-constructed new buildings has produced its own dangers for the urban poor.

That is the focus of an op-ed published last week in the New York Times. The article documents a recent wave of building collapses in the slums around Mumbai, including a collapse that killed 74 people in April and another this month that killed at least six people and injured more than two dozen. In both cases, the root cause was shoddy construction work and dangerously low-quality building materials. In the rush to develop additional real estate, new buildings are neither approved nor overseen by any government agency. In the absence of regulations, and with an ever-worsening housing shortage brought on by Mumbai’s booming population, new construction emphasizes ease and affordability over safety and stability. The result: “shoddily built disasters.”

The op-ed puts the responsibility squarely on the city government, which has implemented faulty urban policies and allowed unrestrained real-estate speculation. The authors call on the city to re-think their current approach and look to other cities that have successfully upgraded their urban infrastructure as inspiration for new policies. They argue that Mumbai “will not solve its overcrowding problems by promoting buildings that could become lethal liabilities in the near future.”

Above all, the op-ed—and the tragic situation in Mumbai—highlight how important municipal governments and comprehensive urban planning are to global economic development and poverty reduction. The full article, titled “Boom and Bust at the Same Time,” can be found here.

Leaders in Congress Discuss Importance of Water Strategy at Launch Event

By Anjali Bean (Research and Policy Associate, IHC)
July 12, 2013

In May, USAID officially released their comprehensive water strategy, which will guide the Agency’s work in the water and sanitation sector in the coming years.  At an event on Capitol Hill, many leaders in the WASH community spoke of the importance of the strategy. Many of the speakers emphasized water’s connection to basic quality of life, nutrition and food security, disease prevention, education, gender equality, and security.

The event was recorded and all of the remarks can be found on USAID’s website here.  Many leaders from Congress and the Administration spoke, including Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Chris Coons (D-DE), Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX), and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. Videos on USAID’s water program and one highlighting a successful Development Innovation Ventures project are also available.

We particularly liked the remarks by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), highlighting the importance of focusing on the world’s poorest. Listen to his remarks below.

Representatives Royce and Engel Introduce Electrify Africa Act of 2013

By Matt Seamon (Intern, IHC)
July 10, 2013

In sub-Saharan Africa, energy poverty—lack of reliable access to electricity—is a devastating problem. Nearly 600 million people, two-thirds of the population, do not have access to electricity. Though energy poverty is less talked about than other development issues—for example, access to clean water and sanitation or food security —it is an important problem with significant negative effects for people in the developing world. Hospitals without electricity cannot store vaccines or use lifesaving medical equipment. Schools without electricity cannot access valuable teaching resources, and students without electricity in their homes cannot study after dark. Furthermore, this lack of affordable and reliable power is one of the most significant constraints on economic development. It is estimated that the absence of electricity hinders economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa by up to five percent each year.

Members of Congress are working to address this problem. Representatives Royce (R-CA) and Engel (D-NY), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, recently unveiled their Electrify Africa Act of 2013 (H.R. 2548). The bill aims to accelerate growth, boost education, and alleviate extreme poverty by providing first-time electricity access for at least 50 million people by 2020. The bill prioritizes and coordinates U.S. government resources, encouraging USAID to make loan guarantees to facilitate investment in power projects, promoting Overseas Private Investment Corporation to prioritize investment in the electricity sector, and pushing the World Bank and African Development Bank to increase commitments to power sector projects.

Reliable electricity is an important component of adequate housing and an integral part of long-term economic development.

The full text of the Electrify Africa Act can be found here.

Technology in Informal Economies – for the Developed World Too?

By Anjali Bean (Research and Policy Associate, IHC)
July 3, 2013

A major sign of a developing economy is the shrinking size and increasing regulation of the informal sector. Goods and services that were once unregulated and provided ad hoc by the community itself slowly get enveloped by the state or private companies that are required to act in a certain way and provide certain services.

This is generally considered a good thing; water and electricity are difficult or impossible to provide individually, and informal markets for both are often highly inefficient or predatory. Similarly, unregulated transportation can encourage reckless and unsafe behavior when there are no consequences and time is money.

However, in a blog post from the Informal Cities Dialogue, Nick Grossman argues that social platforms on the internet are beginning to reintroduce the developed world to informality. Beginning with eBay, but now including platforms such as CraigsList, AirBnB, SideCar and Kickstarter, informal “person-to-person” transactions have become a normal part of urban life. You no longer have to go through a company, store, or traditional financer to buy a car, rent an apartment for the weekend, or finance your next big idea; these services are now available from individuals or groups of individuals through peer-based platforms.


GAO Releases Report on Haiti Reconstruction

By Anjali Bean (Research and Policy Associate, IHC)
June 28, 2013

This week, at the request of the House Foreign Affairs Committee leadership, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a critical report on the use of government funds in Haiti, following the earthquake in January of 2010. Congress appropriated more than $1.14 billion dollars for reconstruction efforts in Haiti in 2010, and the report outlines how little of these funds have been spent and how both economic stimulus projects and housing reconstruction plans have been far slower and more expensive than originally projected.

Of particular interest to the IHC is the section on USAID lead housing reconstruction. Both the number of beneficiaries expected and the projected costs of preparation and construction have been revised several times since 2010, with the number of beneficiaries decreasing while the costs increase. USAID originally set a goal of constructing 15,000 houses for $8,000 each, benefiting 75,000 – 90,000 people. Since then these projections have been reduced to 2,649 houses, costing $23,400 each and benefiting only 13,200 – 15,900 people, an eighty percent reduction in housing units from the original estimate.

The report cites uncertainty around land tenure as a major stumbling block for USAID. USAID stopped efforts to partner with private landowners in 2011, but ownership has been difficult to verify even on government land. Higher international standards for housing construction and Haitian government requests for amenities such as electricity and flushing toilets also contributed to increasing costs.


Federal Budget Update

By Anjali Bean (Research and Policy Associate, IHC)
June 28, 2013

Negotiations continue as both the House and Senate attempt to solidify the FY2014 budget before the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1st. Much of the recent focus has been on 302(b) allocations. These allocations represent the division of the entire federal budget into sections that each subcommittee then allocates to specific programs and accounts.

Of particular interest to the IHC is the State and Foreign Operations allocation. Both the House and the Senate have released their 302(b) allocations and there will have to be significant negotiations in order to find a compromise between the two. The Senate allocations were passed with a vote entirely along party lines; this is unusual for the appropriations process and does not bode well for any upcoming compromises. And compromise will be needed, with the Senate’s State and Foreign Operations base funding allocation nearly 30% higher than the House’s.


The Jury Is Still Out On Urbanization and the Post-2015 Agenda

Guest Post by Chris Vincent, Government Relations and Advocacy, Habitat for Humanity
June 21, 2013

The Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015 and the release of a recent report by a United Nation’s advisory group has kicked off a lively discussion about the future of global development.  The jury is still out if housing, slums and urbanization will get any attention from policy-makers.

On May 31st, a U.N. task team called the High Level Panel released its recommendations, including a set of illustrative goals for a post-2015 agenda.  Generally, the report is strong and lays out a vision to end extreme poverty.   However, from a housing perspective, the report has important elements, but falls short.  Good options exist to tackle housing and urbanization issues along with cities and resilience.

The High Level Panel should be applauded for singling out the importance of secure land tenure by increasing the percentage of “women and men, communities and small businesses with secure rights to land, property and other assets.” Secure tenure, or freedom from the fear of eviction, is foundational to adequate housing.  Other essential targets on water, sanitation, gender and financial services are also included in the framework.

While the High Level Panel allows that “cities are where the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost”, there is little of this trend reflected in their goals and targets.  Estimates from the U.N. predict 3 billion people will be living in slums by 2050, a 200% increase from today’s levels.  The U.N. officially states the current MDG target on slums has been achieved, but this “success” discounts that slum populations are increasing dramatically, especially in Africa.  Despite this, the High Level Panel failed to include any target on slums in their report.


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