/*********************************************** * Ultimate Fade In Slideshow v2.0- (c) Dynamic Drive DHTML code library (www.dynamicdrive.com) * This notice MUST stay intact for legal use * Visit Dynamic Drive at http://www.dynamicdrive.com/ for this script and 100s 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.

The Bad

While an important benchmark, the policy is just guidance, mere encouragement for missions to consider.  Unlike other USAID policies, urban programming remains largely unfunded.  Alonzo Fulgham, USAID’s former Administrator acknowledged during the launch event that “we don’t have the expertise in house anymore” and said “until it’s a priority of the Mission Director, Ambassador and country leadership, it’s just a policy.” Without incentives like funding and clear metrics, USAID missions will perceive this document as an academic exercise and continue business as usual, focusing the majority of their time on existing priorities.  Unless USAID includes accountable and measurable changes throughout the policy’s implementation, its impact over the long-term will be minimal.

The Ugly

Although two billion people are expected to reside in slums by 2030, housing and secure land tenure are absent from the policy.  In a section entitled “Experience in Urban Programming” USAID touts that for 30 years, the Office of Housing and Urban Programs pursued hundreds of projects in over 40 countries.  The office was closed down in the1990s though, and less than a handful of staff remain focused on urban issues. Adequate housing, which is essential to poverty reduction, economic growth and the improvement of one’s health, is largely ignored.  Secure tenure, or the ability to live in a place without fear of eviction, is mentioned only in passing despite its central role in improving housing conditions and providing the stability necessary for sustainable and long-lasting investments in communities.  With this policy, USAID has passed the buck on an integral piece of any practical urban strategy.

You can view the launch event here. To learn more about how Habitat for Humanity is providing innovative housing solutions, read our latest Shelter Report.   Learn more about how this issue links to the Post-2015 agenda.

Leave a Reply

  • Categories

  • Archives