Protecting the Rights of Informal Slum Dwellers through Improved and More Inclusive Urban Governance

Sep 4, 2012

Survival is a daily struggle for many slumdwellers, who often lack access to basic services, such as clean water and sanitation. Photo: World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty.

UNDP launches new programme to strengthen city governments at World Urban Forum

Naples – Cities hold enormous potential for humanity, bringing greater and more equitable access to services, promoting economic growth, reducing impact on the environment and advancing human development.  However, lacking transparent, accountable and capable governance, cities quickly become poverty traps – imprisoning millions in the depths of despair, facing severe vulnerabilities, extreme poverty, insecurity and disease.

A new programme launched today at the World Urban Forum in Naples, Italy by the United Nations Development Programme, seeks to promote more inclusive urban governance, working with local authorities to design innovative strategies that can transform informal settlements into livable neighbourhoods.

“The situation of the majority of slumdwellers is characterized by vulnerability,” said Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Director of UNDP’s Democratic Governance Group in the Bureau for Development Policy.  “They are vulnerable to eviction due to lack of secure property rights, they are vulnerable to exploitation by vested interests or criminal gangs, to environmental hazards and to the labour hazards of informal work” (video message).  

Speaking at a panel organized by UNDP at the World Urban Forum, Daniel Chisenga, mayor of Lusaka, said democracy in needed to promote inclusive growth and development.  “And democracy requires citizen engagement – the participation of all – not just those with the means.  Residents of informal settlements on the margins of cities are also citizens of those cities – we need to find ways to engage them in the governance solutions needed to address the challenges.”

UNDP Local Governance Advisor Kodjo Mensah-Abrampa said there are more than 800 million people living in slums. “Most of these people are considered non-citzens, without rights,” he said. “This new UNDP programme to promote inclusive urban governance will seek to develop strategies to ensure these people’s voices are heard, and that they are actively engaged in the political process.”

The UNDP programme has partnered with Slum Dwellers International, an NGO.  It will be coordinated with the Rockefeller Foundation, UN Habitat and other UN agencies and programmes in order to benefit from and replicate best practices in building partnerships between governments and informal settlement dwellers.  Five cities are being selected to serve as pilots, from Africa, Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe.

Contact Information

Adam Rogers (in Naples):
Tel: +41 79 849 0679

UNDP Around the world