5 Feb 2016; Kabul, Afghanistan
During 1st-5th February 2016 over 350 civil society representatives and community members from the five major Afghan cities - Kabul, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad and Kandahar - were in Kabul to take part in 'Inclusive Afghan Cities Week'.
During the week a series of events took place to promote inclusive and gender sensitive urban development, with a particular focus on the role of urban 'Community Development Councils' (CDCs) as key entities in the sub-national governance structure.
Community exchange of 'urban solidarity' experiences
As part of the Community-Led Urban Infrastructure Programme (CLUIP), representatives from CDCs shared experiences from implementing this Japanese-funded programme. The CLUIP exchange aimed to share information and experiences, create common understanding and develop new approaches and relationships as foundation for future projects. During the field visit male and female CDC members discussed lessons learnt and challenges in their provinces through field visits, inauguration of female projects and workshops.
On the 2nd of February all 350 CDC members were invited to the President's Palace to present their achievements and challenges in the projects to H.E. President Ghani. 11 female and male CDC members presented their experiences, proposals for future development and expectations of the Government.
H.E. President Ashraf Ghani addressed the CDCs and appreciated their hard work and solidarity. He particularly addressed women to take a lead role in the development of their cities and in building the country.
Minister of Urban Development Affairs Sayed Mansoor Naderi, Acting Director General of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance Mohamad Nader Yama, and Mr. Kenji Enoshita, Counsellor, Japan Embassy, highlighted the importance of such 'urban solidarity' programmes to handle urban growth and existing challenges in Afghanistan.
Giving communities a voice in the development of the Urban National Priority Programme
Later in the week, on the 4th February, a ‘National Urban Citizen Consultation’ on the Urban National Priority Programme (U-NPP) was held. The U-NPP draft was presented to the civil society and CDC representatives by the Government. During the day participants contributed with their priorities and suggestions to improve the draft U-NPP.
The U-NPP is being developed as part of the Future of Afghan Cities (FOAC) programme, supported by the Governments of Australia and the UK. The U-NPP is drawing on the recent State of Afghan Cities 2015 Report, which was launched by H.E. President Ghani, which highlighted the need for an improved national framework and policy environment for urban development.
The CDC participants expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to contribute to this national policy initiative. Many noted that they had never been consulted on such matters before and this provided a momentous opportunity to contribute with 'grassroots' ideas and priorities, as well as addressing the regional variations and needs.
Deputy Minister for Urban Development, Hamid Jalil, noted that the Government values the inputs and contributions from citizens and is making serious attempts to develop the U-NPP in a more participatory way, which should promote national ownership and alignment with citizens' priorities.
UN-Habitat as an enabler of improved citizen participation
UN-Habitat has been active in Afghanistan for over two decades. It is currently implementing a portfolio of programmes that seek to strengthen human settlements in Afghanistan and promote sustainable urban development. This is especially important given the considerable challenges urbanisation poses in the coming decades.
The CLUIP programme is a one year programme funded by the Government of Japan and aims at securing and stabilizing urban areas across five cities by responding to the urgent needs of recently displaced people, demobilized combatants, and returnees through community empowerment, enhancing their access to basic services, and improving their livelihoods thereby enabling them to live in dignity.
The Future of Afghan Cities Programme (FoAC) is supporting the Government with the development of the U-NPP, which will outline a clear national framework of priorities and interventions in the coming decade in the urban sector. It is being developed collaboratively with relevant Ministries and departments (including MUDA, IDLG/GDMA, Kabul Municipality, ARAZI), and should provide opportunities for municipalities, civil society and the private sector to engage and contribute to promote national ownership.