Aisa Karabo Outgoing Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat Exit Interview

13 Mar 2019

Q1: You joined UN-Habitat seven years ago. Please tell us about your work and major achievements as the Deputy Executive Director UN-Habitat.

Thank you very much, I really appreciate this opportunity.

I have had the privilege and honor of serving as DED of UN-Habitat for 6 years 9months; you are right it’s almost 7 years, at a time of relevance. I am saying that because in the last seven years, UN-Habitat has come of age as an agency within the UN System, 40 years down the road. But more importantly, the issue of urbanization has become a key determinant to the achievement of Sustainable Development and so when I stepped in from home, having served in various positions in my home country and being exposed to how leadership engaging with its communities to plan for human settlements and town and how urbanization can either be positively transformative and if not well planned and managed, can be detrimental. So, when I joined UN-Habitat, I was passionate, and I still am about this issue. I am pleased to note that I found a wonderful team here, people with rich knowledge and expertise on this issue of urbanization and human settlements, in development, crisis, research, policy and pragmatic angles. For me it was like a center of knowledge and I wondered if this is known elsewhere and how we can raise it to higher level.

My first contribution in that sense was to work with the then ED and the team to raise the relevance of urbanization as a key determinant to achieving inclusive sustainable development. Within that framework, we worked substantively to define what the UN can do from a research, policy and programmatic perspective in terms of supporting countries and other partners to utilize this agenda. It happened that I came in when there was a reform process going on and fortunately an ongoing debate on the post 2015 development agenda, out of which the SDGs came and after which the Habitat III came. So, I did play a key role with humility understanding that leadership and engaging others is very important in bringing such issues on board.

I participated in the post 2015 development agendas, definition of urbanization and especially helping the ED’s team on the programmatic substantive component of UN-Habitat’s input in that process. I was so happy to see at the end how urbanization agenda came out clearly in the SDGs with Goal number 11 and more importantly, an integration of urbanization aspects even in the other goals. I think this laid a very good foundation for the New Urban Agenda at Habitat III in 2016 which highlights how urbanization can be utilized to achieve sustainable development. Let’s not forget the role that we played in the Addis Ababa Agreement on the financing of sustainable development, the debate on the building of resilient communities and of course climate change. All these encompassed the policy debate and raising of urbanization as a tool that can be used to address all these issues positively. Especially given the fact that where things have gone wrong in cities, it is our role to use urbanization as a positive agent.

Secondly, within the same context of raising urbanization my contribution was to ensure that we remained rooted and relevant to the people that we serve because one can engage in policy dialogue at global level and lose connection with a person in Mathare or Kibera or Kabul or Maputo. So, I worked closely with the teams to ensure That the strategic planning process was able to feed into and support our work at regional, country and community level. And that is how I benefited a lot from the work that we are doing here but also from my field visits where I would listen, reach out and learn how we supported work on the ground and bring back the knowledge to share with colleagues in the various leadership dialogue sessions that we had. In a very practical manner, that helped me to support the connection between our leadership vision and the reality on the ground. That was also emphasized by the independent evaluations that were clearly guiding us on areas of improvement and areas of good practices that we could also expand and scale up. And so, I supported the ED’s team in taking the lessons from evaluations from the different levels (global, regional, country) and use them to feed into improvement of our work. 5 years down the road, there is a distinct difference in evaluation reports of 2012 and 2016. The Mopan report is very clear, it indicates the relevance and good work that UN-Habitat has done and highlights the progress.

Thirdly, there has been a focus on the impact of people’s lives. I was a member of Parliament before I joined the executive office of UN-Habitat and everything for me had to transfer to what matters most in people’s lives. It is with this vision that I had the opportunity of serving specific elements of aspects of focus on women, youth and human rights components and to ensure that even though our work as UN-Habitat comes across as technical complex work like urban planning, urban legislation, urban economy etc. I want to commend the work of the colleagues in various fields for having a people centric approach around what we do as an agency, to bring them on board in the overall planning, management, evaluation and in the end letting them lead these processes.

Partnerships; we focused on the substantive connections of our partners based on issues. There was really good progress in some of these issues, for example I had direct leadership of our Global Land Tool Network as we developed the issue of security of land tenure so did we expand the various land partners like World Bank, UN sister agencies, civil society, corporate world and other over sixty partners joined with a clear strategy of building their capacity, expectations on accomplishments and cooperation. Another good example is the slum upgrading programme. I am pleased to note that these two examples really stood out. Despite all the accomplishments on substantive issues, something we did not attain was the implementation of corporate partnership strategy to benefit the elevation of urbanization to proactively engage with other sister agencies and partners. I would also like to commend the new Executive Director, Maimuna for the new UN wide system approach she brought in the organization. She gave me the opportunity to lead the overall UN wide system partnership approach and collaborate on how the UN system should utilize urbanization as a tool to help member states to deliver, making my final 8 months in the organization the most exciting time. I would like to add that this came up very well with the four pillars; knowledge, operational or programmatic, partnerships and financing, with a clear framework and roadmap. I handed this report over to the director of external relations, Christine Musisi and I hope she will follow it up with the DED and the rest of the team. I believe that this is the time that UN-Habitat needs to take advantage of this overall change process and the clarity of leadership to elevate our catalytic role in a transformative way.

Q2. As mentioned prior to joining UN-Habitat, you served as an elected member of parliament. You were also a governor and mayor of Kigali in your home country Rwanda. Please tell us how your knowledge and experience helped you push forward the United Nations’ goal of Sustainable Urban Development.

Thank you very much. Again, I have been privileged and honored to serve in areas that exposed me to opportunities to learn and to serve, somehow in preparation to join the UN System. This has kept my vision clear. I remember when I took up the parliamentary role coming from a veterinary background, I was working with farmers through the Ministry of Agriculture and previously with an NGO. So, I was used to working with community based and participatory methodologies but technically a veterinary addressing livestock and animals. When the opportunity came to serve, I realized that this angle is not enough. One needs an integrated approach in addressing policies and national needs. So, the three years in parliament showed me the power of policy. But policy can only be as powerful as its knowledge base and hence the need for the normative aspect of what the UN offers. I was very angry about it because we needed to do a lot of research at every step of the way. We had a capacity limitation, but we had good grounded practices with communities. What we missed was an analysis of what was happening in the various fields across the world. For instance, at the time I was in parliament we reviewed our laws on land. And today, those laws and systems have been set in place to the extent that over 98% of Rwandese own land. When I came to UN-Habitat, beyond owning land I realized that you can help people let go ownership in exchange for productivity. The realization that the normative work of UN-Habitat can be so powerful and liberating for countries that have got good governance and a focus on their people but are looking for the right skill base and a knowledge component. So that is the element that helped me to come in and support the knowledge sharing component to remain as pragmatic. Of course, you will not copy paste what is in China or America, but there are some norms, principles, standards that make urbanization work. Planning for compactness, planning for enough public space, planning for waste management etc. are things that would really help globally. Owning and sharing such knowledge was a key thing for me to learn and understand that you need the right planning, policy and financing.

Again, I was elected to the mayoral position when we were doing the master planning for the city and we invested a lot of money into that. But after the planning, it was not as implementable as I thought it would be because were had only looked at the planning process without looking at the laws and policies that would enable the implementation like the laws of land. For instance, we did not understand anything about land readjustment and how you can negotiate transparently with people to become beneficiaries of the whole process without having to move or relocate them. The other aspect is that we did not have a clear financing model even though we had a good master plan, hindering implementation. When I joined UN-Habitat, it was easy for me to feel the gaps, connect the dots and clearly support an integrated package that UN-Habitat could offer.

Secondly, it was clear to me that the relevance of UN-Habitat was dependent upon the integration and teamwork as UN system. I remember when I was mayor, I really did not like different heads of agencies meeting me with their different agendas e.g., UN Women, UNDP, UN Environment, UN-Habitat etc. This was too much. Fortunately, UN delivers as one in Rwanda. I remember trying to implement this master plan and encountering women who live in the informal settlement. I approached UN Women, UNDP and UN-Habitat so that we could work together to come up with a package to empower these women. This contributed greatly to the transformative process because the UN was delivering as one. This is something that inspired me, and I brought with me to UN-Habitat. Whenever I visited the country offices, regional offices to found out that it is working in some areas, but we need to scale that up. This will go a long way in creating relevance.

Finally, having been on the side that was served by the UN and later becoming the voice of UN-Habitat, colleagues often told me that we could use a simpler language to connect more with the member states that we serve. It is easy to get lost in your area of specialization and lose touch with the community. So, I insisted on the integration of our work, a people-centered approach and relevance to a leader with a four- or five-year term. These are aspects that have helped me to connect with CPR members and other bodies that we’ve served at higher levels.

Q3. Please tell us about the challenges of working with governments and how your contributions pushed forward the mandate and success of UN-Habitat.

The first challenge would be that our mandate as UN-Habitat does not have a clear ministerial portfolio. For instance, WHO and Minister for Health across the globe is standard, also with women and environment ministries. The fact that we talk about it and it sounds so powerful and, in the end, it splits in the different areas makes it difficult beyond the governing council, the general assembly and the policy dialogues that we have. Despite all these, what takes place at national level? This is precisely why we should take advantage of the New Urban Agenda because it clearly articulates the role of the national government in ensuring that there is an integrated national policy or urbanization policy. Many times, what some states would call an urbanization policy would fall under housing policy or infrastructure policy or land policy and becomes siloed and scattered. The national urban policy defines what it should encompass, and I think forging forward on that would be very useful. I want to commend the progress so far especially in Africa where over 20 countries had registered to review their urbanization policies to see that they are in line with the New Urban Agenda. I believe that this comes in handy to work around the six typologies that the current Executive Director Maimunah has proposed which are very clear for every country. Do you have policies? If not, we can begin with you. If you have the policies, can we review them? If they are good, are they implementable? Can we support on implementation? If you are implementing, do you have monitoring framework for that? There are different aspects that can be used to mirror where the countries are located and that helps UN-Habitat to have something much more tangible to work on.

The lack of connection between urbanization and the budgeting process is the other challenge. For instance, when we have a crisis or a disease like Ebola or HIV/AIDS, there is an analysis that if you invest in the control and management of the disease, these will be the benefits and vice versa. Is there a clear way that we can say if you don’t manage urbanization, this will be the cost because consequences are always there? So, we need to transfer what we see as the big idea to what its implications are in a budgetary manner because that means that it then becomes an investment opportunity. Or at least people will be aware that if we don’t invest in it we are not going to get it. On that note, we try to push the issue of urbanization not only as something you should seek aid for, but if you want to make it transformative you must look at it as an investment opportunity. I would like now to focus on the achievement we made on our contribution to the Addis Ababa Agreement; the financing of sustainable urban development. We brought on board the role urbanization can play to enhance municipal finance, local economic development and therefore finance sustainable development. This is one angle that needs to be expanded further. Secondly, we have forged a connection between infrastructure development in urbanization and policy reviews in the framework of the Implementation Facility for Financing Sustainable Development (IFFSUD). I think if we can focus on a few countries initially like fifteen or twenty, maybe three per region and see how UN-Habitat coordinates the rest of the UN system like UNDP and UN Environment, because we have the urban window within the joint 2030 Agenda. How are we making it practical? If we continue identifying these few countries, focus on them and have a model of bringing in the policy advice as UN-Habitat coordinating the UN System ensuring that whatever infrastructure development taking place in these countries is preceded by this. When the World Bank coordinates with the other IFIs and forms one package and a powerful vehicle to enable what we are looking for. I was deeply inspired when I listened to President Kenyatta’s inaugural speech on the Big 4 Agenda. On the second agenda, he talked about doing business and referred to the achievement made by Kenya on the doing business climate and sets the target for the following year according to the World Bank report. I keep asking myself what we as the UN-Habitat are doing to support such as much as our policy and advisory work is concerned. Our partnership with the World Bank can work and feed into the system.

 

 

 

Q4. What is your view on the impact of Habitat III and how it will shape the future of Un-Habitat.

I believe that we have a very strategic advantage in Habitat III, in the sense that, Habitat III forged a very good platform for world leaders to focus on the issue of urbanization and ask themselves how it can be used as a transformative force. It was good that Habitat III came in immediately after the coining of the sustainable development goals and therefore to me it gives a very clear way forward in terms of the how. It’s a package of strategic decision and tools that define how urbanization can be planned, managed and how the various stakeholders at national, local level, international, private sector, public and civil society can work together to ensure inclusive, safe, sustainable and resilient urbanization and human settlement.  The new Urban Agenda is a huge opportunity and I trust and hope we will not only keep as an achievement of the conference but as an active component of what we do, and we will continue to support its implementation and monitor its progress.  I am very delighted that the secretary-general has supported the ED’s proposal for Un-Habitat to coordinate and facilitate a UN system-wide approach towards using this New Urban Agenda in supporting member states to deliver on the 2030 Agenda.

Q5. Having worked with UN-Habitat for over 6 years, what are todays challenges to the agencies and how do you think we can overcome them?

That is a good question Hellen, UN-Habitat is at a critical juncture and I see it has huge opportunities, it has challenges but it’s in insurmountable. I would say that I don’t think there are many organizations even within the UN system who had the opportunity of the timeliness of a focus on their mandate coming soon after the endorsement of the SDG’s and therefore that gives a very huge opportunity to UN-Habitat because its mandate is to support member state and foster sustainable urbanization and human settlements. The outcome of Habitat III and 2030 Agenda can be looked at as an opportunity in the sense that it created a political momentum to raise the focus of the attention of urbanization and therefore the relevance of the UN as a family to support member states to take it as such. That is very well highlighted in the high-level panel report where they were saying, the UN as a system has not yet been adequately prepared and equipped to do that and I like the way the ED, Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, has taken that boldly and as I mentioned the secretary-general is very supportive and right now elevating the role of UN-Habitat as a family member of the UN system in raising the issue of urbanization and that is the outcome of Habitat III towards a transformative process rather than looking at urbanization as a problem that causes inequality and slum.  That is important, but we need to address it, but we also need to take on the positive aspect, so the raising of the UN-Habitat mandate is a huge opportunity but it’s a challenge on the other hand in that the capacity of the UN-Habitat is not yet there.  What I think is important is to raise that capacity and I think the ED has already defined the key elements. 

One of them is the knowledge aspect if we as the UN continue to support the member states by providing data, knowledge, and evidence-based research to analysis these global issues and localize them, then we need to be very equipped in terms of knowledge and research. That is an area that is well built up the seeds are there I would really like to appreciate what UN-Habitat has been able to do in terms of research in the sense that in addition to the global reports, we have got tools that are available to  access and analyze urbanization at national and even city subnational level engaging out sister agencies: UNDP, UNFP and everybody on board to create a coherent policy framework that feeds and benefits from this knowledge I think is one area.

Secondly, operationalization. Urbanization is global but it's also local, you cannot copy paste its unique, Africans urbanization is certainly different from Europe or Latin America. It is Good that the secretary general identifies that and said we need to regionalize and localize that so the operational aspect of that is very important. The capacity in the work that we do even operationally given that we are non-resident, we need to strengthen our partnership within the UN system and define clearly how as a non-resident agency we are going to be working with other sister agencies to enable the operationalization of the new urban agenda and again that needs to be defined very well and I think there is already a frameup which I contributed to. I want to say that I like the way we have done it in terms of development and crisis and our good practices in that sense especially and country level that show that when we work together with the others like in Iraq, Mozambique, my home country Rwanda or even here in Kenya as we continue to enhance our work and many other places. This can become the areas that can be scaled up and be looked upon as good examples and we work out a frame work and policy to really strengthen that and fits into the regional and global. I think the other challenge has been on partnership as I mentioned last time. Partnership has been focused on specific issues, but we need to have a corporate partnership strategy and that needs to be raised to that scale we are talking about.  It needs to be very clear that for instance as we plan for the urban forum, UN-Habitat coordinates the UN as a family and prepares ahead of time not to invite them to do their side events but to plan and work with a sister agencies in presenting a UN system wide approach to supporting the implementation of the new urban agenda and I believe that with all this and good advocacy and communication then we should be able to do it.

I think the other challenge UN-Habitat has today is the financial situation especially on the core resources, this is not only unique to UN-Habitat, but I think that the analysis that has been done as to why we have a healthy earmarked portfolio and less of core resources the issue of leadership, accountability, transparency and  governance are all on their way to be addressed I am so happy that the member states are taking on seriously the governance issue of UN-Habitat and we hope that the end of this year at least the general assembly will have an agreed upon governance structure of UN-Habitat and that combined with the ongoing reform process laid down by the ED, which is really anchored in stronger internal governance mechanism I already see an increase level of trust between UN-Habitat and its partners its donors and member states so the good thing is we have got good substance, credibility for what we do. Even the donor who are not supporting us on core are supporting the projects so with a clarity on the system, leadership and governance am very hopeful that will be addressed but we need to aware that it may take a while, so the resilience, consistence, teamwork and believe in a more open and collaborative approach to working with others will go a long way in raising UN-Habitat’s role as a member of the UN system and I see that coming soon.

Q6. What in your view has caused this financial situation and how do you think UN-Habitat can overcome the downfall?

I think I have mentioned a few of those issues I do remember when I came almost seven years ago there was a clear association between the debate on the governance issue and the donor trust and yet there was a lot of strive and division I think about 5 years ago if I remember clearly the member states agreed on a working group, program, and budget. where we need to have a strong governance mechanism to enhance accountability and oversight to trust UN-Habitat work. I think that has tried but didn’t deliver as much because it didn’t have the necessary tools. I am pleased that the debate that was concluded recently by the open-ended working group there is a political cohesion towards that at least there is a common stand and currently am sure that you are aware that it’s been discussed in the second committee this month. I am hopeful that that is one of the key areas that has been raised a couple of times.

I think that the second one has been the disconnect between what we do operationally and what we mean by core work, maybe in so doing as we go out to mobilize for resources for projects on the ground they attract for funding, but it is important that as we package that we make it clear that they cannot be transformative If they are not anchored in very good research and normative work. The work we do at a global level is the value add of the UN. We need to have a coherent messaging and packaging of that and I think that is coming along especially in as far as showcasing more integration between how our normative work benefits our operational work and vice versa.  

The third that has been from the donor’s satisfaction surveys and various evaluation, issue of enhancing our communication, advocacy and partnership have been raised. Now am pleased again to note that new thinking of the leadership this that are areas that will win priorities. Issues of trust as I mentioned previously, transparency, accountability, and sharing of information on a much more regular and clearer basis. I like the way when the ED, Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, the very first day she came in she said she will start off with internal governance and before she talked about member states she was going to work with the team and she would like to hold ourselves to account before we go out. For the 8months I have there it worked very well. I think before we talk about the core finances just the sense of ownership of the whole team the motivation of staff, the clarity of vision and the transparency and trust among the staff and the member states is on the rise and everything is going out very clearly so am hopeful this are the key issues that were being mentioned but of course we know that the global trend is that core resources are becoming less available. My emphasis on this note would be that I think we shouldn’t lose sight of even that which we achieved in the tougher times in the sense that even least developed countries were developing financially to core work of UN-Habitat even though they were still earmarking it. I think positioning that and encouraging that goes ahead and be supported will really go a long way.  Maybe the last point I want like to raise here is, positioning urbanization as an investment opportunity much more than maybe one that needs aids. The innovative idea of creating an urban window in the 2030 stand which began off with this implementation facilities for financing of sustainable urban development I think is a very strategic tool I would really love to see that benefits the mayors of the cities and towns because cities and towns are not short of financing it is the planning and coherence of that planning with financing. In that what we have in infrastructure in terms of housing is anchored within good urban planning, legislation, and financing if you bring it as a package then it makes a lot of sense and it unleashes a lot of growth and potential.

One of them is the knowledge aspect if we as the UN continue to support the member states by providing data, knowledge, and evidence-based research to analysis these global issues and localize them, then we need to be very equipped in terms of knowledge and research. That is an area that is well built up the seeds are there I would really like to appreciate what UN-Habitat has been able to do in terms of research in the sense that in addition to the global reports, we have got tools that are available to  access and analyze urbanization at national and even city subnational level engaging out sister agencies: UNDP, UNFP and everybody on board to create a coherent policy framework that feeds and benefits from this knowledge.

Secondly, operationalization. Urbanization is global but it's also local, you cannot copy paste, Africans urbanization is certainly different from Europe and Latin America. It is Good that the secretary general identifies that and said we need to regionalize and localize that so the operational aspect of that is very important again UN-Habitat has got.

Q7. Nairobi city residence face certain issues such as waste, traffic, informal settlement etc. Just tell us how Nairobi can learn from Rwanda on how to overcome these challenges.

I First, I would like to say that in my last almost 7 years I have enjoyed living in Nairobi. I have not lived in Nairobi all that time may be about less than 30%, well because we are global, but all that time I have been here I think Nairobi needs to celebrate its beauty. It is one of the greenest cities there are not many cities that have got a natural forest in the middle of the city and I think it’s also a very vibrant growing city.  It is also a very vibrant growing city it has a community of people who are dynamic. Early morning it’s the traffic or people walking everybody is going to work. Even in the informal settlement, when I go to Mathare I don’t find people sleeping I find then working there is an enterprising vibrant spirit which we should celebrate. The issue you have raised whether the traffic management, waste management are not unique to Nairobi they are common to many of our fast-growing cities in developing countries including my home country Rwanda. We are not as heavy because we are not a bigger city, Kigali, but we are severer struggling with traffic we are trying to manage it but the pace of the traffic increase on the road is not commentary to the level of construction and planning for public transport. Let’s start off by what we can do we as Africans and leaders in our own community. I like the fact that the world habitat day celebrated this time an issue that is practical and pragmatic which is waste management of how we can turn our waste into energy. There are lots of practices we use back at home in Kigali or elsewhere, there also a lot of innovative practices here in Kenya. We have worked with organizations that turn waste into energy. What we now need to do is to break it from the governance level to the smallest unit what is my role and what is your role and what are the existing policy that enables that. In my humble opinion, I do remember one thing that really helped me when I was mayor of Kigali was the connection and clarity of planning between the city plan and the national plan but also importantly the city plan and the district, the subsector and to the smallest level. The creation of a clear communication line and public accountability so that when it comes to issues such as cleaning, management of waste the community is well organized and arranged, managed and laid they should be able to contribute to it and finally we build a culture. It is an issue of breaking it down so what we have as a vision of the city leadership finally everyone knows this is my stake if it is a fee am contributing or more than a fee what am I doing in assuring my neighborhood is clean is safe and what is the role of the city leadership and the national government. I think that is a governance thing that we need to continue strengthening and I believe that will tap in the enterprising spirit because as I have seen in Kenyans is they are really good at making business and I have seen that even in Kigali it’s a cross-learning thing I think we have some experience with the Kenyans and am sure there is a bit they can learn Rwanda. If I could add on there is something we have now that we did not have when I was mayor, when I was mayor we had the millennium development goals. The millennium development goals were looking at all these things, but we didn’t have urbanization, now the goal number 11 and the New Urban Agenda hooks in a very clear mechanism which leadership can benefit from. I forgot to mention to you  in order for us to have that structured governance mechanism there was a system and an institution and in 2006 that is when I joined fortunately at the same time the government proposed something which really worked out really well and that is a performance management system which is a compact that the mayor develops with the community and presents to government and signs with the president in parliament. That facilitates the government in allocating, financing, support, advice and policy review on the implementation of this performance compact and there is a monitoring and review mechanism and recognition of performance so that helped us to focus on specific issues. So now since we have the big 4 that his excellency president Uhuru Kenyatta announced at his inaugural I think if there was a performance management compact mechanism to break that down so the governors know this is how we are going to contributing to the big 4 and civil society and private sector and everybody does that. Now, if we take advantage of the sustainable development goals and say where do the 17 sustainable development goals support this Big 4 and how does at national level especially we as the UN family lead by the resident coordinator coordinating us, what is our contribution to government whether in terms of policy review and support at national level or capacity building at local level then it becomes a coherent and really good mechanism. Un habitat has a very good advantage of that in the sense that when it comes to our platforms for knowledge sharing like for instance if it’s the World Urban Forum, we can draw lessons from the country and we can come and present and the resident coordinator can  be able to share this is what worked for, this is what failed, why did it fail and what are the lessons. I learned a lot from both my failures and successes from the city because it was a huge task. It was very humbling to learn from the citizens themselves telling me how to better situations and to engage them better also the private sector but in the end, it was one of my most fulfilling career times.  

Q8. DED what are your high lights and low lights of your career with UN-HABITAT?

I think my highlights to me were (there are a lot of them) because I have been much more inspired, and I have grown a lot. First when I saw the change in the lives of the people that we serve. Like the highlights was when I visited, I listened to many things, I attended many global conferences, I worked and listened, saw colleagues we worked together on all these programs I’m talking about. But when I stepped out and traveled to places where the UN is most needed and saw what UN-Habitat was doing for the communities, that’s where my biggest highlight. And I think the first one was when I traveled to Afghanistan and it was so scary. The level of distraction and the level of stress is so heavy that you wouldn’t imagine. What I expected to see is not what I saw. We go to this informal settlement and it’s around 1 pm, normally you would expect at that time even in a city that is safe and everything to be chaotic and disorganized, it was spotlessly clean, and people were doing their business, and this is in Kabul. And when I sat with these men and women, often separate, they discussed with us how they were proud of what they are doing because they were contributing up to 40% of their total project in terms of their physical energy and even financing and we were contributing the rest. So, for me I saw people who were not like hopeless but who already saw, they had a way they had to define how they were going to improve their neighborhood and that 40% was to create drainage systems, to clean the environment, to create water points, all the basic services that they needed and organize themselves around different activities that they were doing and get training. The next thing was when the minister addressed us, and he said, they were able to access over 60% of the country partly because of the work that UN-Habitat was doing which had organized these communities into structured leadership that could now work with the government to plan. Three years down the line this turn in to a basis for the national urban planning and development plan which is endorsed by the head of state and UN-Habitat has a very big stake in this. I think for me that is one thing that really showed me that showed me something tangible and the other one I can mention quickly was when I traveled to Iraq. They're like two parts of the country, one was in huge  crisis this cities were hosting three times the number of people they had in there cities and the internally displaced people, it was just so huge but again to see how the tools of planning had been used with the tools on land to acquire land peacefully to be able to define who owns what, to plan next to towns, to have this people settled in a very dissent manner  and to benefit from the nearness between the camps and the towns and working together to employ these people it was amazing. On the other side in the informal settlement having this woman standing up and saying with UN-Habitat didn’t only improve this informal settlement, but I have got my land and my title and made her feel like she had a sense of security and dignity in this city, that was in Liberia. For me, that was beautiful. In addition to Iraq, I went to Mathare, when I was former Mayor and got to the center of Mathare I was almost overwhelmed because you can see the need is huge and you just don’t where to begin. There were two things that inspired me over there and I hope that we can take advantage of these tools and increasing awareness by this leadership to raise and scale up what we have done. One of the programs that we were doing was on the global one-stop network, which the people had used to define their land, define their houses those who have them and those who don’t have they have their own system its managed by the local communities and they are using this to define who has what even when they don’t have total formal ownership of land and that is a tool that now they are vailing to government to seek for support to get ownership of that land, to plan for it and to also plan for the infrastructure so I saw organization, leadership, a vision, purpose, and capacity coming up. On the other side was a youth center, this is young people of Couse they have challenges of unemployment, hunger  and all those things you can think about they have space where they have trained, where they are inviting others to be trained, where they are doing recreation facilities, they have a health center where they are already providing health care services were they are having skill development this is seemingly small but to me they are really very beautiful things connecting that with what I saw back at home in Kigali and elsewhere I think raising that and I think connecting it into the bigger city planning is what I think we are really missing. We have focused yes on the participatory slum upgrading, on the land, the youth employment but how does that fit into the bigger city planning and city management and development. When we bring to the governors table or ministers, or presidents’ level, how does it fit into the bigger picture and I believe that connecting this two with the SDG’s should be able to unleash a lot of potential and I would especially encourage the private sector because I remember that in some of these programs for instance in Cameroons we have been able to bring on board the private sector to contribute in a slum upgrading program not just from a social cooperate responsibility but as an investment opportunity and once you turn that into that it runs on its own so I think these are the things that inspired me most. Maybe lower point it’s the politics of things sometimes things take a lot longer in discussions and debates. I wasn’t used to that I think has been a bit of a toll for me I used not to be that patient and it would drain me but as I mentioned I think I was lucky that  most of my work and focus was at a pragmatic perspective so for me I think it’s been inspiring out of the politics of just seeing what are we doing on the ground how are we inspiring people’s lives  and how in my positions as ASG do I bring that to the table when am discussing with my Executive Director or other ASGs in New York or other forums so that we give it the level of strategic thinking and political support that it deserves

Q9. What would be your last message of UN-Habitat in one statement?

UN-Habitat the future is bright am very optimistic. The demand for the expertise that UN-Habitat has is huge I think we need to shout it out more. I just feel like we do a disservice to ourselves in the way we communicate and advocate that and I hope that that will continue, but I can say for sure that wherever I will be in whatever capacity  I will always advocate for UN-Habitat and the work that we did because am very proud of what we have been able to achieve for sure it is needed outside here so count on me for my continued contribution to this course.

Q10. What do you plan to do after this?

I have been thinking about that and I have a number of devices and I have decided to prioritize. First, I need a few months with family that is my husband and our children, so I need to give them a bit more time and give ourselves a bit more time for that. I also need a few more time at home to rest with bigger family and friends, I have been away for some time. So, it’s the nuclear family, bigger family, and my community. You know a legislator before I become mayor, I am active in the church so that is the social aspect of me that I have been missing and I want to have a moment just to engage from that perspective. I am also open as I go beyond that am thinking of how I can best continue contributing in this area of ensuring inclusive and sustainable development especially in this process of urbanization and I have a vision and I will share that with you in the near future.

Posted on: 24 Oct 2019