Informal settlements are rapidly growing as Africa urbanizes, and a key marker of this growth is the glaring spatial inequalities being witnessed across the continent. In Nairobi, for example, 63-70 per cent of people live in informal settlements (UN, 2015), occupying only 6 per cent of urban land (UN Habitat, 2017).
This week, Habitat III, the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development is taking place in Quito, Ecuador, to establish a sustainable Urban Agenda for cities as we work towards achieving the Global Goals.
Ramallah, State of Palestine: They say if you travel the world carrying the same thoughts and attitude throughout your journey, it is as if you have never left your place. Cognition and knowledge is not about how many places you have seen; sometimes it is how you can view the same place or thing in different ways and from different perspectives. Being a national UN Volunteer provided me with the opportunity to see my country, Palestine, in a different way.
Ramallah, State of Palestine: I love people, cities and towns. For that reason, I chose to be a spatial/urban planner and I plan for people. When we plan, people should be at the centre of the process; and we should aim to improve people’s lives. People, cities, towns and villages cannot be viewed separately, they are so interconnected. As long as people are there, cities always develop and never stop.
Quito, Ecuador: An experience away from home is challenging, a confrontation with a different culture at times confusing, and the lack of familiarity frustrating. I believe that during my yearlong UN Youth Volunteer assignment in Ecuador, all stars were aligned: rarely did I deal with any of the above.
The Andes, the city in its midst, and my host institution, the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, greeted me with open arms and slowly taught me the tips and tricks of living and working in Ecuador.
The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) is keen on increasing the deployment of specialized UN Volunteers. UN-Habitat Executive Director Joan Clos said, "we have a new strategic approach to urbanization with three focus areas; urban legislation, urban planning and design, and urban economy and municipal finance.