Post-conflict urban reconstruction in informal settlements

Asian Coalition for Housing Rights, Kabul, Afghanistan

SDG 1: No povertySDG 5: Gender equalitySDG 8: Decent work and economic growthSDG 10: Reduced inequalitiesSDG 11: Sustainable cities and communitiesSDG 16: Peace justice and strong institutionsSDG 17: Partnerships for the goals
In some cities in Asia and Africa, as well as parts Latin America, up to 60% of the population live in informal settlements on land that does not belong to them. The Asian Coalition for Housing Rights was founded in 1986 with the main goal to stop evictions from these settlements. Today, the organisation is a cooperation between Asian professionals, NGOs and community organisations committed to find long term solutions to underlying causes of the creation of informal settlements and forced evictions. Many of the projects involve slum- upgrading, creating safe and productive public spaces, stopping evictions and favouring equal rights.

In Kabul, 70% of the city’s 5 million inhabitants live in informal settlements. However, as the settlements are considered illegal, they are not formally recognised, and the government refuses to provide services and basic infrastructure facilities. The qualities of the houses are poor and access to clean water or proper toilets are rare. There have been several efforts trying to improve the living condition, but only 10% of Kabul’s informal population is estimated to have been affected.

Good practice and solutions

Together with the Cooperation for Reconstruction Afghanistan (CRA), the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights started to analyse the environment of the informal settlements in order to identify what could be improved. The first step was to survey the settlements to identify shortages and prioritise services and infrastructure solutions. The second step was to plan and implement small upgrading projects. The work involved local actors and CRA took responsibility for training and facilitation while the communities themselves implemented the refurbishment, as well as started savings groups with support from the local authorities.

Outcome and opportunities

The initiative spread to other cities in Afghanistan and different communities in Kabul. Some cities started acting as mentors and teachers to the new cities wanting to implement a similar process. In the past two years, visits and exchanges between communities in the same city – and between cities – have helped to start the building of a network of savings groups. After establishing eight savings groups in Kabul, containing both men and women, they could start to build roads and drains, walls to protect areas from flooding and water supply systems between communities and cities as well as within them.

Lessons learned

A city has many agendas, and the poor population often become a problem and a barrier for achieving its development plans. So, solutions for the poor sometimes needs to come from a grassroot level. Grassroot level initiatives are especially great in joining local forces to be a part of a solution. It is only then a solution will suit everybody. Supporting these kinds of initiatives has the opportunity to transform the way cities engage with its communities, gaining from the citizens’ feeling of being empowered. In order to do this, the locality needs to mobilise, which is especially hard for poor communities with little money to spear. Since, money and information are two things that will help the community to negotiate with the city. When the local communities manage to come together as a group, they are strong!

Related SDG targets
  • 1.4 By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance
  • 1.5 By 2030, build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters
  • 5.5 Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life
  • 8.3 Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium- sized enterprises, including through access to financial services
  • 10.2 By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status
  • 11.1 By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums
  • 11.c Support least developed countries, including through financial and technical assistance, in building sustainable and resilient buildings utilizing local materials
  • 17.3 Mobilize additional financial resources for developing countries from multiple sources
  • 17.16 Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals in all countries, in particular developing countries
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Project: Urban Girls Movement