What is ailing our urban Centres?

CSUDP commissions action research and opinion surveys to find answers

What is ailing our urban centers? Is the question the Civil Society Urban Development Platform (CSUDP) seeks answers in an action research and a series of opinion surveys on urban governance involving 211 Counties where its network of town-level Local Urban Forums (LUFs)2 is operational.

While Kenyan’s have placed much hope on devolved institutions to resolve long-standing and complex societal issues particularly with regard to social and economic exclusion, questions have been raised as to whether the practice is living up to the promise. The disparity may even be more pronounced in urban areas given that the first cycle of devolution (2013 – 2017) was characterized by uncertainty as counties failed to establish structures for governance and management of cities and urban areas set-out in the Urban Areas and Cities Act, 2011 (UACA,2011) - the law that operationalizes Article 184 of the Constitution.

Besides, UACA, 2011 not only re-configured how urban areas and cities shall be governed and managed under the devolved dispensation but most importantly ‘who’ makes decisions. Upholding Article 1 of the constitution while operationalizing article 174 (1) and (2), the act give powers of self-governance to the people and recognizes the right of communities to manage their own affairs by establishing the institution of the citizen fora (UACA, 2011 Article 22 and Schedule 2) – the vehicle through which citizens should participate in decisions that affect their lives.

Against this background and at the backdrop of hastened efforts by County Governments to establish structures of urban governance and particularly the institution of urban boards in a bid to comply with requirements of the Kenya Urban Support Program (KUSP)3 , CSUDP has commissioned this research to examine the current practice of urban governance in urban centers that serve as the seat of the county government in the 21 counties to establish what exactly is ailing urban governance. The research builds on efforts by CSUDP to build institutional bridges with national government, county government and other key actors in a bid to entrench good governance practices and influence policies that are sensitive to the aspirations of the urban poor as well as build the competence of citizens to be able to participate in urban governance processes such as the development of County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs), Urban Strategic Integrated Development Plans (USIDPs), County Budgeting/Budgeting for urban Areas and to play their oversight role in the implementation of plans/budgets.

It is hoped that the findings of this research will not only  provide a baseline for measuring improvements as these institutions become operational but that it shall inform new approaches to urban governance that seizes the windows of opportunity provided by devolution to transform our cities and urban areas.

Watch this space for updates on the outcomes of the action research and opinion surveys.

1Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Kakamega, Homabay, Tana River, Nyeri, Embu, Isiolo, Garissa, Lamu, Kwale, Kilifi, Machakos, Kajiado, Kitui, Trans Nzoia, Meru, and Kiambu.

2 Local Urban Forums (LUFs) are town-level multi-stakeholder platforms for dialogue and concensus building on urban issues of mutual concerns that have gained recognition by respective county governments as platforms for public participation. LUFs have increasingly gained recognition from County Governments as platfoms of citizens engagement.

3KUSP is a collaborative initiative between the World Bank and the Kenya Government that aims to support the establishment and strengthening urban institutions and systems to deliver improved infrastructure and services. The program targets 59 urban centers in 45 counties.

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