Preparation of Monrovia Slum Upgrading Initiative
Lesson Learned for Cities Alliance Members and Partners
• The success of the exchange visits organised by SDI as part of the preparatory project in Monrovia was noticeable. The learning and stimulation value of such exchanges is becoming widely understood internationally. They provide an opportunity for peer groups of slum dwellers to get to know and compare each other’s understandings of their social, economic and environmental conditions and to exchange experience and learn from each other’s relationships with authorities and their strategic approaches to negotiation. Similarly they enable municipal and government officers to compare and learn from the dominant problems that preoccupy each other and their approaches to them. In addition, the occasion of public officials and slum and CBO leaders travelling together and jointly ‘representing their city’ provides a unique opportunity for both parties to develop mutual understandings of each others’ positions, capacities and limitations of which they are often not aware. • Encouragement and support should also be given to the establishment of sustained national and international links between organised slum communities. Several upgrading projects were carried out in a number of slum settlements in the 1970s and 1980s prior to the civil war. A number of lessons can be learnt from these projects that should be used as guidance for future upgrading and improvement programmes. These are as follows: - Upgrading / Improvement initiatives must be driven by the people. From discussions with those who lived through these upgrading initiatives it seems that they were not adequately consulted with regards to their priorities. For this reason they were not able to take full ownership of the programmes. Experience suggests such projects are very likely to succeed if the end-users are allowed to drive the initiative. - Improvement and upgrading projects should be seen as an opportunity to up-skill the local residents. This would have enhanced their chances of being able to secure employment - that would in turn enable them to improve their own living conditions or to afford the cost of using the improved facilities. - Those empowered to manage the improved facilities must be adequately trained prior to them embarking on the carrying out of such duties. This explains why in some areas a large percentage of the residents do not use the facilities - as such facilities are not properly managed in their opinion. - Local labour, skills and expertise should be used as much as possible. In some cases in which this has not been done some residents have resorted to boycotting the services.
In 2005 democratic elections in Liberia took place, ending 16 years of war and transition. Since then, a rapid development process has been unfolding: in support of the progressive political elite and the magnitude of the reconstruction need, the international community mobilized unprecedented support for the country; more than half a billion US dollars were disbursed over the two-year period; the country was placed on a debt relief path, with arrears being successfully cleared on Dec 5, 2007; a multi-donor trust fund for investments in infrastructure, modeling the one in Sudan, was created; legal and regulatory reform aimed at reestablishing the rule of law and strengthening economic governance was successfully initiated. As a result, less than 2 years from the beginning of the reconstruction effort (and 5 years from the end of the conflict), progress is very encouraging and continues to attract the attention and support of donors and bi-lateral partners. Despite the magnitude of the support, needs remain colossal mainly due to the unprecedented level of physical and human capital destruction during the war. Need spans from huge funding requirements for physical improvements in infrastructure to capacity building, training and facilitation to re-build institutions, re-establish social contracts, and re-engage the public in productive partnerships. As needs exceed available funding, prioritization of activities has to take place.
The current proposal aims to mobilize stakeholders in Monrovia, identify systemic issues and obstacles to sustain urban development in low-income areas and settlements, of legal, regulatory, socio-economic and civil infrastructure nature, and prepare the next steps for a slum upgrading initiative.
The process of developing a shared prioritization of needs has already commenced with the consultative Rapid Urban Sector Profiling for Sustainability (RUSPS) profiling of the City of Monrovia and the iPRSP and PRSP processes, and was reflected in the PRSP’s strategic objectives to upgrade existing slum areas and prevent formation of new slums. The proposed Monrovia Slum Upgrade preparatory activity will commence with the re-validation of these objectives in a kick-off session with key stakeholders and community members. A Steering Committee led by the City and comprised of community, sub-national and national officials (see below a full list) will be set up to guide the process. International partners (donors and NGOs) active in the areas of urban poverty alleviation and urban development are expected to join (based on feedback received during consultations with ILO, UN, JICA, etc) and contribute to the work of the Committee. Local NGOs and other implementing partners delivering projects in slum communities (such as FIND) are similarly expected to participate in the consultations and share their experience and lessons learned.
Expected Impacts and Results
The supported activities through this proposal will create a framework for the formulation of coordinated approach for upgrading slum areas in Monrovia. It will also initiate a concentrated effort to improve the overall legal and regulatory environment expected to limit the future development slums.