Journalists, who took part in a recent training organised by UN-Habitat and the Aga Khan Graduate School of Media and Communications, were urged to see urban issues as an area of specialisation like environment, sport and business.
Addressing the 23 journalists, Ms Christine Musisi, UN-Habitat Director of External Relations Division, said that media was a powerful tool to tell a story.
“The media should draw the attention of leaders and the general public to the issues of urbanisation; and to also hold our leadership accountable as part of civil society,” she said.
To get the journalists thinking about the opportunities and challenges of urbanisation, she asked the group who met at the Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communication what they liked and disliked about Nairobi.
“I love the chaos of the city, it is a city of entrepreneurs and innovators, the resilience of the people, its fast pace of change and is a land of opportunity,” said one participant.
“I would like to see Nairobi’s public transport system streamlined, enhanced safety, better planning and inclusivity of urban spaces, improved water and solid waste management and air quality and access to affordable housing” said another.
The Ambassador of Brazil and Permanent Representative to UN-Habitat, Mr Fernando Coimbra, who chairs the Committee of Permanent Representatives, explained the importance of the first UN-Habitat Assembly which is taking place in Nairobi from 27 – 31 May.
“It will be an exciting time. The Assembly will discuss one of the most important issues facing humanity – and for the world to meet, think and find innovative solutions together,” he said.
Amb Coimbra challenged the media to champion the rights of the under privileged and focus on the challenges faced by those being left behind so that politicians and decision makers listen and act.
In his overview of the global mandate of UN-Habitat, Mr Raf Tuts, UN-Habitat Director of Programme Division, challenged the media to be the urban voice of citizens, to raise issues of land, employment and public services, in a constructive way.
Mr Thomas Chiramba of the UN-Habitat Regional Office for Africa, highlighted UN-Habitat’s work in Kenya, stating that a third of Kenyans live in urban areas and that 56% or 6.4 million Kenyans living in cities and towns are slum dwellers. He noted that in Kenya, the average citizen’s biggest costs are for housing and transport.
Ms Shipra Narang-Suri, UN-Habitat Urban Planning and Design Branch Coordinator, explained UN-Habitat’s work with the Kalobeyei Integrated Refugee Settlement in Northern Kenya where humanitarian and sustainable development efforts come together to ensure better, long-term outcomes for both local populations and refugees
On the UN-Habitat Assembly theme of innovation for a better life, Mr Douglas Ragan, Chief of UN-Habitat’s Youth and Livelihoods Unit said that small tech start-ups such as Map Kibera in the informal settlements of Kibera and Mathare, were the first organization to put Kibera on the world map. This helped to address the plight of slum dwellers by providing better infrastructure and services and develop more effective and efficient policies.