World Habitat Day-2022: Inclusive Cities for Sustainable Urbanization in Nepal

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World Habitat Day was observed on 17th October 2022, in a 1-day event jointly organized by Ministry of Urban Development (MOUD) and UN-Habitat through Nepal National Urban Forum (NNUF) and key stakeholders. The theme was "Mind the Gap, Leave No One and No Place Behind" to the problem of growing inequality and challenges in cities and urbanization process of Nepal. The discussions during the event aimed to highlight the issues of inequalities, hearing the experiences of the marginalized, understanding the transversal benefits that inclusion has for the whole society, and its outcomes.

The formal opening session was followed two Technical Sessions on:

  • Best practices of the local government on mainstreaming LNOB
  • Inclusive cities for sustainable urbanization. The encouraging presentations from the local government on their initiative to prioritize inclusivity followed by panel discussion representing various sector (Partners, CSO, Association, Academia) to highlighting challenges and way forward for making urbanization process inclusive and the key messages from the speakers were derived as inputs for initiating the review and revision of the GESI Guideline (2013) of MOUD, which has become critical in the current context of federal structure and evolving definition of GESI.

The event marked presence of about 100 urban stakeholders representing government officials, elected representatives, development partners, civil society, academia, private sectors, such as Ministry of Urban Development (MOUD), Department of Urban Development & Building Construction (DUDBC), Kathmandu Valley Development Authority (KVDA), Municipal Association of Nepal (MUAN), Town Development Fund (TDF), Regional & Urban Planners Association of Nepal (RUPSON), Society of Nepalese Architects (SONA), NNUF, Institute of Engineering (IOE), Nepal Housing Development Company, National Federation of the Disabled Nepal (NFDN), Development Partners like European Union, USAID, UN-Agencies, CSOs, media and experts.

Formal Opening Session

Chief Guest Dr. Ramesh Prasad Singh, Secretary of MOUD emphasized challenges such as poor infrastructure and services due to urbanization while also the opportunities it offers. Likewise, he highlighted the government’s initiatives including revision of National Urban Policy integrating pertinent topics such as federalism, urban resilience, inclusivity, climate change and SDGs and formulation of the Smart City Indicator of Nepal with inclusion parameters. He accepted the challenges in its implementation and the action needed with commitment of the government towards making inclusive cities. 

Development Commissioner, KVDA Ms. Januka Dhakal, shared her insights of inclusive cities by highlighting the fundamental rights of housing enshrined in the constitution of Nepal and recognized that a city can be called inclusive if it addresses social, political, economic, disability and environmental inclusion. She also shared the action plans of inclusive city by KVDA, which are yet to be accepted by the ministry for further implementation.

Mr. Padma Kumar Mainalee, Joint Secretary, MOUD shaded light on his understanding of the theme “Mind the Gap” - on what causes the gap - widening inequalities in housing and cities, settlement morphology that limits access to infrastructures and services, that deprives a person from emotion of self-reliance and identity. Likewise, he underscored the need of policy translated through good practices to reduce the gap and inequalities in cities, where each individual and organization should contribute their part to make an inclusive city.

The keynote speech was given by Ms. Sarita Maskey, Former Joint Secretary and GESI and Urban Expert shared her concern on making current and future cities accessible to people of all sections of society including children, women, elderly and people with disability. She emphasized realization and will of people a crucial factor for materialization of the concept of inclusive cities.

Mr. Bhim Prasad Dhungana, General Secretary of MUAN stressed the need for planning of inclusive cities and effective implementation of the plans and emphasized on inclusion of poor, marginalized and informal settlements in the municipal planning process for inclusive outcomes.

Mr. Prakirna Tuladhar Deputy Director of DUDBC emphasized the role of national and local governments, NGOs and communities in implementation of policies. He explained DUDBC’s work on improving the lives of citizens, including the elderly, women, and the people with disability, through various projects and programmes for implementing the provision of the Constitution and SDGs.

Mr. Ram Chandra Dangal, Joint Secretary of MOUD focused on the right to housing as one of the fundamental rights and the housing projects for the marginalized and economically weaker sections, which includes Janata Awas and the Surakshit Awas. Moreover, he stated that despite the positive contribution the desired result could not be obtained due to funding limitation and need for integrated resource mobilization, planning and implementation for better results.

Technical Session 1: Best Practices of the Local Government on Mainstreaming LNOB

The best practices of four local government were presented in the session chaired by Mr. Bhim Prasad Dhungana, General Secretary, MUAN (Mayor, Nilkantha Municipality) and facilitated by Mr. Kalanidhi Devkota, Executive Director, MUAN.

Mr. Upendra Karki, Mayor of Kageshwori Manahara Municipality, presented the policy gap for Inclusive Urban Development, explained the addressal of inclusiveness through the Integrated Urban Development Plan (IUDP) of the municipality with five key issues addressed as follows:

  1. Physical Inclusion that focuses on infrastructure construction.
  2. Social Inclusion that focuses on quality living environment.
  3. Economic Inclusion that focuses on economic development and job creation.
  4. Political Inclusion that focuses on governance.
  5. Cultural Inclusion that focuses on embracing cultural diversity.

Mr. Bhim Prasad Dhungana, presented on Inclusive Urban Governance introducing inclusive cities as a multi-dimensional concept that focuses on improving the quality of life of local citizens, especially marginalized and backward communities. He explained the five pillars of Inclusive Urban Governance of Nilkantha Municipality: policy, strategy, implementation, access, and capacity and how the municipality has been working on inclusive development with policies, standards, sectoral strategic plans, masterplans and effective disaster recovery through partnership and inclusion of civil societies and stakeholders.

Mr. Nirajan Jangam, Deputy Mayor of Dhulikhel presented inclusive WASH highlighting efforts on accessible drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene for all.  He highlighted one house one tap policy; public-private partnership on SWM; GESI strategies; policy for smoke-free enterprises; establishment of Disability, Women, Tribal, Youth, Dalit Council based on municipal procedure of 2018; and collaboration with UN-HABITAT in implementation of "Mainstreaming LNOB in National and Urban policies" in Dhulikhel municipality. He concluded with a vision for future of a disable-friendly city through accessible infrastructures and promoting accessible tourism.

Ms. Mina Kumari Lama, Mayor of Hetauda Sub Metropolitan city, highlighted the efforts on ensuring GESI in the urban planning process especially for women, elderly population, children, disabled through friendly and effective local governance. Ms. Lama highlighted targeted initiatives, municipal services and awareness programs against gender based and sexual violence and sexual abuse, ethnic untouchability and on marginalized communities. Similarly, she highlighted approach of economic empowerment to foster equality with programs targeting youth, and marginalized communities, targeting Dalit and single women.

Technical Session 2: Panel Discussion on Inclusive Cities for Sustainable Urbanization