Enhancing governance for sustainable, resilient cities
By Maupo Chisambi:
There is no denying that Lilongwe is fast becoming a city grappling with various challenges such as unsustainable use of natural resources, inadequate housing and infrastructure, the prevalence of poverty, rapid urbanisation, crime and disasters.
Poor delivery of social services has been a headliner in the concerns residents and travellers have been raising for ages, but there has been no improvement.
The stinking water ponds outside the city’s main bus depot in Area 2 and heaps of poorly disposed waste in the city’s townships and central business district demonstrate the casual approach the city fathers have towards their business.
It is probably against this background that residents of Kauma Township took authorities at Lilongwe City Council (LCC) to task over the deteriorating quality of life in high-density areas.
During a recent multi-stakeholder town-hall meeting, which the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) in the Archdiocese of Lilongwe organised, the residents demanded that the council should invest in improving the social and economic livelihoods of the residents.
CCJP Lilongwe is implementing this project in partnership with Oxfam, with financial support from Tilitonse Foundation, to create a platform for dialogue between stakeholders in the city of Lilongwe after realising that they are poorly coordinated, which is compromising service delivery in the city.
Thus, CCJP brought LCC senior staff members, including the Mayor, the Chief Executive Officer and directors of the departments, to a multi-stakeholder meeting where the residents highlighted a number of problems affecting their lives.
The residents, among others, cited stinking sewer ponds in the area, dilapidated market and lack of good roads and a health centre in the area.
Malawi Congress Party councillor for Nyama Ward, Heston Yohane Zibion, said the quality of life for the residents in Lilongwe does not befit city dwellers, particularly those living at the heart of the capital.
“These things ought to have been sorted. People here should not be living like this because the township is actually at the heart of the city of Lilongwe,” Zibion complained.
Nyama Ward stretches across the entire CBD of the city of Lilongwe and affluent suburbs such as areas 10, 11 and 12.
Yet, as Councillor Zibion complained, the situation in Kauma is totally different.
The CCJP Governance Project coordinator, Mwai Sandram, said Kauma Township as well as other townships, could not have been in such a sorry state if city fathers had been adhering to and exercising good urban governance.
Sandram described good urban governance as a multidimensional concept that focuses on the improvement of the quality of living conditions of local citizens, especially those of marginalised and disadvantaged communities.
He said improving urban governance could have helped the city overcome some of these challenges.
“One key aspect of urban governance is engaging and involving the greater urban governance community in planning and development. Furthermore, ensuring sustainability requires engaging citizens and holding local officials accountable.
“This means that citizens have procedural rights such as access to information, the ability to meaningfully participate in decision making processes and the ability to demand enforcement of those rights,” he explained.
He added: “Good urban governance is about building cities that are inclusive and accountable to their citizens. This sys tem recognises and strengthens the rel a t ionships between various stakeholders—including citizens, civil society organisations, elected officials and the public and private sectors—is critical to changing how cities are governed.”
At the United Nations Summit in 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted. In the agenda, 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) define the key areas and mechanisms for a future global development partnership.
One of these goals (SDG 11: “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”) distinctly alludes to urban development. The urban community has widely celebrated the adoption of this “stand-alone urban goal”.
The step is perceived as reflecting an increased awareness of the important role of cities for global development pathways.
Sandram said it is against this background that CCJP Lilongwe initiated the project to contribute to more inclusive, transparent and democratic processes for urban governance in Malawi through harmonisation and institutionalisation of policy and systems that reflect the needs of the citizenry.
Sandram disclosed that the aim of the recent multi-stakeholder meeting was to enable LCC officials and residents talk about their problems and find lasting solutions towards improving service delivery, which is the goal of the Urban Governance Project.
He said the Commission wants to see improved coordination among stakeholders in the city.
“We want to see change in some policies and operational framework in the city because we believe through our interventions and these discussions, we should be able to identify gaps in these areas. These actors comprise the urban governance community and how they interact plays a vital role in making cities more sustainable. Moving forward, it will take engagement, continuity and capacity to strengthen this community and ensure that Lilongwe City is governed equitably and inclusively,” he said.
While admitting the challenges the council is facing to provide high quality services to the residents and travellers, Lilongwe City Mayor, Juliana Kaduya, pleaded with residents to religiously pay city rates so that the council can use the same to offer the needed services.
Kaduya announced that the LCC wants to take over Kauma Market so that it uses revenue from there to build a health clinic and develop the area.
“We will build a bridge between Kauma and Area 44 to enable children in Kauma go to school in area 44. The money is available. We will construct a road from Makatani to the sewer ponds via Kauma Market. We will also remove people living around the sewer ponds,” said Kaduya.
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