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Hargeisa, 25 May 05

The Ministry of Interior has said that the level of conflict within city councils has decreased as they move towards improving services and infrastructure in their districts following a recent urban forum.

UN-HABITAT organized the first Somaliland Urban Forum 24-28 April drawing over 80 participants from seven key municipalities and representatives from various ministries, local NGOs and international organizations to discuss urban development and urban governance issues.

The event built on the achievements of UN-HABITAT’s Good Local Governance and Leadership training programme funded by the European Union, and a UNDP-funded programme for support to priority areas in the urban sector. The occasion also marked the launch of Somaliland component the new EU/UNDP-funded Urban Development Programme (2005 – 2008).

The Ministry of Interior said that the level of conflicts within councils had decreased and that their focus was much more on improving services and infrastructure. In Sheikh, the authorities planted 1,800 trees, protected the main water source against flooding and started the rehabilitation of the main hospital with contributions from the local community rather than external support.

In Burao, neighbourhood committees were set up, with an assured representation of 30 per cent women, to facilitate the mobilization of the community. The committees have since already improved the garbage collection in town. In Hargeisa, over 800 vendors are voluntarily opening up streets blocked for over 14 years. In Erigavo, the garbage collection system was upgraded with assistance of the private sector and the community, also without external support. In Gebiley, the municipality joined hands with a women’s group to rebuild the main hospital from scratch. Project funds were used to reconstruct the perimeter wall. The private sector and the central government committed themselves to build a number of outpatient rooms as a first step. In Boroma, informal vendors blocking the main street for a decade agreed to relocate to other areas so that traffic flow could be eased. In Berbera, the main playground was rehabilitated with important contributions of the community.

The achievements were judged by a jury, which included the Ministry of Interior. The first prize of the Somaliland Good Governance Award went to Sheikh, the smallest of the towns. Hargeisa, the capital was awarded the second prize, and Erigavo received the third prize.

At a strategic planning workshop 25-27 April, municipal officers and decision makers agreed on the importance of urban planning and design. The UN-HABITAT team is basing its approach on the lessons learned from the “Localising Agenda 21” Programme, documented in UN-HABITAT’s recent publication “Urban Trialogues”. The key issues defined will help to prioritise actions undertaken in the new Urban Development Programme.

UN-HABITAT was previously criticized by the authorities for not giving enough publicity to their activities, and is drafting a new media strategy. As a first step, the agency started live media debates during the forum. Land disputes, taxation, the resettlement of internally displaced people, the role of the media in local governance and the performance of the councils in general were among the topics aired.

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