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UN-Habitat and Nairobi City County launch pilot public space project Bookmark and Share
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Nairobi, 26 Feb 14

Guiuan - limited self recovery adjacent to city hall (c) UN-Habitat, Bernhard Barth
UN-Habitat Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos and Nairobi Governor Dr. Evans Kidero during the launch of Jeevanjee Gardens public space in Nairobi, Kenya 2014 (c) UN-Habitat, Julius Mwelu
Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero and UN-Habitat Executive Director Joan Clos launched the Jeevanjee Gardens Public Space Project on 24 February 2014. This project is a component and demonstration activity of the larger “Nairobi Revitalizing Public Spaces” Project, a joint cooperation of the Nairobi City County and UN-Habitat. Project for Public Spaces (PPS), New York serves as a technical facilitator of this project.

“When we think of great cities, we invariably think of their public spaces: avenues, boulevards, streets, bridges, rivers, squares, parks, gardens, playgrounds, public buildings,” said Dr Clos, in his speech at the launch. “Aside from notable visual landmarks, the quality of spaces surrounding a city’s less celebrated built environment can make the difference between drudgery and attractiveness. Cities are not born great, nor have greatness thrust upon them. They become great when they develop a great public space system.”

The main objective of the Nairobi Public Space Project is to improve delivery and access to good public spaces, especially for less favoured urban residents, since this can be a powerful means to improve equity in the city and to combat crime and discrimination. Through the Project, UN-Habitat is helping produce a strategy for the County on how to design, implement and manage public spaces while engaging the community and civil society in all processes. Jeevanjee Gardens and a sports and multi-purpose field in Silanga, Kibera have been identified as pilot projects to demonstrate this more participatory approach.

UN-Habitat is mandated by its Governing Council to promote public space within the sustainable urban development agenda. Governing Council Resolution 23/4 specifically challenges UN-Habitat to develop a policy approach to public space; to provide a platform for partners to share knowledge, innovations and solutions; and to advise and assist cities in specific public space initiatives and interventions. To concretize this resolution, UN-Habitat established a global Public Space program which is working with numerous partners and cities to-date. Nairobi was the first of more than a dozen cities that came to UN-Habitat with a proposal for revitalizing its public spaces.

The Jeevanjee Gardens public space project is innovative because it has utilized a genuine participatory approach to its design, and will also introduce a relative new model of implementation and management through community participation. According to Dr. Clos, “UN-Habitat has advocated participation as an essential tool to make our work with public space responsive, transparent and accountable - in one word, sustainable. The participation of citizens in developing their public space is a means to exercise the rights of urban residents in the development of their city.”

For his part, Governor Kidero stressed the concrete possibilities for engaging more of the private sector in developing other public spaces in the county using this participatory model. “Jeevanjee Gardens is a good example of how participatory approaches can and will work. For this reason, I have identified sixty priority public spaces distributed among the 17 regions of the county which we will improve,” Governor Kidero stated. He also committed to setting aside some funding in the County budget for public space improvements.

UN-Habitat has enjoyed a dynamic and robust partnership with the City of Nairobi for over a decade. Both institutions have implemented initiatives in the area of slum upgrading, urban safety, delivery of urban basic services, and urban planning and design. In addition to this Public Space Project, UN-Habitat is currently supporting the Nairobi City County in their new Master Plan, in reviewing and reforming planning legislation, and in strengthening capacity within a devolved system of government.

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