The Grassroots Assembly is being jointly organized by ACHR, Huairou Commission, SDI and WIEGO - four networks that are working directly with poor and marginalized communities across Asia:
• Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) is a coalition of grassroots community organizations, NGOs, and Asian professionals working on issues of urban poor housing and land, with an emphasis on community-driven and partnership-based development.
• Huairou Commission is a global member-led coalition of grassroots women leaders and their organizations in 50 countries that facilitates the empowerment of grassroots women's organizations by enhancing their community development practice and by creating pathways for them to exercise their collective political power from the local to global level.
• Slum Dwellers International (SDI) is a global network of urban poor federations and networks, with women-centered savings collectives at the heart of its practice.
• Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) is a global network focused on securing livelihoods for the working poor, especially women, in the informal economy.
The grassroots assembly will provide an open space for experienced grassroots community leaders and their partners from different cities and countries to reflect on different aspects of poverty and exclusion, and to share their experiences and practices about the ways urban poor communities, informal workers and women are playing key roles as development actors and taking concrete action to improve their own lives and settlements and to make their cities more inclusive, resilient and sustainable. The assembly will celebrate the role of grassroots communities as key development actors, and their knowledge about community organization, women's empowerment and leadership, knowledge-sharing, capacity building, community-led development and housing, citywide partnerships and co-production of urban planning and policies, among others.
For all four of the organizing networks, inclusion must be a key component of any sustainable urbanization. The four networks also share the New Urban Agenda's vision of "cities for all", and work for “the equal use and enjoyment of cities and human settlements, seeking to promote inclusivity and ensure that all inhabitants, of present and future generations, without discrimination of any kind, are able to inhabit and produce just, safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements to foster prosperity and quality of life for all” (NUA, art.11. “Cities for all”).
To join the assembly or request further information, please contact:
Ms. Somsook Boonyabancha,
Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) firstname.lastname@example.org
Discussions during the grassroots assembly will focus on these six key themes:
1. Land, basic services and housing: Informal settlers and slum dwellers face eviction and the worst effects of inequitable economic and development systems which exclude and impoverish them. Labeling these settlements as illegal, governments deny them access to basic services and security, affecting their health, living conditions and ability to work and survive. Community organizations in Asia are getting stronger,
though. The proactive solutions they are crafting and the collaborations they are cultivating are leading to more inclusive city development and enabling them to fulfil their rights to land, housing and basic services.
2. Economic opportunities: Informal economic activities are often the main source of income for people living in informal settlements. Yet informality is becoming more and more criminalized in cities, resulting in eviction and harassment of street vendors and other informal workers. Inclusive development in Asian cities should provide the poor with better economic opportunities and innovative measures to integrate informal economic activities into urban life.
3. Women’s leadership: Gender-based discrimination in access to resources and services has led women to strengthen their leadership role and become key development actors. Women are a crucial binding force and leaders in most of Asia's community-based development initiatives in poverty-reduction, housing, community finance, disaster rehabilitation and livelihood.
4. Community finance: Exclusion from formal finance systems - both public and private - is one of the key causes of poverty. Community savings, community funds and community-managed finance mechanisms are tools that allow the urban poor to collectively access and manage much-needed finance to address their housing, livelihood and other needs and link with formal finance sources.
5. Community resilience and disasters: Disasters of different sorts are affecting Asian cities with increasing frequency and severity: storms, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, fires, pollution, eviction and wrongful development. Poor communities are invariably located in the most vulnerable parts of the city and experience the worst effects of these natural and man-made disasters. It is critical to create forms of resilience which allow these vulnerable communities to prepare themselves for disasters (before they happen) and to rebuild and recover after the disasters.
6. Grassroots participation in city management and planning: Top-down urban management and planning is usually in the hands of actors with little knowledge of the struggles faced by people living in poverty in their cities. Experience in Asia has shown, though, that the organized urban poor can play an active role in managing their cities, as fully engaged citizens and development partners, and that when that kind of participation happens, the cities become better, more humane, more beautiful and more equitable for all.
Urban housing, secure land tenure, basic services, economic opportunities, women, grassroots, community finance, community resilience, participatory city planning, participatory urban poor housing planning.
This grassroots assembly will bring together 80 - 100 grassroots people and their supporters, from both area- based grassroots networks (ACHR and SDI) and issue-based networks (Huairao Commission and WIEGO), and all other grassroots groups and interested participants who wish to join this assembly - which is open to all.
The following methods for sharing and consensus-building will be used during the Grassroots Assembly:
• Panel discussion in which 6 grassroots representatives selected by the organizing networks will introduce and address the principal subjects and common themes of the assembly.
• Open forum, with guidance by a moderator selected by the group, who will ask key questions aimed at finding common views on the key issues of the forum, and the larger questions about the contribution of grassroots communities to building more inclusive and sustainable cities. The participants from urban poor community organizations and their supporters will offer stories, observations and wisdom from their experiences on the ground, by way of answering the questions. The discussion will also be open to outside participants in the room, but the moderator will make sure that the main space for talking is given to the grassroots community members, and especially women.
• Subgroup discussions to address the six key themes and develop a draft agenda for how the participating networks can address those themes - both individually and together. In each of the two subgroup sessions, the participants will be split in three subgroups according to the subject of their interest. Each subgroup should have balanced representation from the four networks. Each subject will have a moderator who will animate the discussion and take notes of key ideas to report back in the last session. During the two sessions of thematic subgroup discussions, all six themes will be covered.
• Agenda setting closing session: Back in a plenary format, the groups will share their main ideas and propose agreements on key policy and joint action points from the subgroup discussion. These will be summarized in a simple document that all network participants will use to focus their contributions during the various fora in the APUF-7 sessions, and especially in the “Declare your actions” session.
TIME AGENDA ITEM
09:00 - 09:30 Welcome address by UN Habitat Executive Director, Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif (TBC)
Welcome by representatives from the 4 networks (ACHR, Huairou, SDI and WIEGO)
09:30 - 10:30 Panel discussion: 6 people will be selected by the networks to briefly comment on the
question, "How are grassroots groups contributing to an inclusive, sustainable urban development in Asia?"
10:30 - 10:45 Coffee break
10:45 - 12:00 Guided open discussion. A moderator selected from the group will ask key questions
aimed at finding common views on the contribution of grassroots communities to building inclusive and sustainable cities. Participants from urban poor community organizations and their supporters will offer stories, observations and wisdom from their experiences on the ground. These discussions will be open to outside participants in the room, but the moderator will make sure the main space for talking is given to the grassroots community members, and especially women.
12:00 - 13:00 Lunch
13:00 - 14:30 Sub-group discussions on the FIRST 3 themes: The assembly participants will split in
three subgroups, so that each subgroup has balanced representation from the four networks. Each subject will have a moderator who will animate the discussion and take notes of key ideas to share back in the last session.
• Land, basic services and housing
• Community finance
• Grassroots participation in city management and planning
14:30 - 16:00 Sub-group discussions on the SECOND 3 themes:
• Women's leadership
• Economic opportunities
• Community resilience and disasters
16:00 - 17:00 Closing session: Agreements on key policy and joint-action points. Back in a
plenary format, the groups will share their main ideas and propose agreements on key policy and joint action points to bring into the various meetings and discussions during APUF-7, as representing the grassroots participants. These will be summarized in a simple document that all networks’ participants will use to contribute during the APUF-7 sessions, and especially in the “Declare your actions” session.
The grassroots assembly will aim to:
• Create space for exchange, learning, celebration and collaboration among members of the four networks, which bring together urban poor communities, informal workers, grassroots women, as well as support professionals and allied groups and institutions.
• Bring forward the voices of those who are being excluded from the formal policy debate and from top- down economic and planning systems, and bring forward their bottom-up solutions for a more humane, more balanced and more sustainable urbanization, with communities at the center.
• Develop a people-centered perspective to address the urban challenges under the four key APUF-7 themes: urban and territorial planning, urban resilience, urban finance and smart cities.
• Coordinate bottom-up policy inputs and concrete community-led actions that advance the social inclusion dimension of sustainable urbanization in Asia and the Pacific
• Link community-produced data about the city with the official city data used in planning and decision- making
• Dialogue about financing mechanisms in cities that involve organizations of the poor.
Expected outcomes of the grassroots assembly:
• The lessons from this grassroots assembly will feed into the four network’s individual visions, planning and on-the-ground work, in addressing the structural challenges of urban poverty, vulnerability and inequality.
• The assembly will be an opportunity to build bonds between these grassroots networks and strengthen their collaboration at the national (at least 11 participating countries) and regional level.
• During and after APUF-7, we will work together to make proposals to policy makers, both within the various countries as individual networks, and in this international APUF platform as joint groups.
• The four networks will produce a report on the session and larger involvement in the APUF-7 meeting, in a reader-friendly newsletter format, for both online and mailing-out dissemination around the Asia Pacific region.
• The recommendations and lessons learned from this session will also be used as inputs in developing and framing the Grassroots Assembly at the 10th World urban Forum (WUF10) in Abu Dhabi in February 2020.
1. On the land, basic services and housing theme: What are the main challenges? How are grassroots
groups finding ways to access to land, housing and services? What can governments do to support such people-centered, collaborative and citywide approaches to housing and urban development?
2. On the community finance theme: What are the main challenges? How to connect existing community
finance systems with the formal finance?
3. On the women's leadership theme: What are the main challenges? Why it is important for women to take leading roles in development, poverty-reduction, housing, community finance, participatory urban planning and disasters?
4. On the economic activities theme: What are the main challenges? How can the development in Asian
cities provide the poor with better economic opportunities and support their informal economic activities and self-development?
5. On the community resilience and disasters theme: What are the main challenges? What concrete
actions can communities take to increase resilience to disasters and economic shocks at the community and city levels?
6. On the grassroots participation in city management and planning theme: What are the main
challenges? What mechanisms ensure real engagement of poor, excluded communities in urban policies, planning and management?