WHAT ARE FORUMS?
Forums refer to the institutionalized space for dialogue involving urban stakeholders in an effort to build inclusive cities and deepen participatory governance.
Inclusive urban planning requires two key ingredients:
1) Spaces for engagement between all urban development stakeholders – especially the urban poor
2) Organizational capacity within communities of the urban poor so that their voices can be most efficiently and effectively communicated.
These spaces take many forms, but the most promising in Uganda have been the settlement and municipal development forums. Municipal Development Forums (MDFs) provide the space for all urban development stakeholders to come together and plan for urban development. The municipal forums in Uganda are hosted by the Municipal Council, but they are governed by an executive comprised of representatives from slum dweller organizations, NGOs, academia, the private sector, and the municipal council.
For an organized community of the urban poor to be truly representative of its people, it has to bring ideas, aspirations, and concerns from the settlement level to the city, national, and international stage. At settlement level, communities can discuss the most pressing concerns to their local community and these ideas can be communicated to the municipal level forum.
The forums promote institutional strengthening on a number of fronts: on the one hand, communities enhance their capacity to articulate their priorities and negotiate within formalized structures; while on the other hand, the capacity of municipal governments to respond to their citizens increases the relevance of management and planning systems, contributing to more effective and efficient development projects, and strengthening overall governance. Beyond mere project cooperation, the forums aim to institutionalize the role of communities in inclusive and sustainable urban development.
COMMUNITY VOICE: “As far as MDFs are concerned, one of the achievements is that the community – especially federation – have their voices heard in these forums and in fact in most cases we dominate. Because, we know our problems from the ground and we have our enumeration data to identify problems and support the projects we come up with. We have also managed to mobilize settlement forums so we can discuss our problems and prepare to be as strong as we can for the MDF. We don’t do this alone. We involve ward leaders, then we find that when we come to the planning process our voices are now being included. In Mbale our priorities are now reflected in the municipality’s 5-year development plan. The forum was a key part of that achievement. Federation has become the champion of the forum. Actually as federation we are ready to mobilize forums in 9 new municipalities that have been brought on board in TSUPU. We are now specialized at this task!”
SemandaTwaha Bin Musa, NSDFU leader Mbale