Q. 2. How can urban planning & land use guide the development of integrated, inclusive, safe & resilient human settlements? Please share lessons learnt

March 24, 2017

This discussion is now closed. Thank you for your participation.


  • Claudio Torres Slum Upgrading Consultant, Housing and Slum Upgrading Branch. UN-Habitat
  • Pireh Otieno Human Settlements Officer, Urban Basic Services Branch - UN-Habitat
  • Kulwant Singh Regional Advisor - UN-Habitat
  • Marcus Mayr Urban Planner, Climate Change Planning Unit, UN-Habitat
  • Edmundo Werna Head of Unit at Sectoral Policies Dept. ILO

Q. 2. How can urban planning & land use guide the development of integrated, inclusive, safe & resilient human settlements? Please share lessons learnt

Question 2: What lessons learnt can we draw on to inform how urban planning and land use can guide the sustainable, integrated, inclusive, safe and resilient development of the world’s human settlements?

Please share your ideas and/or examples below.

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Melissa Permezel – Discussion Moderator Policy and tool advisor from Kenya
Mon, April 4, 2016 at 04.11 pm
Dear Dialogue participants,
Thanks to you all for your efforts to engage with this dialogue… if we all had more time, we could clearly have a lot more to say I think.
However, in the absence of that, I would like to summarise some of the key challenges mentiloned.  Participants spoke of the roles of spatial strategies and town planning schemes as well as guidelines for minimum building standards and the need for incremental housing approaches as well as spatial strategies and town planning schemes, the challenges associated with planning standards.
In terms of recommendations and a way forward, some of the ideas have focussed on:
 -The development of guidelines for minimum planning standards to improve understanding and responses t o the adequate housing challenge.
-The demarcation of spaces for social and cultural activity – though this should also perhaps be extended to spaces which promote livelihood and economic development.

-Preservation of the multi-use function of community and public space in slum contexts to promote economic, social and cultural capital.

-The potive role local and municipal governments must play in engaging wtih slum dwellers and enforce appropriate standards.

-The role of national policies to promote the recognition and inclusion of slum dwellers and the mandate for the integration of slums into the broader urban environment via slum upgrading actions.

-Using human rights as a basic framework to understand the impacts of urbanization on slum dwellers and to guide responses.

-Utilizing the proposed Global Platform for Right to the City to the organization of social actors. 

I think that if we had more time we could add more!!
Thanks so much to all who contributed.
Looking forward to more inputs in other forums.
Loretta PhD Student from South Africa
Mon, April 4, 2016 at 03.59 pm

Hello everyoone.

As part of my contribution in this urban dialagoue on informal settlements. I would like to share what I found out last year (2015), when I was doing my Masters’ study. Informal settlements are dynamic in nature and to deal with them, urban planners need to adopt a more proactive approach to planning, rather than the reactive one that is being utilized. Having to contextualize the efforts made by the government to improve living conditions in informal settlements, through the informal settlements upgrading strategy, there appears to be inadeqaute planning in that regard. I did a study in one of the informal settlements in South Africa and the aim was to investigate the effects of unplanned water provision on living conditions in such unplanned tenements and the results recvealed that, indeed the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) in South Africa is an excellent initiative. However, informal settlement inhabitants are being “resettled” on land that is not properly serviced. Like for instance in that particular informal settlement, the poor urbanites were relocated and resettled on a piece of land that was not serviced, without adequate access to water, no electricity at all, no roads and proper engeneering was not done. This then defeats the whole idea of of the UISP which aims at improving the living conditions of informal settlers, this is so because the “resettlement” area still lacks basic services. In as much as the people were allocated adequate land-stands, indeed it reduced the overcrowding and lessons the burden of fire-outbreaks. However, there are only a few communal tapes of water and a few VIP toilets, which are shared by many households and the status of the toilets is so unhygienic because of inadeqaute water provision to that community. This leads to waterborne disease-outbreaks and poor overal health conditions. Therfore, I came to realise that there is need to incorporate a variety of urban and settlement planning approaches during the initial stages of the UISP. Like for example, adopting the “Destination Urban Plan”, after identifying a piece of land that informal settlers can be moved to, so that the areas can be properly surveyed and engeneered before occupation, inter alia, securing tenure rights also for the people in question.

Therefore, the key to improving living conditions and building safe and habitable human settlements is embedded in the need of a broad and holistic approach to properly plan before implementing and strategy or initiative.

Juan Pablo Duhalde Director Centro de Investigación Social para Latinoamérica / Director of the Center for Social Research at TECHO from Chile
Fri, April 1, 2016 at 02.29 pm

Hello to all participants. I share the views of  TECHO (www.techo.org) based on our experience from Latin America in 19 countries, currently working in more than 600 informal settlements.

The concrete manifestation of inequality can be seen in the levels of spatial, social, political, economic and cultural segregation. Informal settlements are the clearest expression of this issue, and those living in these places are those that the neoliberal economy forced to live on the edges, in unsuitable places to live.

Faced with the above, access to land and adequate housing becomes increasingly complex for a large sector of the population, especially those living in poverty, who are forced to live in informal settlements in risk areas they are not suitable for living. The land is for a minority.

For the conference in Pretoria and this virtual discussion, we must take into consideration the following:

– Structural causes of inequality and positioning of a land market that segregates those who fail to achieve sustainable development opportunities.

– Mobilization and discontent of citizens throughout the world relating to inequalities. Trends in recent decades from HII to HIII.

– To debate the prevailing model worldwide. Not only economic inclusion to access the benefits of urbanization as an engine of sustainable development. What is required is a paradigm shift, appropriation of citizenship and consensus democracy.

Globally there are several common problems of urban land, including a history of high informality, poor planning, high prices, speculation, and excessive soil retention as a store of value and intercity segregation.

I share some questions for reflection:

What are the main developments at the level of public policy in management and urban planning during the past 20 years?

What are the most important experiences on issues of regularization of informal settlements, housing, security of tenure, location, and access to basic services?

Living on low quality land with transfer times to sources of employment that are inviable, paying unreasonable prices for water that are even higher than formal alternatives, is the problem for which we must give an urgent response. Today, with a land market in the hands of a minority group that corrupts effective public policies, we are far from achieving quality urbanized land and the positioning of real opportunities for those living in informal settlements today.

There is a fundamental step. We must listen to the experiences of every corner of the world, then we can build those public and institutional frameworks that promote capacities for participatory planning and management that allow us to be consistent with a comprehensive social, political, economic and cultural sustainability, promoting rights and dignity for all.

I recommend reviewing the declaration of the Global Platform for the Right to the City. It is a very good proposal to coordinate a group of social organizations.

Melissa Permezel – Discussion Moderator Policy and tool advisor from Kenya
Tue, March 29, 2016 at 07.48 pm

Dear Dialogue participants.

Thanks a lot for your comments thus far. There have been some interesting feedback about the roles of spatial strategies and town planning schemes as well as guidelines for minimum building standards and the need for incremental housing approaches.

In relation to spatial strategies and town planning schemes, I am wondering what your experiences are in terms of ensuring that slums/informal settlements are included in those schemes and strategies? What has worked in terms of getting them upgraded in participatory manner but but also connected to the rest of the urban environment?

In relation to planning and the idea of minimum standards, I wonder if you think that there should be the same ‘planning standards’ across entire urban areas or different ones for different areas? And what might those variations depend on? Should slums and informal settlements have different standards? How does this work if considering a ‘city-wide approach’ to urban development?

And what about planning standards in relation to strenghtening resillience? What should those be from your experience?

Another question on planning frameworks relates to their enforcement. What have been some success stories in terms of enforcing standards? Or if people understand their relevance, does this become the way that standards are ultimately adopted?

Finally, in relation to incremental housing, what are your experiences of financing mechanisms that facilitate incremental housing?

Please do keep the discussion going ….!

Verónica architect from Ecuador
Mon, March 28, 2016 at 08.46 pm

About this problem in Ecuador, i think  policies are the main tool for the solucion and the problem at same time; the law protects those who are living in risk sites, and because of this, more people are living in risk settlements to get this help; i was studing this phenomenom about a year and it is amazing how many home programs would be necessary to solve the demand (and if we see risk settlements only).  I think we should think about preventive programs instead of healing solutions, and search for people who really needs. 

Norman Mapela Principal representative Economic and Social Development Practitioner from South Africa
Sat, March 26, 2016 at 08.16 am

The Facilitation Act is the answer, for the will to undertake action of processes and procedures for RDP implementation, inclusive of citizenship

Emmanuel Nkambule Architect & Lecturer in Architectural Design from South Africa
Thu, March 24, 2016 at 03.17 pm

1.Develop site-specific & ‘social network & micro-scale friendly’ town planning schemes and urban design proposals.

Developing spatial strategies and townplanning schemes that are responsive to

and suitable for informal settlements.

-Identify site-specific strategic spatial and programmatic interventions, avoid generalised solutions.

-Town planning schemes should allow for tiny plots, for example  3m x 3m plots, to ensure affordability of tenure

where formalisation is desired/possible. In an informal settlement I lived in between 1995 and 2003 in Mbabane,

Swaziland, I observed that provision of small plots along with services and road infrastructure led to self-help housing initiatives.

The option of micro (say from 3m x 3m ), small (say from 3m x 9m), medium ( say from 9mx 9m) and large ( say 20m x 20m and above)

plots can increase the affordability of tenure, thus creating a market of its own. I visited the informal settlement two weeks ago,

it is amazing what people can achieve if the State provides ‘micro-scale friendly’ policies, strategic frameworks and town planning schemes.

-For example, with the predicament of women who are raped in informal settlements  because toilets are located outside of dwellings/shacks, detachable eco-friendly toilets could be installed by retrofitting a shack, this also may not be effective in another informal settlements.

-Promote land ownership so as to enable land trading which can be a source of capital for micro-scale business owners and aspiring homeowners.

-Recognise and celebrate the cultural identity of each informal settlement through the development of streetscapes, precincts, parks, gardens and other open spaces; the participatory and celebratory experiences of festivals, gatherings and special events.

2. Lessons learned from studying Khutsong Section (Mabena) informal settlement, Midrand, South Africa:

The following findings were drawn from the research process(see attachment):

2.1. The mixed-use, very fine-grained, pedestrian-orientated, fractal and fragmental nature of the urban fabric of an African informal settlement tends to increase opportunities for social relationship-building activities. The analysed African rural settlements depicted a fractal and fragmental spatial structure consisting of spatial thresholds interconnecting public, semi-public, semi-private and private spatial domains. This spatial arrangement promotes different levels of relationship-building activities in African communities.

2.2. These social activities are integrated with economic, cultural, domestic, political and educational activities.

2.3. This interconnected nature of the urban fabric of African informal settlements is ideal for enhancing social connections.

2.4. A significant visual and spatial impact can be achieved by subtly introducing edge and threshold defining forms in informal settlements. These forms can:

  (i) Strengthen hierarchy in the spatial structure of the settlement to encourage relationship-building activities to occur in private, semi-private, semi-public, and public spatial domains.

  (ii) Enhance legibility within the urban fabric of the settlement.

  (iii) Accommodate integrated solid waste collection stations which are located along with storm and waste water recycling, which are also near ICTs infrastructure and energy systems which will support for the development of the settlement.

  (iv) Serve as an enabling infrastructure for in situ upgrading of the informal settlement.

Juana Sotomayor – Discussion Moderator “Human Rights Officer, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights” from Switzerland
Thu, March 24, 2016 at 11.53 am

Hello everyone and welcome to the online discussion on Informal Settlements. I share Melissa and Claudio’s point that this is a great opportunity to hear ideas and inputs in preparation for Habitat III. In my view, a human rights perspective in the discussion is essential if we truly want to find ways of addressing the living conditions of the millions of women, men and children whose homes and communities are in informal settlements around the world, including those who are homelessness within settlements.

The vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – “No one left behind” can be a powerful call for equality and non-discrimination as core principles for this discussion. Since Habitat III will provide the unique opportunity to zoom in on what it means to “ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services” (target 11.1), the focus on informal settlements couldn’t be more timely or crucial.

Following the four thematic areas for this discussion, I would like to propose specific questions to kick start or feed into the overall conversation. When sharing your views and ideas, I encourage you all to consider the various roles that different stakeholders play in informal settlements, from governments at the national, subnational and local levels, to social movements and community organizations, to real estate and business, as well as donors and international organizations.

For TOPIC 2, my questions are:

  1. How can diverse tenure systems be better protected and promoted in urban planning in order to ensure more inclusion, especially for the poor and marginalized?

  2. What mechanisms and measures need to be put in place to confront forced evictions and displacement as drivers of homelessness, exclusion and unsecure situations for millions of residents in settlements?  

Reality Tested Youth Programme
Thu, March 24, 2016 at 07.35 am

Reality and rapid sprawling of informal shows that there is great demand for low cost housing and ‘investors’ in the community who are willing to commit little resources to construct houses. The municipalities should develop guidelines on the minimum building standard required for informal settlement. Government can provide incentives to such investors to provide required basic living standard without pushing the poor into similar settlements. A safe neighbourhood should have social amenities and public spaces protected from land grabbers. Informal settlement should be seen as transition to better and adquate housing for all instead of being looked like a permanent feature in a city. The policy should support progression to better housing instead of leaving the process to be dictated by the markert forces and private developer.

Melissa Permezel – Discussion Moderator / Programme & Tool Development Advisor Participatory Slum Upgrading Unit, UN Habitat from Kenya
Wed, March 23, 2016 at 05.53 pm

Welcome everyone to the online discussion on Informal Settlements for the Habitat III Thematic Meeting in Pretoria. We are delighted to be moderating this discussion and looking forward to get your inputs and ideas in this critical topic for Habitat III and for the overall sustainable development of humankind. 

In particular, we are keen to know your thoughts and recommendations on how to address the dire challenge of informal settlements in a sustainable, inclusive and integrated manner, aiming at giving a viable response to this problem by 2030. Also, we would like to know your views on how informal settlement and slum upgrading could be effectively incorporated into the New Urban Agenda and help implement it.

To organise this dialogue’s inputs, we will follow the themes covered by the Habitat III Thematic Meeting’s plenary sessions, these being:

  1. From informal settlements to sustainable neighbourhoods – Policy and strategy frameworks for a paradigm shift;
  2. Urban planning and land use – Drivers for integrated, inclusive, safe and resilient sustainable human settlements;
  3. Financing informal settlement/slum upgrading – Contributing to sustainable livelihoods and inclusive economic growth;
  4. Together transforming a billion lives – Participatory approaches in planning, implementing and monitoring informal settlement/slum upgrading.

We will kick-off with a set of four related key questions, hoping to prompt everyone’s creativity and contribution. We invite you therefore to reflect on these topics and contribute with your valuable inputs.

Lastly, we would like to emphasize the need to focus on practical recommendations and feasible strategies that can be endorsed and implemented by all stakeholders involved in the commendable task of transforming the lives of the people living in slums, including slum dwellers themselves. With that, we would like to open the floor to your input on:

TOPIC 2: “Urban planning and land use – Drivers for integrated, inclusive, safe and resilient sustainable human settlements”:

  • Q. 2: What lessons learnt can we draw on to inform how urban planning and land use can guide the sustainable, integrated, inclusive, safe and resilientdevelopment of the world’s human settlements?