Thursday, 11.10.18 - Hotel Africana, Kampala

Effective urban land use in Kampala against the backdrop of competing interests

FES Uganda in cooperation with Uganda Community Based Association for Child Welfare (UCOBAC) held a policy dialogue discussing the issue of competing interests in urban land use and how it affects the residents and city of Kampala on the 11th October 2018.

Mareike Le Pelley, the Resident Representative FES Uganda, emphasized in her opening remarks the importance of transparency and multi-stakeholder participation to create ownership in urban land use planning. The restrictive nature and non-responsive policy and legal frameworks, which through the discussions was termed as ‘The Book’ was sighted as one of the major challenges while planning for the city. It was argued that some of the existing polices and laws can no longer serve the interests of the people. A change is therefore needed and Prof. Shuaib Lwasa, Department of Geography Makerere University/ Urban Action Lab, suggested that conventional land use planning has to be changed into inclusive, locally appropriate, scalable and implementable urban planning which creates opportunities for all.

Representatives from the Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development, Kampala Capital City Authority and National Planning Authority stated in the first panel discussion that they try to meet their mandates and support effective urban land use. However, their attempts are often undermined by political interference in planning decisions, missing support and resources allocated for physical planning by the government. Majority of participants expressed concerns on unclear guidelines when determining government priorities and what exactly determines these priorities. It was noted that land has moved from being looked at as one of the factors of production and is now looked at as a commodity. This shift has influenced the growing interests in land acquisition in the city and subsequently affected the enjoyment of the land rights, especially to the urban poor. Concerns were raised on what can be done to ensure that the process of urban planning is done in a transparent manner considering that some of the budgeting processes are influenced by personal interests with influence from government.

In the second panel discussion the representatives of the National Environment Management Authority, the College of Design, Planning and Architecture of Makerere University, the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group and the National Association of Professional Environmentalists requested for the revision of the existing guidelines, policies and regulations for planning and determination of the currently missing standards of their implementation. For this process, training of frontline managers and physical planners, empowerment of citizens, public participation, access to information and access to justice are mandatory. Beyond that, accountability by urban land use related authorities and pushing towards better implementation, coordination and budgeting have to be targeted to ensure effective urban land use.

Other recommendations made at the dialogue included:

  1. Stakeholders should create more safe spaces for engagement and dialogue especially for people who are directly affected by the current city plans and the non-responsive policy and legal framework. FES was appreciated for creating such a space at this dialogue.
  2. Civil society organisations need to create strategic partnerships to influence planning processes for the city.
  3. There is need to revolutionize the budgeting process to allow other players – private sector and local governments – to compete for grants to address the current urban land use challenges in the city. This will create competition, quality and effective use of available resources to modernize the city and deal with all its associated challenges. While doing this, there is need to open up budget advocacy space at KCCA to ensure responsible budgeting.
  4. Planning priorities need to be shifted in line with the budget to support effective urban land use.
  5. In addition, a coordinated strategy in urban land use planning needs to be put in place. Currently, all districts in the Kampala Metropolitan Area can independently decide on urban land uses. But urban land use can’t be isolated for one district. It is cross cutting boarders, which calls for a coordinated strategy for the whole Kampala Metropolitan Area.

The policy dialogue, as Frances Birungi, Director of Programs of UCOBAC highlighted, was just a step towards effective urban land use. Only if an inclusive and participatory approach towards urban land use planning and implementation is executed, we can build and live in the city we need!

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