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Africities Summit: “Building Africa from its territories: which challenges for local governments?”

Organised by the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLGA) every three years, Africities is a meeting of local government, ministers, city mayors, bureaucrats and traditional leaders as well as trade unionists, academics, NGOs and CSOs. Africities VI will take place in Dakar Senegal from 4 to 8 December 2012 with over 5000 delegates from across the continent as well as mayors from China, Latin America and Turkey.

Africities is an important opportunity for social movements to observe and engage with representatives of local and central governments. It is important to participate for several reasons. Firstly, to ensure that alternative voices from our communities are heard. Secondly, to take a place at the table so that these voices are taken into account when policies are formulated and, thirdly, to understand the regional, continental and international dynamics that underlie the networks of power that control our societies and our lives.

Given the growing trend within international bodies to limit the voices of communities to those filtered through few CSOs, NGOs and networks who operate within restricted parameters, it is imperative also to open to other approaches and organizations who will give an alternative perspective to the challenges faced by communities, both on the causes thereof and on possible solutions. This is the basis of their convergence towards the Urban and Community Way, work proposal clearly emerged from the World Assembly of Inhabitants (WSF Dakar 2011), as a pillar for an alternative Urban Social Pact founded on human and environmental rights, as well as on the responsibility of the inhabitants to be the creators and co-governors of the human settlements, not mere clients-users of the territories.

Sixteen Thematic Sessions will deliver at least five proposals for consideration during the Political Meetings of the UCLGA. Those that are adopted will form part of a binding political programme of action for the organisation in the following years. Your participation will help to deliver a pragmatic and progressive proposal which will have a real impact upon the development of democratic and participatory local government in our countries.

The International Alliance of Inhabitants , a global network of inhabitants’ organizations and the main organizer of the World Assembly of Inhabitants, has been invited by the Secretary General of Africities to organise a Thematic Session on Residents’ Associations. The Thematic Session will last three hours: 1 hour for presentations, 90 minutes for debate and 30 minutes for the adoption of resolutions. The Panel will consist of a Chair, a Coordinator/Moderator, a Rapporteur and up to four “stakeholders, including an African mayor, a mayor from another continent, a representative from an institution, association or business and an expert of the addressed topic”. The Resolutions will be condensed into recommendations “addressed primarily to the mayors, ministers, institutions of the African Union and the cooperation partners.”

Associations of Inhabitants (also referred to as Residents Associations) are an important and growing phenomenon throughout the continent as urban citizens join together to address the challenges that they face in the cities. These associational bodies offer a number of opportunities to create an interface between elected officials, bureaucrats and citizens and this thematic session is intended to provide a platform for dialogue between representatives of these three groups, to exchange experiences and to develop recommendations to enhance the growth of such Associations.

Housing and Forced Evictions

Urban housing policies are a crucial factor in determining the nature of our cities. Under neo-liberalism, land is perceived primarily as a commodity for exploitation and it has been stripped of any sense of a ‘public good’. Urban territorial constraints and land grabbing often leads to both land speculation or to ‘urban clean-ups’ resulting in evictions of the poor, usually to peripheral areas, far from social and economic infrastructure and opportunity. Inhabitants’ Associations have come to be one of the primary tools for community resistance to such evictions. Therefore it is important to highlight struggles for pro-people housing policies including the development of an Urban Social Pact that will provide an alternative to the neo-liberal paradigm. Programmes, such as the “Zero Eviction Campaign ” and the use of debt swaps for “Popular Funds for Housing ”, involving inhabitants organisations and local authorities, offer practical alternatives for progressive policy makers to achieve democratic policies to address the urban crisis. Also in this respect the Urban Social Forum’s  call “Defending the common goods for the future of cities and territories ” is a fundamental perspective.


Genuine and comprehensive democratisation of African States can only be achieved through an organic, bottom up approach which values and promotes the participation of citizens in political processes. Empowering and educating citizens to engage in an informed and responsible manner will avoid the disruptive results of a populist and reactive politics which undermines the stability and harmony of society. Social movements are a fundamental aspect of this process and provide a grassroots dynamic to promote genuine democratisation. The challenge for governments at both national and local level is to engage with social movements and associations in a manner that is respectful and productive, one that avoids paternalism or cooption. The challenge for social movements is how to engage with governments in a productive and non-threatening way while maintaining their independence and capacity for critical positions. Methodologies of engagement will only be identified through dialogue and the exchange of ideas and experiences.


As African States emerge from the post-colonial epoch, they are maturing and becoming increasingly sophisticated and complex. The age of the ‘Big Man’ is passing and the idea that one person can manage the complexities of modern government is increasingly untenable: decision-making must be delegated if states are to manage the multiple demands of ever-growing populations. Devolution of power to provincial and local government is important but carries many risks, such as regionalism, fragmentation, inefficiency, corruption, etc. Many of these negative phenomena already exist in centralised States so the challenges arising from decentralisation are not entirely new. If decentralisation includes empowering local communities to articulate and address the issues that they regard as important and to monitor the operations of local authorities, many of these problems can be overcome.


Representative democracy has become synonymous with periodic elections between which the elected representatives often have little or no contact with their electorate. Constitutional measures to improve accountability have been instituted in countries such as Kenya but the most effective mechanism to ensure accountability lies within articulate and forceful social movements that demand accountability from their elected representatives.

The Thematic Session will look at examples of residents interactions with local and national authorities across the continent to see how these three factors are developing across Africa.



We therefore feel that Africities VI is a critical opportunity for social movements to make their voices heard at the continental level. To this end we call for expressions of interest from our partners and other residents associations, networks and social movements.

Those who wish to participate more fully (eg in the coordinating committee, or to participate at the Thematic Session) should contact us at iai.southernafrica@habitants.org by 30 September .

Africities 2012

See the full programme for Africities here .

The Theme: “Building Africa from its territories: what challenges for local governments?”

4th - 5th December [Days 1 & 2]: THEMATIC SESSIONS

6th December [Day 3]: SPECIAL SESSIONS

7th - 8th December [Days 4 & 5]: POLITICAL MEETINGS

Riferimenti geografici


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