Creating inclusive cities for all in Kenya

During a seminar in Almedalen, ICLD invited six panellists to discuss the question how to best create an inclusive city for refugees. They shared their experiences about challenges as well as possibilities in the effort to enable democratic arenas in a sustainable way.
– We have to offer an integrated urban planning for how to use the land. In Turkana County we try to learn from our history that resulted in pressure on the infrastructure and on the environment, says Mark Ewesit.

A sustainable city for refugees must have this special plan, he says:
– You have to enable different spaces for different purposes, like commercial areas, or an access road, or a place where people can get water. Management for waste is also important, as well as education.
 If you build an infrastructure that takes care of these matters there is a good chance you can build an inclusive city for refugees, according to Mark Ewesit:
– Instead of an exclusive plan for the refugees it will be an inclusive plan in a manner where the host community becomes integrated.

Turkana County of today do not want to create a camp like in the old days, but to build a settlement for refugees.
A settlement that is well planned and integrated.
– Our governor in Turkana County have engaged other key stakeholders in the host community to provide 1 500 hectare of land where we now can resettle the refugees together with the host community.

How did people in your host community react to these plans?
– The governor and key stakeholders consulted with the host community. It was not a one-day decision; it took some time for the community to buy in to the idea to include the refugees.
Turkana now have an understanding that space for the settlement is not only in favour for the refugees, but also for the host community.

How long did it take to reach understanding and agreement?
– This is the most resent process, and it took about three years. Many people can see that this is the best way to do it. People in the community actually applaud it and I think the refugees also like it. Before the refugees arrived at the camp in Turkana in an unsustainable way.

Today 200 000 refugees live in Turkana County. Every day new refugees arrives, the majority from Sudan. But now there is more interaction and inclusion, for example water management is working better.
The refugees are active in the communities where they do business, both within the camp but also with the locals.
What do the refugees bring that you can learn from?
– We see refugees as an opportunity; it is an opportunity for our local economy to grow. The UN-agencies and other organisations bring funding, and that have a “trickle-down-effect” in our society.

The situation in the camp is creating employment opportunities for people in the host community. Organisations need help distributing food and other supplies and turn to the locals for labour.
– The locals have knowledge about the environment that makes them useful and beneficiary in this situation.

Turkana have experiences from a history with camps, now they have a new approach for refugee-settlement. After the seminar with ICLD, Mark Ewesit is hopeful about the future:
– This is the first ICLD-workshop I´ve attended. The way we have been engaged with the ICLD-staff give me hope, I expect them to engage even more and I see some fruitful results in the future.

What is most important to create a sustainable society for the refugees?
– In the short term to have programs for inclusion and integration in terms of policies and laws for the refugees. In the long term it is to see refugees as an opportunity that can inspire your economy. This is people with creative minds and with skills that you probably don’t have here.