Egypt’s cities are growing rapidly, most of them without the benefit of governmental or municipal planning. Around 20 million people currently live in the Greater Cairo Region. Of these, approximately 60 percent live in informal, underserved and very densely populated urban areas. In many cases, these areas develop without planning, mostly on ecologically valuable agricultural land or state-owned land. Inhabitants are usually poor and have a low level of formal education. They often avoid contact with local administration, owing to their lack of trust in public welfare services. They frequently develop their own housing areas, without planning permission and without any connection to public infrastructure.
The extremely high population density also places considerable strain on the environment. Furthermore, the effects of climate change impact negatively on living conditions in these areas. In the face of such challenges, public administration and civil society organisations are often overwhelmed. With only limited resources for planning and management, they are unable to provide the required services or respond adequately to the need for change.
The programme provides advisory services to decision-makers in ministries, the three governorates of Cairo, Giza and Qalyubeya, and local administrative units on how to deal with informal settlements. The main advisory focus is on introducing, disseminating and applying methods and processes for participatory urban development. The wide range of training courses available is designed to give public and civil society organisations the skills they need to effectively plan and implement sanitation and development measures.
At the local level, a fund financed by the European Union is available to non-governmental organisations, local authorities and neighbourhood groups to implement a number of small-scale measures in nine selected areas – representing a total population of around two million people. These projects are supported by local area dialogue committees (LADCs), which are elected to represent each informal area. Particular emphasis is placed on the involvement and participation of young people and women in the projects.
The programme addresses the issue of climate change adaptation in poor informal urban areas. Dialogue formats and campaigns are used to raise awareness of the issue among residents, local administrators and other stakeholders. Small pilot measures, such as rooftop gardens, serve to familiarise the target groups with options for making urban areas more climate-resilient.
The programme has laid the foundations for participatory urban upgrading. Evaluations show that living conditions for residents in the areas covered by the project are improving sustainably.
From 2010 to 2014, an integrated, community-based solid waste management system was introduced in two informal areas in Qalyubeya, reaching around 600,000 residents. With financial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the waste management infrastructure was improved, for example with the construction of resource recovery centres and transfer stations.
For the first time, measures such as these were based on a prior strategy. The integration of waste collectors from the informal sector leads to the improvement of their livelihoods.
For the first time, participatory approaches and instruments are being developed, applied and disseminated. Participation continues to be of great importance in efforts to upgrade informal areas. The programme has promoted institutional development in the governorates by providing further training and support in organisation development, for example by setting up urban upgrading units (UUUs) for the informal areas. These new administrative units are not only mainstreamed institutionally by decree, they also function as knowledge carriers for other departments and serve as a model for other governorates.