Saudi Arabia - Capacity Development for Provincial Urban and Governance Policies
Country(ies): Saudi Arabia
Primary thematic focus: Sub-national capacity development: local solutions, national strengths
In a Nutshell:
UNDP supported Al-Madinah municipality to establish an urban observatory network that proved instrumental in anchoring development planning at the provincial level around quantitative and qualitative urban indicators covering all sectors of the economy.
For Saudi Arabia, as for the rest of the Islamic world, Al-Madinah is the second holiest city after Makkah. The significance of the city stems from the fact that it was the first capital in the history of Islam; it was founded over 14 centuries ago. Presently, apart from the role it plays as the capital of the province, Al-Madinah is the destination of millions pilgrims and visitors throughout the year. On this backdrop, the Government has long considered pursuing a sustainable path to human development by taking well-informed policies of multi-dimensional disposition.
In this framework, the Municipality of Al-Madinah sought UNDPís technical and advisory assistance to establish an urban observatory network. The urban observatory network was intended to collect, analyze and use urban indicators towards robust local governance policies. This would be in line with the commitments of the Habitat Agenda adopted by 171 countries in 1996. Based on this, Al-Madinah Urban Observatory Network (MUON) was established in 2003 through a tripartite partnership involving Al-Madinah Municipality, UNDP and the Arab urban Development Institute with the informal support of the UN-Habitat.
In the first phase of this technical cooperation that extended from 2003 to 2008, the project was able to achieve its set outputs as follows:
1. The institutional structure designed and implemented for the urban indicatorsí database, including the production of the minimum data set composed of 23 key urban indicators and 9 qualitative data sub-sets. These are the minimum data required for reporting on shelter and urban development as advocated by UN-Habitat;
2. The national capacities built and well-developed to sustain the multi-disciplinary work of the observatory and to maintain and develop its partnerships for greater application of the indicators across all sectors of the economy. In this respect, a team of 20 officials had been trained to constitute a core trainer network that was tasked with the mandate of training concerned staff of all stakeholders in the province; and
3. MUON was able to produce 107 urban indicators, including 25 Al-Madinah-specific indicators to monitor the impacts of Hajj and Umrah on the state of development in the city.
Moreover, it has expanded its mandate to include monitoring of the MDGs at the provincial level and to adopt a rather broader focus on human development in its holistic sense. Throughout its data gathering and analysis processes MOUN emphasizes broad-based participation from all sectors of society providing room for contribution in planning to the private sector, civil society organizations and particularly addressing the concerns of women. It is worth mentioning that UN-Habitat has recently listed MUON among its 2009 Scroll of Honor Award Winners for its excellent performance in generating a set of robust socio-economic indicators towards better decision-making at the provincial level.
Moreover, the know-how of MUON is widely recognized. Technical advice of the senior experts of MUON is frequently enlisted by similar urban observatories within Saudi Arabia and throughout the Arab world. In fact, the experience of establishing and professionally operating MUON deserves replication, particularly in the neighboring Gulf countries.
Results and Critical Factors:
MUON has been able to develop national capacities at the provincial level to an extent that other cities in Saudi Arabia, including the capital Riyadh, are eager to replicate the experience of MUON. UNDP supported the formulation of the mandate, the substantive focus and institutional structure, and the development of technical expertise within the observatory through a three-pronged approach:
1. Forging instrumental partnerships with two key organizations that provided the technical guidance and back-up for MOUN, namely UN-HABITAT, the world leader of the concept of urban observatories and source of the key set of urban indicators, and the Arab Urban Development Institute (AUDI), a leading regional institution on urban planning issues.
2. Inviting in consultation with other involved partners, seven technical consultancy and knowledge transfer missions bringing top-notch experts from Australia, Egypt, Jordan and Sudan to guide the institutional set-up of the observatory; establishment of the technical database of indicators; the socio-economic and development targeting of indicators; and the strategic use of the indicators in urban and development policy making
3. Conducting three Training of Trainers (ToT) workshops to prepare an indigenous cadre of 21 trainers, who subsequently trained the personnel (close to 200) in all sectors of the municipality on technical issues related to the monitoring and use of indicators in development and urban planning.
Through the above measures, UNDP also supported the expansion of the urban indicators database beyond the minimum data set (composed of 23 key urban indicators and 9 qualitative data sub-sets) required for reporting on shelter and urban development as advocated by UN-Habitat.
Name of Primary Contact Person: Hatim Taha
Title of Primary Contact Person: National Project Manager, MUON