Since 2007, Nairobi People’s Settlement Network (NPSN), in collaboration with other community groups,* has been holding an annual forum led by residents of the people’s settlements (slums) to prioritize the people’s needs and make recommendations to the Kenyan government on how to allocate the national budget. According to the People’s Budget, “[t]he primary responsibility of the government is to respect, protect, promote and fulfill all human rights of its citizens. To achieve this… the government must [enact] appropriate laws and policies as well as provide money and resources to address the basic needs of its citizens.”
A government’s commitment to fulfill basic human rights is determined by how it allocates its resources (national budget). It does not matter how just a constitution or laws are if the government does not provide the resources needed to put these laws into practice. Every government disperses resources through its annual budget and through this budget it becomes clear whom and what are valued by the government. Therefore, it is the belief of residents of the people’s settlements that the budget is a highly effective tool in improving their standard of living and claiming their rights.
See the following video to learn more about the People’s Budget
Before the People’s Budget, most residents of the settlements had no platform to make their priorities heard by the government. The government would create the annual national budget with little input from the common Kenyan; projects that residents of the settlements found most essential to improving their quality of life were rarely funded. Nairobi People’s Settlement Network decided it was time for the people of the settlements to become more involved in the budgeting process and stop waiting for the government to solve their problems for them.
With the help of Hakijamii, residents of the settlements in Nairobi (and recently Kisumu) hold meetings to outline where the greatest need for government assistance lies within education, land and housing, food security, environment, economic and social empowerment, water and sanitation, health, and safety and security sectors. For the national budget to be properly utilized all citizens of the country, not just government officials, should play an active role in budget formulation. With input from the settlements the government can make a more informed decision on what, where and how money from the national budget should be spent.
Meetings have already begun in preparation for the next People’s Budget forum, scheduled for May of 2011. It is a long and arduous process, but it is worth all the time and effort. With the People’s Budget the residents of the settlements are one step closer to living a life with dignity.