Roof Over Our Heads: A year of groundbreaking progress

By Climate Champions | December 6, 2023

A year ago, the Roof Over Our Heads (ROOH) campaign embarked on a transformative journey with its launch at COP27. The initiative was a response to the urgent housing needs of approximately 1 billion people living in informal settlements, a figure expected to double by 2050, particularly in Asia and Africa. The ROOH campaign, as detailed in its latest book, addresses these challenges against the backdrop of outdated urban development planning and increasing displacements due to climate-related and social disturbances.

Central to the ROOH initiative are the women leaders from Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), who have been instrumental in shaping the campaign’s trajectory, ensuring that it stays true to the needs and aspirations of the communities it aims to serve. Their leadership and involvement have facilitated engagement with local communities, enhancing the campaign’s effectiveness and reach.

Throughout its first year, the ROOH campaign has successfully cultivated diverse partnerships with stakeholders from various sectors. These collaborations have been vital in providing both financial support and expert knowledge, crucial for the campaign’s success. Particularly noteworthy is the establishment of learning labs across seventeen settlements in nine Indian cities. These labs have served as experimental grounds where innovative housing solutions are tested and refined, emphasising a participatory approach involving local communities, especially women, and professionals.

In addition to on-the-ground action, ROOH has been active in advocacy for transformative change. Supported by the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions’ Race to Resilience and Race to Zero Campaigns, ROOH aims to deliver resilient, low carbon, energy-efficient, and affordable homes. This vision has necessitated the formation of an “unusual” coalition of partners, ranging from slum dwellers and their networks to financiers, designers, architects, and material suppliers. The campaign also seeks to influence educational institutions to incorporate relevant content in their curriculums and engage city mayors and financial institutions in developing inclusive financing mechanisms.

“I have had the privilege of meeting women community leaders from informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya. They shared their actions under ROOH to build the resilience of themselves and their families against the impacts of climate change. As climate change worsens, community-led initiatives like ROOH are vital examples of leadership and impact, based on partnerships and on-the-ground success. ROOH is a flagship initiative in the Champions’ Race to Resilience, and I look forward to its growing outreach and impact,” said UN Climate Change High-Level Champions for COP28, H.E Razan Al Mubarak.

H.E Razan Al Mubarak meeting women community leaders from informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya.

The book outlines the goals of the ROOH campaign, which include uplifting vulnerable communities, enhancing climate resilience, securing housing, and mobilizing public and private finance. The strategy involves creating communication platforms and engagements, including round table meetings, to present challenges and seek contributions from various stakeholders. The labs, central to ROOH’s strategy, aim to explore local but adaptable solutions, fostering peer-to-peer learning and training between networks of the urban poor.

Acknowledging the challenges faced by poor communities, exacerbated by extreme weather conditions due to climate change, the ROOH approach seeks to bridge the gap between development and climate adaptation. The campaign advocates for a democratic and inclusive structure that facilitates engagement at all levels – global, regional, national, and local.

As the ROOH campaign reflects on its first year, it projects a future where its efforts lead to more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable urban habitats. The campaign aims to be a transformative force, fostering new ideas, alliances, and innovations to accommodate an additional 1.5 billion climate refugees.

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