A global conference on poverty is to take place in Africa’s largest slum in an effort to make sure the poorest get a voice.
The inaugural World Poverty Forum will be announced on Wednesday in New York at the Decade of Action event taking place during UN general assembly week. It is already being dubbed as “Davos with the poor”.
Social entrepreneur Kennedy Odede, who was raised in the slum of Kibera, in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, has founded the event to bring world leaders and policymakers together to “change the dynamic” of the way the big global issues are discussed. He said it was about making “worlds collide”.
“It is high time that the policymakers come to us, the people and the communities who are doing great work on the ground,” he told the Guardian.
“Meetings like Davos are all very well, to bring together world leaders, but there is no space for them to interact with the poor and with people doing the work in the communities. So this forum will fill this gap.”
The forum is designed to tackle world poverty by reversing the often unequal power dynamics of development conferences, and will take place in January. It will be that rare example, said Odede, of a conference choosing its location to give a real voice to the poorest in finding solutions to their own problems.
“We will have a 50/50 split of influential leaders and of community leaders from Kibera, from Africa, from India, from Brazil, who have been left out of the conversations for too long.
“This is not about people helicoptering in. They will come with humility, they will come in as our guest and we will showcase all the things people in Kibera can teach the world,” he said.
“It is meant to be a learning journey – what is working, what is not working. We can learn from each other when the community get a voice.
“People on the frontline must be included. They have to have a place at the table.
“They have been left out of the decisions made about them. Why? Because it’s all been about top to bottom. Now it has to be about bottom to top, because inequality is growing too much. We need to fight this.
“I’m so excited. This is for me a big step. We will be a bridge between real people and policymakers.”