Did you know that by 2050 the number of people living in informal areas is expected to rise by two billion? Additionally, two thirds of the infrastructure needed in Africa until 2050 is yet to be built, and the buildings and construction sector accounts for 37 % of energy-related CO2 emissions. So, how should we deal with this? In response to these challenges, GIZ – on behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) – and Cities Alliance will conduct a joint webinar series throughout 2024. The series will focus on practical approaches to just and sustainable urban planning, construction and financing. Together, we want to explore opportunities that strengthen local actors in their ability to act for socially just and climate-friendly urban transformation. We want to discuss how we can engage subnational governments more closelyin the implementation of global development and climate agendas. Among others, ICLEI and the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa (CAHF) will support us in implementing five inspiring events across 2024:

• March: Fostering sustainable construction in informal areas
• June: Framing pro-poor Nature Based Solutions
• August: Changing Cities for the better from the bottom-up
• September: Leaving no women* and no one behind in sustainable urban development
• November: How to provide finance for the “unbankable”?

The kick-off webinar will be hosted on March 21. During this first session of the event series, we will delve into the potential of sustainable construction and design methods to change the living conditions of people in informal areas. In context of the Buildings and Climate Global Forum happening beforehand (7–8 March), we will explore how global agendas such as the Buildings Breakthrough could become instruments of change in this matter. Let’s learn together how changing the living conditions of the urban poor and tackling global crises such as climate change and urbanization can go hand in hand.

We look forward to seeing you there! Please share with any interested colleagues and peers.




Opening: Carmen Vogt, Head of Section Cities, GIZ


  • Sheela Patel, Founder and Director, SPARC 
  • Alexandre Apsan Frediani, Principal researcher, Human Settlements, IIED 
  • Laura Lima, Head of Global Programmes, Cities Alliance

Moderator: Lorenzo Kihlgren Grandi, Founding Director, City Diplomacy Lab 


Speaker Profiles 

Carmen Vogt

Carmen Vogt is heading the Global Section Cities at the GIZ headquarter in Germany. She has more than 25 years of technical and management experience in International Development Cooperation and Policy Advice in the areas of Urban Development, Decentralization Policies, Environment, Climate and Disaster Risk Management. She was responsible for GIZ program in Latin America, Europe and Asia and contributed to the development of the International Sustainability Agenda (Agenda 2030), the New Urban Agenda (NUA) and the Climate Agenda at her various posts, collaborating closely with international partners from the public and private sector and civil society.

Her key fields of expertise are integrated urban development, infrastructure finance in cities, circular economy, urban resilience and smart cities with a particular focus on collaboration, political dialogue and capacity development.


Sheela Patel

Sheela Patel is the founder and director of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) India. Based in Mumbai, the NGO focuses on the voice of the urban poor in urban development and works with the National Slum Dwellers Federation. Sheela is widely recognised for seeking urgent attention to the issues of urban poverty, housing and infrastructure from governments, bilateral and international agencies, foundations and other organizations. She is a founder, among many, of Slum Dwellers International (SDI), a transnational social movement of the urban poor, whose board she previously chaired.

Her current campaign "Roof over our Heads” (ROOH) is a partnership between SPARC, SDI, Global Resilience Partnership, and other supporting organisations. ROOH’s vision is delivering resilient, low carbon and affordable homes and improving public infrastructure to urban residents, particularly those living and working in informality. 


Alexandre Apsan Frediani

Dr Alexandre Apsan Frediani is a principal researcher at the Human Settlements Group of the International Institute for Environment and Development, in London (UK). Alexandre co-leads the housing justice thematic work of IIED, where he runs research and projects to strengthen the capabilities of grassroots groups to contest housing injustices, influence governance systems and build global alliances for housing justice. Alexandre is an expert affiliate of Architecture Sans Frontières-UK, part of the boards of Habitat International Coalition and the Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre, and a fellow of the Human Development and Capability Association (HDCA). His current work at IIED includes a study of the value chain of building materials used for housing in informal settlements. This initiative has been implemented in partnership with affiliates of Slum Dwellers International (SDI) in Harare (Dialogue on Shelter) and Freetown (CODOHSAPA).


Laura Lima

Dr Laura Lima is the current Head of Global Programmes of Cities Alliance (UNOPS). She is from Brazil where she started her career in the NGO sector. She has been working on international development for 15 years and has project implementation experience in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Her main areas of expertise are urban governance, gender, fragility and conflict prevention. She holds a post-doctorate on Gender and Conflict in Slums in the Global South; a PhD on International Security; and 3 master’s degrees on International Development, Human Rights, and International History.


Lorenzo Kihlgren Grandi 

Dr Lorenzo Kihlgren Grandi is the founding director of the City Diplomacy Lab. He holds a dual PhD in Political Theory and is a lecturer in City Diplomacy at Columbia Undergraduate Global Engagement, Sciences Po–PSIA, and École Polytechnique in Paris. His primary expertise and research interests are in the international action of cities and their multilateral response to global challenges, such as sustainable development, migration, and digital transition. 
The City Diplomacy Lab is an alliance between scholars and practitioners of cities’ international action and aims to expand the theoretical and practical understanding of city diplomacy and advise its evolution. The Lab has vast experience in training city officials and facilitating dialogue with city diplomacy practitioners and audiences from every region of the world.