Katja Schäfer is an architect and urban planner who has more than 5 years of professional experience in development related teaching, research and consultancy in the fields of housing, urban development, strategic urban planning, decentralization, urban governance and management, institutional development and capacity building, on which she has worked in several countries and environments, both in post-conflict situations and the context of emergency support, disaster mitigation and rehabilitation. Her wide expertise is in innovative, participatory and responsive design in development and upgrading of urban areas through socially and culturally acceptable, economically viable and environmentally sustainable interventions.
She was a full-time member of the academic staff of the Development Planning Unit (DPU), University College London (UCL), for 2 years (2003-05). As the Assistant to the Course Director, she was responsible for coordinating the MSc course in Building and Urban Design in Development (BUDD) as well as lecturing in the core modules Transformation of Urban Areas and Appropriate Building Design and Layout.
More recently, Katja Schäfer has been contributing as the Human Settlements Officer to the Arab States towards the implementation of UN-HABITAT’s vision, work programme and advocacy role, particularly in the field of urban governance and secure tenure, within the scope of the emerging Regional Office for Arab States in Cairo. Here she assists in the development of programmes and projects of strategic importance in Egypt and Libya in partnership with other UN-Agencies, bilateral/ multilateral and national partners and supervises their execution. In addition, she provides expert advisory services to the Strategic Urban Plans for Small Cities and Strategic National Development Support Project in Egypt and Institutional Development and Capacity Building of the Urban Planning Agency in Libya, especially relating to issues of strategic urban planning and decentralization as well as participatory budgeting and local Action Plans. She is responsible for the monitoring of ongoing project activities with regard to achieving Millenium Development Goals and the UN-HABITAT Midterm Strategic and Institutional Plan.
From January 2008 to 2010, she was a member of the GTZ Project for the Development of Historic Cities in Yemen team responsible for Urban (Heritage) Management on issues related to addressing sustainable urban development in Yemen. In addition to contributing to the ongoing project activities in the historic cities of Shibam and Zabid, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, she has been managing the 3rd Component of the Project – Other Historic Cities. Hereby, she has been providing support to national authorities and local administrations as well as residents in sustainably managing urban development of the vast range of historic cities and settlements in Yemen. Throughout, the emphasis of the project has been on local economic development and the promotion of conservation for Yemen’s urban heritage as an integral component of a multi-sectoral integrated urban development program, along the implementation of the decentralization policy and poverty reduction strategy for Yemen. The project has been advancing the networking between local, regional and national levels and between key actors in government, local business and population.
During 2006 until 2007, she has been contributing to the Somali Urban Development Program (UN-HABITAT, 2006-07) as an Urban Planner, providing substantive inputs to the elaboration of Urban Development Plans in key cities of Somaliland as well as Puntland regions and facilitating urban planning processes along side capacity building activities. Priority attention has been paid to the issue of informal and IDP settlements as well as the rehabilitation of market areas. Her work gives emphasis to the promotion of participatory planning strategies at city and neighborhood levels by strengthening the involvement of civil society and communities.
As the City Rehabilitation Advisor in Rebuilding Community, Infrastructure and Shelter Project under the Urban Governance Support Project in Sri Lanka (UN-HABITAT, 2005-06), she provided support to tsunami affected communities and assistance in meeting their immediate needs through community-based reconstruction in partnership with local authorities. In collaboration with the Tsunami Housing Reconstruction Unit (THRU), she coordinated post-tsunami permanent housing (re)construction in the Galle District of Sri Lanka.