In the run-up to the Habitat III conference, representatives of local and regional governments from all over the world gathered on 15 May for the first session of the Second World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments to bring their inputs to the Habitat III outcome document, the New Urban Agenda (NUA).
In the run-up to the Habitat III conference, representatives of local and regional governments from all over the world gathered on 15 May for the first session of the Second World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments to bring their inputs to the Habitat III outcome document, the New Urban Agenda (NUA). The local authorities formulated their feedback for the NUA’s zero draft and discussed concrete ways to link the NUA to major multilateral agreements adopted in 2015 such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development (AAAA), and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments (GTF), facilitated by United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), convened the Assembly at UN Headquarters just prior to the start of Informal Consultations with Local Authorities, which took place from 16-17 May. Convened by the UN, these hearings are the first UN consultative process that recognizes sub-national governments as a specific constituency and allows local government representatives to give feedback on the drafting process for the New Urban Agenda.
Acknowledged by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in December 2015 (Resolution A/RES/70/210), the Second World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments articulates the political voice of local authorities in the Habitat III process. The Assembly is organized by the GTF, a coordination mechanism for the major international networks of local governments, which enables them to undertake joint advocacy related to international policy processes, in particular the Paris Agreement, the SDGs and Habitat III.
GTF’s Substantive Feedback to Zero Draft of the New Urban Agenda
Participants in the first session of the Second World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments praised the inclusive and participatory process of elaborating the zero draft. The Assembly welcomed the fact that the zero draft recognizes, inter alia: the key role of local governments in local economic development and in promoting the participation of all actors at sub-national level; the need for a renewed local-national partnership that is based on decentralization, respects the principles of subsidiarity, and recognizes local self-governance; the need for a more integrated territorial approach to national urban policies; the concept of the “Right to the City”; the right to housing; and the commitment to support those in informal housing and employment.
The Assembly also expressed their support for the zero draft’s call for gender-responsive policy-making and for training programs and government initiatives focused on women’s effective participation in decision-making for urban development.
Participants identified several issues that need to be further addressed by Member States, including: the legal and institutional reforms needed to empower the sub-national levels to participate in a multilevel decision making-process; the notion of local democracy; a clearer commitment to the universal provision of public services and the protection of the commons; and municipal development funds.
The Assembly called for, inter alia: a clear definition of the mechanisms necessary for effective decentralization; business friendly cities that ensure the inclusiveness of economic growth, recognize the role of a solidary economy, and ensure balanced public-people-private partnerships; ensuring the population’s involvement in the decision making process (participatory budget) and the co-production of public policies; the recognition of some discriminated collectives; and ensuring the implementation of legal frameworks for transparency of actions and access to justice for the victims of discrimination.
Linking the New Urban Agenda to the Implementation of the SDGs, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change
Participants welcomed the reference made to the SDGs in the preamble of the zero draft but called for strengthening the linkages between the NUA and the SDGs. Some of their specific recommendations included that the NUA should: provide “detailed” recommendations, processes and mechanisms for SDG implementation by all levels of government; build on current efforts undertaken by local and subnational governments in LA21 and similar sustainability planning processes, which support global multilateral processes on climate, biodiversity, disaster risk reduction, and the SDGs; “fully” embed SDG 11; and support the creation of the International Multi-stakeholder Panel on Sustainable Urbanization, to generate evidence-based guidance for the implementation of the NUA and the urban dimension of the SDGs.
On the alignment with the AAAA, which contextualizes the SDGs’ means of implementation targets with policies and actions, the Assembly proposed that multilateral organizations, financial institutions and development banks develop a specific initiative for financing urban infrastructure and essential services, building on the commitments made by the AAAA. The Assembly stressed that the NUA should be clearly linked with the Global Infrastructure Forum, which is organized yearly as part of the AAAA’s follow up, in order to more directly address urban investments.
With regards to the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Assembly noted that climate finance can be an opportunity to: leverage the local investments that the national governments need; involve local authorities in the design of the financial mechanisms and their management; and support local governments to generate climate friendly projects.
Regarding the New Urban Agenda’s implementation mechanisms, the Assembly proposed: creating a common road map that builds on existing initiatives and is linked with the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement, the AAAA and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, to ensure their implementation at local, national and global levels; and fostering SDG 11 implementation and monitoring through the development of specific instruments.
Key Proposals for the New Urban Agenda
The Assembly called for the NUA to recognize the Second World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments as “the most inclusive political mechanism of representation.” It also proposed that the NUA take into account several other initiatives: ‘Renew Political Dialogue Mechanisms,’ which could include the creation of a liaison unit of elected local representatives, a committee of local and regional governments linked with ECOSOC, and a structural dialogue with UN regional mechanisms; a ‘Tripartite Governance of Implementation Agency,’ in which the UN agency dealing with local development and urban issues would bring on board nonmember state partners, following the model of the International Labour Organization (ILO); a special status for local authorities that will allow the constituency to play a full role as partners both at the Habitat III Conference and in the overall UN system; a ‘Global Fund for Basic Services’ that would guarantee access to and public governance of essential services such as water, sanitation and big infrastructure; and a ‘Global Observatory on Local Finance’ to be set up by local government associations to offer an overview of the effectiveness of the decentralization process and of the real capacities of local governments to finance the NUA’s implementation needs.
Member States will consider the Assembly’s recommendations prior to the start of the Habitat III PrepCom3, scheduled for 25-27 July in Surabaya, Indonesia.
The Assembly’s second session will take place on 14 October 2016 in Bogota, Colombia, to be followed by its final session on October 16, in Quito, Ecuador, back-to-back with the Habitat III Conference.
The New Urban Agenda will be adopted during Habitat III, which will take place from 17-20 October 2016 in Quito, Ecuador, and will guide urban development policy for the coming decades.