Local Governments and Habitat III: An Essential Alliance
Kibae Park/Sipa Press
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If States are serious about implementing the sustainable development commitments agreed in 2015, notably the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, cities must be perceived as key partners in this endeavor.

If States are serious about implementing the sustainable development commitments agreed in 2015, notably the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, cities must be perceived as key partners in this endeavor. The role of local level actors will be in particular focus at the upcoming UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), which will take place in Quito, Ecuador, from 17-20 October 2016.

In Quito, the UN and its Member States are expected to spark a new global commitment to urban sustainability, though an outcome document titled the ‘New Urban Agenda.’ Urban sustainability is one of the most pressing issues on the global development agenda. By 2050, 70% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities, which implies that most natural resources will be consumed by urban populations. It is thus in cities that the promise of sustainability resonates most, since they are central to the implementation of much of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), notably Goal 11 on making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

With these new development guidelines, networks of local and regional governments will become assets for both monitoring and facilitating SDG implementation, as they can organize consultative processes with diverse constituencies and assist in developing local action plans on sustainability. Moreover, these networks have been important capacity builders and have promoted peer-to-peer learning among local governments, particularly in the Global South.

For effective SDG implementation, clarity of purpose and good communication across different levels of governance will be crucial. On the road to Quito, many events have been designed to improve the dialogue between national and local governments. In addition to consultations organized under UN auspices to democratize the Habitat III process, local governments have sought to create new spheres for knowledge sharing among themselves. One example of this effort is the upcoming World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders, taking place in Bogota, Colombia, on the 12-15 October 2016, just before Habitat III.

There are many areas in which this Summit hopes to engage local governments to learn from each other and share experiences. These include: the democratization of metropolitan governance; the creation of an entrepreneurship environment; social inclusiveness; urban mobility; economic efficiency; and sustainability. At the Summit, the ‘Fourth Global Report on Decentralization and Local Democracy: Co-creating the Urban Future: The Agenda of Metropolis, Cities and Territories’ (GOLD IV), a triennial report published by UCLG’s Global Observatory on Local Democracy and Decentralization, will be launched. This report provides a tool to share information on decentralization and local governance from around the world as well to identify success stories that could be replicated in other cities and regions.

This fourth edition of the report provides recommendations framed as the ‘Global Agenda of Local and Regional Governments for the 21st Century.’ This agenda compiles the main aspirations and contributions of subnational governments to making sustainable cities a reality. It also contains a call to respect social and human rights, as well as for greater inclusion of citizens in urban governance. Drawing from extensive consultations of local leaders in metropolitan areas, intermediary cities, small municipalities and rural areas, the report calls for a change from a sectoral approach to a territorial model emphasizing the specificities of different local contexts. The report argues that it is at the local and regional levels that battles for human rights, gender inequality and poverty reduction can be most effectively fought.

Finally, Habitat III will be an occasion to fully operationalize paragraph 42 of the Rio+20 Outcome Document, which recognizes the role of local and sub-national governments as major stakeholders of national policies on sustainability. More than being simply perceived as the source of problems, cities should be considered places that will give us a chance to overcome poverty and reduce inequalities. Effective multi-level and multi-stakeholder governance are essential tools to a successful and transformative urbanization.

Resources

World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders website: http://www.bogota2016.uclg.org/

UCLG website: https://www.uclg.org/

Global Observatory on Local Democracy and Decentralization: http://www.gold.uclg.org/reports

Consultation on the role of intermediary cities in the global agenda of Local and Regional Governments for the 21st Century: https://www.uclg.org/sites/default/files/intermadiary_cities_consultation_report_.pdf

Consultation on the role of metropolitan and peripheral cities in the global agenda of Local and Regional Governments for the 21st Century: https://www.uclg.org/sites/default/files/metropolitan-areas-consultation_report.pdf

Consultation on the role of regions, towns and small municipalities in the global agenda of local and regional governments for the 21st Century: https://www.uclg.org/sites/default/files/small_municipalities_consultation_web.pdf

Habitat III Informal Hearings with Local Authorities Associations: http://www.iisd.ca/habitat/3/authorities/

The Future We Want- Outcome Document Rio+20: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/futurewewant.html

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