Governments, Stakeholders Discuss Collaboration for New Urban Agenda, SDGs
UN Photo/Kibae Park
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The UNGA concluded its high-level meeting on the New Urban Agenda and UN-Habitat, which considered the repositioning of UN-Habitat in support of the SDGs and the role of cities in sustainable development.

Member States discussed reform proposals for UN-Habitat, based on a report from the UN Secretary-General's independent panel.

6 September 2017: During the second day of a high-level meeting on the New Urban Agenda and UN-Habitat, convened by the UN General Assembly (UNGA), participants discussed the New Urban Agenda, the repositioning of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the role of cities in sustainable development. Participants focused their recommendations around partnerships and ways to increase the effectiveness of collaboration among different levels of government, stakeholders, UN pillars and UN entities.

The meeting took place from 5-6 September 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. The UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) adopted the New Urban Agenda. The New Urban Agenda aligns with many of the SDGs, particularly with SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities).

During the morning panel discussions, Grete Faremo, Executive Director, UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), stressed the importance of public procurement. He said the UN spends around US $16 billion on procurement, but often in a fragmented way, underscoring the importance of collaboration for delivering on the sustainable development agenda.

Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, said the UN needs to look at cities for lessons and inspiration on how to work differently, adding that UN entities should coalesce around and learn from local actors.

Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, UN-Habitat, said the UN should both save lives during a humanitarian crisis and contribute to “sowing the seeds” for post-conflict development.

Magdy Martínez-Solimán, UN Development Programme (UNDP), observed that the complexity of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development created coordination challenges among UN entities, which could be addressed through clear policies and the humility to accept that others might be better placed to coordinate action on the ground.

Mahmoud Mohieldin, the World Bank, highlighted the World Bank’s ‘Implementation Facility for Sustainable Urban Development’, an initiative created to support sustainable urban development.

Grainne O’Hara, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said the SDGs are creating more discipline among UN entities on coordination, both around common objectives and in interactions with Member States.

Aromar Revi, Director, Indian Institute for Human Settlements, recommended designing partnerships in a way that makes them effective mechanisms for sharing capacities, finances and political representation.

Eugenie Birch, President, General Assembly of Partners, said achieving the SDGs implies integrated delivery at the local level combined with strengthened national governments.

Maria Jose Lubertino, Executive Director, Citizen Association for Human Rights of Argentina, stressed that states need to better regulate the relationships between markets and territorial authorities, while ensuring that profits benefit citizens.

Hazem Galal, PwC, said the idea of public-private-partnerships should be rethought as “properly-planned-projects.”

During the afternoon session, Member States expressed their views on the reform proposals for UN-abitat, in the context of the UN Secretary General’s Independent Panel to Assess, Enhance Effectiveness of UN-Habitat after Adoption of the New Urban Agenda, which was released in August 2017.

Many countries opposed the Panel’s proposal to create new governance structures for UN-Habitat.

Many countries, including Canada, the Philippines and Uganda, opposed the Panel’s proposal to create new governance structures for UN-Habitat. They recommended increasing UN-Habitat’s efficiency and integration within existing structures. Brazil said any negotiations on potential new structures should take place in Nairobi, Kenya. Spain said the proposed governance structures need more thinking. Together with Serbia, she added that partnerships will be essential in delivering the New Urban Agenda. Spain cautioned that creating a new fiduciary fund for UN-Habitat would not be a good idea.

Afghanistan welcomed the proposal to create a new governance structure based on universal membership and creating a new fiduciary fund for UN-Habitat.

Uganda did not welcome the proposal of shifting UN-Habitat’s focus from an operational one to a more normative one. Also with Zambia, he stressed the need for increasing core, non-earmarked funding for UN-Habitat. Thailand noted that establishing a balance between the normative and operational roles of UN-Habitat is “critical.”

Nigeria observed that, even though Nigeria responded to the Panel’s questionnaire, from the majority of the comments provided during the two days by governments it was “obvious” that the Panels’ recommendations “fall short of responding to developing countries’ needs.”

Following the high-level meeting, the UNGA President will prepare a Chair’s Summary of the event and submit it to UNGA’s Economic and Financial Committee for its consideration and action. [Event Webpage] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Day One] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on the New Urban Agenda] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Independent Panel’s Report] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

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