New Urban Agenda Debated at Habitat III PrepCom
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The draft outcome document for the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) was the focus of negotiations at the third session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom 3).

The final outcome document, referred to as the 'New Urban Agenda,' is expected to be adopted during Habitat III, convening in Quito, Ecuador, from 17-20 October 2016.

hiii28 July 2016: The draft outcome document for the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) was the focus of negotiations at the third session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom 3). The final outcome document, referred to as the ‘New Urban Agenda,’ is expected to be adopted during Habitat III, convening in Quito, Ecuador, from 17-20 October 2016.

PrepCom 3 convened in Surabaya, Indonesia, from 25-27 July 2016, with the participation of over 4,000 participants from 142 countries. Addressing the meeting, Basuki Hadimuljono, Indonesia’s Minister of Public Works and Housing, noted a shift in the government’s role as a “top-down regulator” to “a facilitator of development” for stakeholders, including local communities and the private sector.

Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT and Habitat III Secretary General, recalled that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes urbanization as an “endogenous source for development” with the adoption of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 on sustainable cities and human settlements. He said that urbanization challenges can only be discussed by bringing together all stakeholders, and noted that voluntary commitments will be critical in implementing the New Urban Agenda. He stressed the importance of continued financial support in order to complete the preparatory process for Habitat III.

During the negotiations, local governments welcomed the increased recognition of the roles that local and subnational governments play, and supported reference to: decentralization based on the principle of subsidiarity; and the ‘right to the city.’ The US opposed reference to concepts that that they said lack broad recognition and consensus, including the “right to the city” and the “right to development,” as well as concepts they said are taken out of context, such as common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR).

The Group of 77 and China (G-77/China) supported reference to CBDR and the goals of adequate shelter and sanitation for all and sustainable development in a urbanizing world. G-77/China also supported strengthening and elaborating on international cooperation and developed country commitments regarding means of implementation, follow up and review, long-term planning and disaster risk reduction (DRR). They supported a “strong organizational machinery” for implementing the New Urban Agenda, and strengthening UN-Habitat so it can carry out its role in coordinating implementation of the Agenda.

The EU supported: a New Urban Agenda centered on a human rights-based approach; reference to the right to adequate housing; language on gender equality and women’s empowerment; specific focus on the needs of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), in particular in conflict-affected areas; and a strong follow-up and review mechanism that mobilizes all stakeholders and feeds into the follow-up and review mechanism for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The EU said governance issues should be addressed in the UN General Assembly (UNGA), not in the New Urban Agenda.

South Africa supported the right of all stakeholders to participate in the development of cities, and mainstreaming and addressing informal settlements and slums in the New Urban Agenda. The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) called for including reference to resilience-related risk assessments, in order to better align the text with the Sendai Framework for DRR. India said the text should not be viewed as a “one size fits all” package of legally binding commitments, and that it should keep the focus on UN-Habitat’s mandate, ensure rights-based language is consistent with international instruments, and include a strong means of implementation component.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and Workers and Trade Unions called to reinsert language on labor standards in public procurement contracts for implementation of the New Urban Agenda, and progressive tax systems to ensure that local governments can finance public services. Children and Youth urged including references to: children and their development; “biological support systems” and “planetary boundaries” to ensure an environmentally responsible agenda; and building social resilience. They also supported: establishing an Inter-Agency Task Team on Sustainable Urban Development, co-led by UN-Habitat and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), to ensure coherence and a UN system-wide approach; an annual New Urban Agenda progress report; specifying when stakeholders will meet to review the implementation of the NUA and the urban dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; and establishing a Habitat III follow-up forum that meets after each World Urban Forum, with negotiated conclusions and recommendations that feed into the UN High-level Political Forum for Sustainable Development (HLPF).

The Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) stressed the right to adequate housing and other human rights in cities, which include security of tenure, affordability, access to services, and protecting from forced eviction and displacement.

Following the negotiations at PrepCom 3, the Secretariat issued a revised draft text of the New Urban Agenda, which will be the basis for informal negotiations at the end of August or beginning of September 2016, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. [Habitat III Press Release] [28 July Draft of New Urban Agenda] [Statements at PrepCom 3] [IISD RS Story on Revised Text]


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