Review Panel Proposes Strengthening UN-Habitat, Establishing ‘UN-Urban’
UN Photo/Kibae Park/Sipa Press
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A high-level review panel tasked with reviewing the role and mandate of UN-HABITAT has proposed strengthening UN-Habitat and establishing an independent coordinating mechanism, ‘UN-Urban’.

The panel also recommends actions to equip UN-HABITAT to implement the 2030 Agenda and the New Urban Agenda.

3 August 2017: A high-level review panel tasked with reviewing the role and mandate of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) has proposed strengthening UN-HABITAT and establishing an independent coordinating mechanism, ‘UN-Urban’. The panel is also calling for UN-HABITAT to have a new governance structure based on universal membership, a small Policy Board, formal involvement of local authorities and subnational governments, and partnerships with marginalized groups.

The High-Level Independent Panel to Assess and Enhance the Effectiveness of UN-HABITAT was mandated by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) (A/RES/71/256) and appointed by the UN Secretary-General to conduct an independent and objective review of UN-Habitat, with a view to enhancing its effectiveness, efficiency and accountability.

The report, titled ‘Report of the High Level Independent Panel to Assess and Enhance Effectiveness of UN-HABITAT,’ recognizes the challenges posed for UN-HABITAT and the wider UN system in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the outcome of the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) the New Urban Agenda (NUA). It acknowledges the UN systems’ failure to adequately acknowledge the important role of local government and other local actors in urban development in the past, and agrees that UN-HABITAT’s funding has been insecure and limited, leading it to stray from its role in the quest to raise financing.

The panel recommends action to “save, stabilize and rapidly strengthen” UN-HABITAT to equip it for the challenge of implementing the 2030 Agenda and the New Urban Agenda.

The panel proposes the establishment of UN-Urban as a mechanism to convene all UN agencies and partners working on urban sustainability issues, similar to the role played by UN-Water and UN-Energy. The panel also calls for action to “save, stabilize and rapidly strengthen” UN-HABITAT to equip it for the challenge of implementing the 2030 Agenda and the NUA, noting that the UN system has not adequately acknowledged the pace, scale and implications of urbanization.

A proposed governance structure for UN-HABITAT places an ‘Urban Assembly’ membership body at the apex. The proposal is for this body to meet every two years, alternating between Nairobi, Kenya, and New York, US, possibly timing its meetings to overlap with the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) and the UNGA in turn. The UN-HABITAT secretariat would report to this body through a small Policy Board, which would relate with a Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR), a Committee of Local Governments, and a Committee of Stakeholders, as well as with the proposed UN-Urban mechanism. Noting the large impact of private sector development in cities, the panel urges UN-HABITAT to encourage private sector actors to find ways to mitigate the negative impacts of their investments.

Other recommendations include making the World Urban Forum a permanent event that would take place on alternate years as the Urban Assembly, moving UN-HABITAT’s regional offices to where the UN Regional Economic Commissions are located, and maintaining a stronger presence of senior-level staff in New York.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the panel’s recommendations as being in line with his own recommendations for the reform of the UN system. [UN Press Release] [Report of the High Level Independent Panel to Assess and Enhance Effectiveness of UN-HABITAT] [Cover Letter from UN General Assembly President] [High-Level Meeting Web Page]

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