United Cities and Local Governments held a virtual event to discuss the findings of two reports on the UN’s 75th anniversary: an update on the global consultation conducted by the UN75 office, and a “visioning report” by the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments.
Mayors from around the world and others emphasized the need to decentralize decision-making, and called for a "seat at the table" for local and regional governments at the UN.
United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) held a virtual event to discuss the findings of two reports on the UN’s 75th anniversary: an update on the global consultation conducted by the UN75 office, and a “visioning report” by the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments. Mayors from around the world and others emphasized the need to decentralize decision-making, and called for a “seat at the table” for local and regional governments at the UN.
The UCLG publication titled, ‘Visioning Report UN75: The Role of Local and Regional Governments in the Future Global Governance of the International System,’ was developed as part of the UN75 global consultation. It calls for a “new generation of multilateralism” that treats local democracy as central for peaceful societies. It notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on shortcomings of the current multilateral model. Stressing the need for cooperation between different spheres of government and different actors, the authors highlight that local and regional governments (LRGs) are ready to ensure that the livelihoods of their communities drive global policies. According to the visioning report, putting communities at the center would help to create a world in which public services are provided, local consumption and production patterns are promoted, and an inter-city system builds on the strength of cities and regions.
As reported by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, participants in the virtual event on 8 October 2020 identified priorities for “recovering better” following the COVID-19 pandemic, including by improving access to basic services (health care, safe water, sanitation, and education). The mayor of Genk, Belgium said city-to-city cooperation enhances the delivery of services in a transparent and democratic manner. Sweden’s regional environment minister said local and regional governments are best placed to understand and respond to the needs of the most vulnerable, and should take responsibility for providing basic services.
Other recovery priorities included tackling inequalities, rebuilding a more inclusive economy, and ensuring habitat and housing rights. The President of the Basque Government, Spain, called for shifting to a circular economy and local consumption.
Participants also highlighted long-term priorities of local and regional governments, including the climate crisis, gender equality, decentralization, green economic recovery from COVID-19, and reducing corruption. One said decentralization must become the new normal, citing the need for proximity production and consumption. The Mayor of Polokwane, South Africa called for including women in formulating and monitoring public policy.
Participants emphasized that as LRGs are at the forefront in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, building back better, climate action, and implementation of the 2030 Agenda, they should have a formal role at the UN. The mayor of Sala, Sweden said UCLG should have observer status at the UN. The mayors of San Jose, Costa Rica and Kitchener, Canada said LRGs should have a seat at the UN table. The African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes suggested the UN create a “second chamber,” so that, by 2045, two UN chambers exist: UNGA and the UN General Assembly of Local Governments.
Presenting the UN75 update report, titled ‘The Future We Want, The UN We Need – Update on the Work of the Office on the Commemoration of the UN’s 75th Anniversary,’ Fabrizio Hochschild, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the Commemoration of the UN’s 75th Anniversary, said the UN75 consultation had reached more than one million people around the world, and revealed that people are united in their basic demands, with similar fears and hopes. He said local governments are best suited to meet their needs.
Hochschild informed participants that the declaration adopted during the high-level anniversary event mandates the UN Secretary-General to develop concrete recommendations on ways to “upgrade the UN.” The Secretary-General will commence a new consultation for crafting the recommendations and present them to UNGA in 2021. Hochschild invited UCLG to advance recommendations discussed during the event related to a more formalized role for LRGs in the UN.
In a guest article on the SDG Knowledge Hub, UCLG Secretary General Emilia Saiz writes that “only by thinking local, and by acting global, we will be able to build sustainable societies that leave no one and no place behind.” [Earth Negotiations Bulletin meeting coverage] [Publication: Visioning Report UN75: The Role of Local and Regional Governments in the Future Global Governance of the International System] [Publication: The Future We Want, The UN We Need – Update on the Work of the Office on the Commemoration of the UN’s 75th Anniversary]