Follow the fourth edition of the UCLG Annual Retreat live

The fourth edition of the Annual Retreat & Campus took place in Barcelona, the home of the organization’s World Secretariat, from 22 to 26 January 2018.

The UCLG Retreat is the occasion to harness the power of our global network and continue our work based on the collaboration and achievements of the last few years, as well as increase visibility and impact at all levels. Through five days of intense meetings and discussions our members went over the UCLG Strategic Priorities 2016-2019 and our 2018 Work Plan.

Under the theme "Co-creating equality, peace and sustainability" the week will begin with an introduction to the UCLG Strategy and Work Plan for 2018 and a special session focused on an All-UCLG Gender Strategy. Our Sections and Committees will also have the chance to share their priorities and work plan for the coming year with the network. The programme includes a session on the Global Taskforce and the need to continue strengthening its role in the SDGs localization process. Local and Regional Governments and partners will meet on Thursday 25 January.

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Programme of the UCLG Annual Retreat and Campus

 Day 1: 22.01.2018 – UCLG Strategy and 2018 Work Plan
 Day 2: 23.01.2018 – Committees and Sections Priorities for 2018
 Day 3: 24.01.2018 – Enhancing the GTF Alliance for Localization
 Day 4: 25.01.2018 – Local and Regional Governments in a Dialogue with Parnerts 
 Day 5: 26.01.2018 – Reshaping Local Finance


Day 1: 22.01.2018 – The UCLG Retreat kicks off with the presentation of the UCLG Strategy for 2018

The first day of the UCLG Annual Retreat was dedicated to an introduction to the UCLG Strategy and Work Plan for 2018.

Today’s meeting was the first opportunity for the UCLG network to meet after the World Council held in December in Hangzhou, China. The aim of this first day was to carry out an integrated internal exercise seeking collaboration to implement the global work plan, aiming to put territorial development at the heart of the international agenda, and promote solidarity and learning among members.

The species most adaptable to change is the one that survives. UCLG has proven to be very adaptable very flexible for these 100 years, and we have to show that we are inheritors of this movement”. Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of UCLG

The session included a space dedicated to the UCLG Local4Action Hub – an innovative initiative that aims to turn the 2030 Agenda into local actions. Facilitated by Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of UCLG, and Octavi de la Varga, Secretary General of Metropolis, participants explored the key areas and actions where support from all parts of the network will be essential to bring the Local4Action Hub to life.

Metropolis is a content driven organization that brings the global perspective of metropolitan challenges. We need to work together with regional secretariats and members to make an impact, and explore the relationships between metropolitan governments and their hinterlands and local governments”. Octavi de la Varga, Secretary General of Metropolis

The day concluded with a session dedicated to the launch of the development of an All-UCLG Gender Strategy, in which participants proposed a draft methodology to be implemented in the different parts of the network. UCLG has a long track record of working internationally on gender equality, and this strategy will build on the work of the UCLG Standing Committee on Gender Equality.

Our struggle is not only a fight for equality, but also for rights, for efficiency, for the well-being of society, for development.", Fatimetou Abdel Malick, Mayor of Tevragh-Zeina.

Day 2: 23.01.2018 – The second day of the Retreat seeks to strengthen the synergies among the global network

Day two of the UCLG Retreat and Campus aimed to define synergies between actions in different parts of the network and develop joint strategies to help identify the necessary collaborations to achieve the global agendas at local level.

Through round table sessions on monitoring, advocacy and learning, the Committees, Working Groups, Fora and Communities of Practice presented their key priorities and challenges for 2018. This interactive session allowed participants to exchange ideas and common focuses to build cohesion between the different work plans.

“We have seen a big evolution in the way that our committees and our work plans can start to come together and become more integrated. You are the motor of innovation!” said Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of UCLG.

Later in the day, UCLG Sections presented their work plans for 2018 and participants discussed concrete ways to enhance collaboration with each other and with the broader network. 

Eric Beaume, Deputy Head of the Development and Cooperation Unit of the European Commission, introduced the session and presented the strategic partnership. “The location of SDGs is the leitmotiv of the Member States, particularly in relation to our partners, and the role of local and regional governments is crucial in political terms" he stressed.

The debate between representatives of the sections concluded on the need to think about synergies in a different manner and the need to stop commenting only work plans only and start discussing positions. 

The afternoon of the second day of the Retreat was dedicated to the UCLG Awards. The UCLG Awards – The Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation, the UCLG City of Bogota Peace Prize, and the International Award UCLG - MEXICO City - Culture 21are conceived as collaborative initiatives for the UCLG membership to  draw public attention to the achievements of local and regional governments in: urban innovation, culture and peace. The session revolved around the idea on how to benefit from the knowledge generated by the Awards.


Tomorrow, the third day of the Retreat, will be dedicated to a meeting of the Global Taskforce and the role of partnerships in the implementation of the global agendas. Stay tuned to tomorrow’s conversation through #UCLGMeets and #Listen2Cities


Day 3: 24.01.2018 – The third day of our Retreat focuses on existing partnerships towards the implementation of the SDGs

The third day of the UCLG Retreat and Campus kicked off with a focus on the Right to the City and the special partnership with Cities Alliance. Participants of the session explored how partnerships will have to develop from exchange to joint strategy and implementation to influence the major global agendas.

The session presented the Know Your City campaign, a Cities Alliance initiative supported by Slum Dwellers International and UCLG Africa in collaboration with UCLG, which promotes community-collected data on informal settlements. During the session, UCLG, Cities Alliance and its members discussed how to move our strategic partnership forward towards promoting the Right to the City.

Secretary General of UCLG, Emilia Saiz, introduced the session outlining that: “Creating the synergies and building upon the collaboration that we’ve discussed throughout this week so far, is impossible without maintaining, developing, and strengthening the network of partnerships that we have established. Cities Alliance has helped to grow and strengthen the local focus on urban development through more global agendas in particular at Habitat III.”

William Cobbett, Director of Cities Alliance then went on to present the work of Cities Alliance since its inception. "The work of the Cities Alliance began to yield and facilitate a transformation in the way global action was seen at the local level because, first, Southern cities and underdeveloped regions now had a place at the negotiating table (as opposed to what was originally an emphasis solely on Northern), and second, strategic investments began to promote a broader network of city-based initiatives".

Enhancing the Global Taskforce Alliance for localization was the topic for the second session, which aimed to take stock of the work done by  members of the Global Taskforce and its partners on localizing the global agendas.    

Not only are sub-national governments called on to play a significant role to change the culture of development, but there is also an increasing demand from civil society, the private sector and other key actors, for a partnership that enables the creation of a more sustainable world. It is for this reason that for UCLG, there is no single partnership for development, but a multitude of actors present in this room.” Roland Ries, Mayor of Strasbourg, President of Cités Unies France and Co-President of UCLG.

The day continued with a session focused on the work done by the Global Taskforce and its partners in the localization process of the global agendas. The first segment of the session, Local solutions and global partnerships, revolved around the Local 2030 Hub for Sustainability Solutionsa multi-stakeholder hub to catalyze solutions and accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Agendas cannot be achieved without the local level. National governments and global fora need a strong local action. Climate change is essentially a local agenda”, said Kerry Constabile, First Officer of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Executive Office of the UN Secretary General, in the introduction of the session.

The second segment, Territorial and multi-level governance, was facilitated by the Secretary General of CEMR, Frédéric Vallier.

During the session, Mercè Conesa, President of Barcelona Provincial Council and Co-Chair of the UCLG Policy Council on Multilevel Governance; Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG Africa; Rodrigo Messias from nrg4SD; Diana López, Head of Local Government and Decentralization Unit of UN-Habitat; Nelson Fernández Director of International Relations and Cooperation from the City of Montevideo; and Berry Vrbanovic, Mayor of the City of Kitchener and UCLG Treasurer, underlined that without empowered local and regional governments, the achievement of the major global sustainability agendas will not be possible.

“Local and regional governments need to be empowered and have the power to be able to facilitate change. Different cities and territories have different realities, and we need to be able to raise these and have a voice in international fora. We need to be able to manage bigger budgets - we are the front line with citizens and it is us that need to implement the realities of the SDGs in our cities” said Mercè Conesa, President of Barcelona Provincial Council and Co-chair of the UCLG Policy council of Multilevel Governance..

“We need to take multilevel governance to the next level and we need to move away from a top-down approach to a collaborative approach. The welcoming of migrants from countries like Syria in Canada is a good example of multilevel governance. We develop a common plan where, national government was responsible for integration, the provincial government for education, and local government was supporting these new Canadians to arrive in the communities” added Berry Vrbanovic, Mayor of Kitchener and UCLG Treasurer.

The outcomes of this session will serve as inputs for the work of the UCLG Policy Council on Multilevel Governance.

The day concluded with a space dedicated to bilateral sessions and a reception at the Barcelona City Hall.


Day 4: 25.01.2018 – The fourth day of the Retreat begins with a dialogue between local and regional governments and partners and revises the Habitat III legacy

Day four of the UCLG Retreat and Campus kicked off with a meeting of the UCLG political leadership. The aim of this fourth day was to inspire future actions and trigger renewed strategies on key areas for implementation of the global agendas.

The President of UCLG, Parks Tau opened the session by thanking UCLG’s local leaders and partners for their commitment to this annual gathering. In his speech, Parks Tau highlighted the role that UCLG has played in changing the global conversation about urbanization and recalled the strong role that localization plays in our strategy. 

“You can count on UCLG as a core contributor in the localization process, in the monitoring and follow-up of the agendas and in the battle for sustainable development more broadly. You can count on UCLG to gather the inputs of the whole constituency and to take on the SDGs as our own, and to play our part in their achievement”. Parks Tau, President of UCLG.

Topics such as resilient and sustainable cities, city diplomacy, the Right to the City and inclusive cities were the central themes of the ensuing discussions.

Today’s session was shaped in a round table format based on the UCLG policy priorities. The first round table, Resilient and Sustainable Cities, facilitated by Thomas Dallessio, President and CEO of Next Cities, stressed that local and regional governments are essential in building inclusive, safe and resilient cities able to mitigate the impact of crises.

"There are three sources of knowledge: the practice of developing infrastructure; policy, to determine ways of implementing sustainability; and science. We cannot separate the challenges in cities; challenges and solutions are integrated" said Debra Roberts, co-chair of Working Group II (WG2) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

How do we ensure the liveability of today’s cities, those that proliferate and that sprawl, and those that prevent citizens from living normally throughout a city environment? Today we see cities that become ungovernable and uncontrollable. The new line of thinking needs to be: What model of urban development do we need for tomorrow? How can we facilitate controlled urban growth?” stressed Roland Ries, Mayor of Strasbourg and Co-President of UCLG.

The SDGs are local and they’ve always been local, because the only way that you can implement these goals is locally. This is not something that can be done outside of where they impact.” declared Fatimetou Abdel Malick, Mayor of Tevragh-Zeina, and Co-Chair of the UCLG Policy council on Resilient, Safer and Sustainable Cities.

A prerequisite for an urban government has to be resilience and sustainability.” concluded Yunus Arikan, Head of Global Policy and Advocacy, ICLEI

During the next round table, Opportunities for all, participants discussed how engaging marginalized groups in municipal decision-making can contribute to more inclusive public policies and meet the needs of all citizens.

“There has been in the last three years, a very strong push from the European Union to have a much more participatory dialogue and engagement with local authorities, private institutions, and civil society.” said Eric Beaume, Deputy Head of Unit, European Commission.

Rosa Pavanelli, Secretary General of Public Service International declared: “We want living workers, not dead heroes! We need to decent work with decent wages in the SDG agenda!”

Citizen engagement is no longer optional. In Kitchener we are making sure this happens in all areas such as new technologies and the inclusion of all citizens”, said Berry Vrbanovic, Mayor of Kitchener and UCLG Treasurer.

We cannot talk about SDGs without talking about mayors!. We cannot talk about the New Urban Agenda without talking about mayors. We cannot talk about Change without talking about mayors. And we cannot talk about Davos being successful without them having a chamber of Mayors!” outlined Celestine Ketcha Courtes, Mayor of Bangangté, President of the Network of African Local Elected Women.

If we do not listen to citizens, we run the risk of producing policies that are not adapted to the reality of communities. This is particularly true for cultural policies, which have to promote inclusion.” concluded Martin Levenson, Director of Planning, Departmentof Culture of Mexico City.

The last topic was devoted to the Right to the City and Inclusive Territories. This third session was facilitated by Emilia Saiz, UCLG Secretary General and began with an inspirational talk by Steven Weir, Vice-President of Global Program Development from Habitat for Humanity International and Alvaro Puertas Robinas, Secretary General of Habitat International Coalition (HIC) that agreed on the Right to City to renew the social contract at local level, and the key role of local and regional governments in tackling socio-spatial exclusion and promoting social justice.

“Defending the Right to the City is defending the right to life, to decent living conditions. The main threats we face are gentrification and real estate speculation (...). Cities have to organize themselves, cooperating with each other, to give visibility to this threat of gentrification and look for strategies to address it, because our cities, without their people, are dying”, said Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona and Co-President of UCLG and the Political Council on the Right to Inclusive Cities and Territories.

Patrick Braouezec, President of Plaine-Commune and Co-President of the UCLG Political Council on the Right to the City stressed that the right to housing is fundamental in the right to the city. "The Right to the City is not the obligation of the city. There is real work to be done between metropolises, intermediary and rural cities. We must move more towards cooperation rather than competition".

Ivan Arciénega, Mayor of Sucre and UCLG Vice-President for Latin America also agreed that cIties are the space to develop the right to the city. “Small, medium and large cities need to unite their voice and develop the concept of co-responsibility”.

The day continued with a session dedicated to the work done by members of the Global Taskforce and the follow-up of the adoption of the New Urban Agenda, the 2030 Agenda and the climate agenda.

Members and partners agreed on a coordinated set of concrete actions towards the upcoming 9th World Urban Forum to be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 7-13 February 2018 and the 2018 High Level Political Forum, in order to address the monitoring of both agendas.

The 3rd World Assembly of Local and Regional Leaders will also take place in the framework of the World Urban Forum.

Regarding the climate agenda, participants set a roadmap towards the next COP 24 and beyond, and analyzed the outcomes of the Climate Change Summit in Agadir, COP 23 and the One Planet Summit.


Day 5: 26.01.2018 - Local finance as a key tool to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

The last day of the Retreat addressed UCLG’s work and next steps on local finance. The discussion revolved around the need to reshape local finance as an essential step towards assessing subnational governments’ financial capacity to exercise the responsibilities assigned to them.

This session explored future paths for UCLG to further develop its work together with the Global Fund for Cities Development (FMDV).

In parallel, a full-day expert meeting was dedicated to the development of the fifth GOLD Report that will study the localization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the other global agendas, emphasizing the role played by local and regional governments in the achievement of the Global Goals.

[Launch of the GOLD V Report on the ‘localization’ of the Sustainable Development Goals and the other global agendas]

The session, which will continue on Saturday morning, will be the opportunity to agree on the scope of the Report and the definition of a set of policy recommendations, and the degree of engagement of local authorities, their associations and the UCLG network.