Habitat III PrepCom 2 Meetings in Nairobi, Kenya

The UCLG Africa Secretariat participated, on 12-13 April 2015, in the preparatory meetings towards the second assembly of local and regional governments in the framework of the PrepCom 2.

The issues at stake for local and regional authorities were the following:  

  1. The extent to which the organization of the second world assembly of cities and local authorities (WACLA) will be part or not of the official program of the Habitat III Conference in Quito during the week of 17 October 2016; if it was, the mainstreaming of the preparation of WACLA in the roadmap of the official preparation process leading to the Habitat III Conference; if not the means to define in order that the voice of local and regional authorities becomes audible on its own right.
  2. Main ideas that the local and regional authorities want to bring to feed the new urban agenda.
  3. The partnerships to develop in order to translate the new urban agenda into concrete implementation on the ground.

1. On the organization of the second WACLA: 

So far this proposal has not yet received official agreement by the Habitat III secretariat. It appears however that it is getting buy-in from the executive director, UN Habitat, as well as from some members of the bureau of the Preparatory Committee for Habitat III. There is still need for strong advocacy and lobbying activities targeting in particular countries that are members of the working group on rules and procedures  for this working group to: a) accept to grant Local and Regional Governments a specific accreditation line (and consequently badges) distinct from the other stakeholders, b) include the WACLA within the official preparation and organization process of Habitat III, and c) grant local and regional authorities a slot at the plenary sessions of the Habitat III Conference. In the meantime, it is felt necessary to continue to collaborate with the assembly of partners but with the understanding that Local and Regional Governments are looking for their own and specific stream in the preparation and organization of WACLA in the framework of the Habitat III Conference.

2. On key Local and Regional Governments concerns to be included in the new urban agenda:

Participants insisted on the need to recognize the uniqueness of Local and Regional Governments as they are placed at the intersection of the vertical public governance system and the horizontal and territorial playground of local stakeholders or stakeholders with strong local impact. That is the reason why local authorities should be at the heart of any Habitat III implementation strategies. 

Therefore localizing these strategies matters, so also do local actions that should be seen as the most efficient route to tackling global challenges, since cities will form, from now on,  the bulk of human population on earth. In other words, Local and Regional Governments support the adoption of the subsidiarity principle for, and of the territorial approach to an effective implementation of the Habitat III Agenda. This Agenda should be the convergence of the other global agendas such as the Climate agenda or the post 2015 SDG agenda. 

Local and Regional Governments want to bring to the fore: the issue of good territorial governance and request that it be considered as a public good, the issue of resilience encompassing human and social resilience beyond environmental, physical, and disaster management resilience. In that sense, Local and Regional Governments wish that the new Urban Agenda reflects on human dignity and human rights in cities, which are embedded most of the time in respect to culture and cultural diversity. 

They wish that city diplomacy related to both conflicts prevention and management of migrations also form part of the new urban agenda; local and regional governments are concerned about the discrepancy between new responsibilities falling on Local and Regional Governments as the consequence of the adoption of decentralization policies and their weak financial and human capacities to deliver on their mandates. 

The financing for development agenda should therefore address the daunting issue of local finance. Given the current global mood adverse to taxation, it is important to explore where public resources will be coming from to ensure that public authorities, starting from the Local and Regional Governments, will have the means needed for the implementation of their share of the Habitat III agenda. A case should be also made about costing long-term urban investments needs based on current technological network solutions that are mostly centralized, whilst the observation shows rapid evolution towards more decentralized and localized technologies, leading to less intensive  investments and hopefully lesser financial needs; the tendency towards more circular economy and short financial processes is emerging as key on going innovations being adopted by numerous local and regional governments concerned with sustainable development policies and strategies. It is important that the New Urban Agenda focus needed attention to these emerging innovations and their impact on the management and governance of cities and territories.

3. On the Partnerships to develop

Participants approved the proposal to build a strong compact with women and other civil society organizations around for instance, the promotion of safer cities and safer public spaces, especially for women. There was a shared agreement that the recourse to public/private partnerships has shown many limitations given the volatility of the financial markets, the reluctance of multinational companies to invest in medium size and small cities, and the difficulties encountered by most Local and Regional Governments to access this market. However, there are examples where win-win partnerships were witnessed between the private sector and local and regional authorities. This happens when the business sector is encouraged to invest on the territory where its activity is developed.

Such territorial investments should form part of its social responsibility and can be strongly instrumental to the improvement of the image and branding of its companies. But local and regional  authorities should also be aware of the rapid change happening at the workplace due to the impact of digitalization and automation. The spatial impact of such evolution should not be underestimated and there is need for foresight studies that can equip local and national authorities with needed knowledge to mitigate upfront any ill consequences of these evolutions.

There is an urgent need to develop collaborative, cooperative, and mutually supportive governance between the National and the Local Governments if the New Urban Agenda ought to be implemented. This is the most crucial partnership for the implementation of the Habitat III Agenda and everything possible shall be done to get this partnership up and running throughout the world.

Source: UCLG A