Secretary General's address: 2013 a key year for towns, cities and regions throughout the world

Josep Roig - Secretary General United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)

For a vision of territorial solidarity at national and international level: towns, cities and regions responding to new challenges at the World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders in Rabat.

2013 will be a decisive year for towns, cities and regions all over the world. From 1 - 4 October 2013, United Cities and Local Governments will hold its fourth Congress and Summit of Local and Regional Leaders in the city of Rabat, Morocco. The Congress will coincide with the run up to the tenth anniversary of our World Organization’s Founding Congress in Paris in 2004.

This year also marks the celebration of the centenary of the International Municipal Movement which dates back to 1913. Since its creation a century ago, the international municipal movement has had ambitious goals. UCLG continues this tradition on a daily basis by ensuring: that the interests and values of local and regional authorities are defended before the international community; that decentralisation and efficient local autonomy are promoted throughout the world; that UCLG is the principle world source of information and support for local authorities; that UCLG remains a democratic organization.

In this context, the principle of decentralised cooperation is the foundation of international action by local authorities. Its goal is to bring populations together and to reinforce peace throughout the world. Decentralized cooperation is a long-term process whose results can be seen in concrete projects that benefit local populations. UCLG promotes cooperation through numerous initiatives and has defined, as detailed in its recently published “Orientation Document on Cooperation and Development”, new strategies to bring local authorities together in the construction of more resilient, better planned and more inclusive cities. 

In light of new challenges faced by local authorities, UCLG is promoting territorial solidarity at national and international level. Increasing urbanisation should not be allowed to produce an urban–rural divide; rather, it should create new relationships between these environments. Urbanisation necessitates the implementation of concrete policies by national and subnational institutions in the areas of transport, access to education, employment and health, as well as food access and waste management. It is local leaders who are responsible for dealing with many of these areas. The phenomenon of megacities is generating new axes of decentralised cooperation in work on the cross-border and regional integration of these spaces. UCLG is working, with the support of the European Union, to reinforce the dialogue between local authorities and regional integration institutions in East and West Africa, South East Asia and Latin America. We are supporting local authorities in their dialogues with: UEMOA in West Africa; EAC in East Africa; ASEAN for South East Asia; the Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and the Government of the Ibero-American Integration Secretariat in Latin America.  

This second edition of the World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders will provide an opportunity for UCLG members and partners to create a road map for local and regional authorities for the coming years, in particular, enabling them to establish their own agenda for the post 2015 and Habitat III processes. Within the theme, “Imagine Society, Build Democracy”, the Congress will address four specific issues: fostering wellbeing; diversity; supporting new local governance and the dynamics of change; and strengthening solidarity among territories. The Summit’s debates will focus on the challenges of rapid urbanisation, with a view to constructing a more democratic world, characterised by sustainable and shared development, and based on institutionalised local governance.

UCLG represents the interests of towns and cities, metropolitan areas, regions and their associations at international level. It does this by playing a proactive role in processes such as Rio+20 and the council of UN-Habitat. With this aim in mind, UCLG has launched the International Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments. The Taskforce brings together the networks and partners of local and regional authorities to establish the priorities and needs of towns, cities and regions with respect to sustainable development. In an increasingly urban world, particular attention must be given to integrated territorial approaches, and to locating decision-making close to citizens in a way that promotes social inclusion and participatory democracy. 

Local and regional authorities have achieved great things, and it is vital that these achievements are recognized and built on in forthcoming major international negotiations. Local and regional governments will speak with a strong voice in the post 2015 development agenda, the new sustainable development goals, the climate convention in 2015 and the Habitat III Conference in 2016. 

Local and regional authorities from all over the globe will be attending the World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders in Rabat. Join UCLG and our partners and play a part in reinforcing the action of local governments throughout the world! 

Josep Roig - Secretary General United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)

Also published: Global Local Forum