Cities and international cooperation had a strong voice at Habitat III
Only every 20 years, the UN gathers to discuss the future of cities. In October, more than 45,000 people participated in the Third UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (better known as Habitat III). The local governments delegation consisted of almost 2,000 representatives that made the local governments’ commitment to sustainable urban lives very present. The New Urban Agenda was formally adopted and makes more references to local governments’ role than ever before.
Even if it seems self-evident, opening the doors for local governments to be part of this New Urban Agenda took years of hard work by the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments. PLATFORMA and its partners were part of the journey.
Even before the official conference started in Quito, over 600 representatives of local and regional governments gathered for the second World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments. There, mayors and local leaders said they were ready and willing to make the New Urban Agenda a reality.
Mayor of Strasbourg Roland Ries praised international cooperation as a tool for sustainable Urban Development. He also highlighted the role of networks such as PLATFORMA, CEMR and UCLG. Andreas Wolter, Cologne Deputy-Mayor, stressed the importance of international cooperation to deal with global crises: “Cities do not run away when the situation gets critical,” he said, insisting on the need for city-to-city partnerships.
Local finances and the New Urban Agenda
Within the UN conference, at a side event on local finances co-organised by PLATFORMA and CEMR, panelists stressed that international cooperation is at the core of the New Urban Agenda. The session turned to be a real exchange of concrete examples, with Annemarie Penn Te Strake, mayor of Maastricht, sharing her experience on cross-border cooperation and Ilmar Reepalu, Councilor of Malmö and CEMR spokesperson on urban policy, stressing that: “One city is too small to impact global processes by itself. We need to work together at regional and international scales to make the lives of our people better”.
Diana Lopez, UN Habitat (URAIA initiative) made evident that participatory budgeting is a new form of citizenship that “certainly in Africa” can increase accountability of governments and belief in the values of democracy. An idea supported by Juan Voelker, Director of finances of Montevideo, a city where a large tradition exists at local level but where it is “particularly successful and sustainable because of the open dialogue and cooperation with the national government”.
During the conference, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, acknowledged the efforts made over recent years to unite the constituency of local and regional governments, and the work of their international networks in contributing to the implementation of global agendas at local level and in facilitating the exchange of knowledge between cities. He said, “Local governments are now seen as a key partner for progress by their national counterparts, with many adopting the principle of subsidiarity in their countries.”