“Local governments need a seat at the negotiation table!”
Local governments want a seat at the Habitat III negotiation table. That is the message CEMR and PLATFORMA put across at the Habitat III Hearings for Local Authorities, on 16 and 17 May at UN headquarters in New York.
These hearings gathered over 100 representatives of sub-national governments from around the world. PLATFORMA and CEMR took part as members of the Global Taskforce for Local and Regional Governments (GTF). Participants shared their vision for the New Urban Agenda, and to call for states to listen to cities at the final Habitat III conference in October in Quito (Ecuador).
What did CEMR and PLATFORMA say at the hearing? What are the main topics that were discussed?
CEMR and PLATFORMA were represented by Ilmar Reepalu, Councillor of Malmö (Sweden) and CEMR spokesperson on Urban Affairs, and Andreas Wolter, vice-mayor of Cologne (Germany) and representative of PLATFORMA.
One of the main points that PLATFORMA and CEMR underlined during the hearings was the importance of multilevel governance. In order for Habitat III to work, local governments need to be recognised as democratically legitimate policy makers, and as such, they need to be empowered on a financial and competence level. Moreover, the European multilevel governance model should be encouraged abroad, as it is currently the most efficient model, although it can still be improved, namely on financial aspects. In order to achieve these goals, it is essential to strengthen the role of subnational government associations.
Another point PLATFORMA and CEMR stressed was the role of city-to-city cooperation, both for neighbouring towns and cities and on an international level. For instance, for transport or even to face common socio-economic development challenges. Cooperation between governments and citizens should also be encouraged. CEMR and PLATFORMA welcome the chapter on development cooperation in the Zero Draft of the New Urban Agenda, as it is in line with PLATFORMA and CEMR recommendations.
The last main topic that PLATFORMA and CEMR addressed was decentralisation. As local governments will be implementing the New Urban Agenda, they need adequate funding. PLATFORMA stated that accessibility to development funds should be a priority. Currently, a large amount of funding meant for local development is channelled through NGOs rather than subnational governments, which PLATFORMA believes is inefficient and unproductive. CEMR stressed that towns and cities need access to resources, but their autonomy and the subsidiarity principle must be respected: as the level of governments closest to citizens, they have the legitimacy and know-how to act autonomously, and should have the legal ability to implement new funding mechanisms.