Today, more than ever, local and regional governments must have a voice
This article written by Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of UCLG, has been initially published on Planeta Futuro, EL PAIS.
In a context where national leaders are arming themselves to protect sovereignty and access to resources, municipalism can help us walk towards universal, inclusive and sustainable development.
Our world finds itself at what could be described as a foundational moment. The number of overlapping crises , their universal nature, and their degree of interconnectedness presents us with an unprecedented scenario. The scope of some of these challenges is tangible in our daily lives, while the impact of others is more difficult to measure, and even to identify.
We are seeing dreams felled, lives lost in armed conflict, boats washing ashore. We are also witnessing the persecution of the Tigray people in Ethiopia, the deaths, destruction, and displacement in the cities of Ukraine. The impacts of conflict reverberate globally and locally, affecting such everyday needs as food and energy.
These challenges seem more visible today, but they have long been experienced by the most vulnerable people in our communities. And they are rooted in systemic emergencies such as climate change, or pandemics and the resulting economic crisis. This is an important wake-up call for all of us to transform our systems and ways of life.
Local and regional governments know this well. Global events impact the local sphere and local events, in turn, determine global outcomes. It is at times when we feel most vulnerable and unprotected that the capacity, values and limits of our communities are tested. It is in these circumstances that local and regional governments have been, and continue to be, at the forefront of efforts to move forward together, ensuring the provision of public services, guaranteeing rights and fostering inclusive, caring, just and egalitarian ways of living.
It is at times like these that we must reassess our priorities and ensure that what we have experienced serves to transform how we interact with each other, with our environment and with our institutions.
Pact for people, planet and government
The world organisation of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), heir to the century-old international municipal movement, is convinced that these transformations will only be possible if local and regional governments play a fundamental role as political actors, with the responsibility of the level of government closest to the people, going beyond the competences or resources currently at their disposal.
To achieve these transformations, UCLG is developing a Pact for the Future for People, Planet and Government that brings together the shared principles, values and aspirations of our communities to renew the social contract from cities, towns and territories.
The Pact aims to be a document worthy of this foundational moment. It strives to come to terms with the challenges, take responsibility and build on the collective knowledge that we have been able to coin. The starting point towards a more sustainable future, with gender equality and social justice as indispensable pillars of any creative, resilient, empowered and committed community. It does this by putting people at the centre, deepening the needs of current generations and expanding the rights of future ones. This is also done by securing public services and common goods, developing a harmonious relationship with nature, and renewing the relationship between spheres of governance to enhance people’s trust and representativeness.
Throughout history, our territories have prospered thanks to the resourcefulness of our people. The Pact for the Future seeks to preserve and foster societies of proximity, empathy and solidarity, empowering individuals through culture and the right to the city. To encourage our territories to have the tools to put an end to the housing crisis, to transform our production and consumption habits, and to build bridges between citizens and institutions based on innovative, sustainable and inclusive service provision. To create, in short, spaces where the ideas that lead the transformations we need can flourish.
From April to October, mayors, governors and governors from among our members elect their peers to represent them on our organisation’s World Council. There are 341 seats spread across five continents. It is an unparalleled democratic exercise in local multilateralism, which began in May at Africities, the largest gathering of local and regional governments on the African continent, where the vibrant energy of the municipal movement made itself felt with a roar, empowering local voices and diversity.
The democratic experience in Kisumu brings the 45 seats for Africa in the UCLG World Council, and will be replicated in the other regions of the world. These elected representatives will present motions to promote concrete actions to take the pact to the streets and budgets of our territories. The results will be adopted on 14 October in Daejeon, at the most representative summit of local and regional governments and one of the largest democratic exercises on the planet. The roadmap of the municipalist movement will thus be marked and will define to a large extent the local and territorial contribution to the UN Summit for the Future.
In a context in which national governments are arming themselves to protect sovereignty and access to resources, local and regional governments are the best allies to define a care agenda that will help us to rebuild the foundations of the multilateral system towards universal, inclusive and sustainable development.Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of UCLG.