Who can enable and implement this change towards sustainable urban development?
- Discuss other international agencies that have been investing in the urban that you know about.
The journey from Habitat – I to Habitat – II and now to Habitat -III – it has not been straightforward. It has been a bit bumpy in several forms, but it has brought some clear outcomes. And I think now, Quito and the policy outcome of this conference called the ‘New Urban Agenda’ should be aware of some of the positive elements that these two other conferences and the process brought. For instance, if you think in Habitat II there were, in my view, were two or three things that are quite positive and I think they should be added to Habitat-III.
One is the fundamental role that was given in terms of decentralization policies to local actors and local authorities. I think that this is a positive achievement that the discussions today tend to forget little bit, that in a new world, in a world that needs to integrate from the very global to the very local, local authorities are playing a fundamental role in the process.
Second, is although it was there, it is Habitat II who brought that, is the fundamental aspect of housing and the rights associated to housing, and from there the connection to the ‘Right to the City’.
I think it’s a fundamental social and political achievement that we also need to be aware of and to understand that Habitat-III needs to be a platform to build up on these things.
And third, important one, many people tend to forget that Habitat-II created, at least for the UN system the notion of data collection, measurement which has to do with monitoring and which has to do with advocacy in the use of this information for policy, but also in the transparency and the accountability of who is responsible in achieving Habitat-II and the Habitat Agenda and how. And as a result of Habitat-II the global urban observatory, the local observatories, best practices were created.
All these important achievements. There are other things that were not that good in Habitat-II, are even less in Habitat-I.
For instance when you read the documents you will be very surprised to see two or three things. One, inequality is not mentioned, not even once in Habitat-I and in Habitat-II; only one time the word inequality appears. Which is telling you that the fight was really on poverty.
There was some conceptual misunderstanding that poverty and inequality were the same things. And today it is clear that they are unfolding and taking parallel routes, they are two different fights to be fought in two different battlegrounds, we can say, and inequality is becoming an agenda in itself, that was not there.
The role of migrants from rural to urban was very negative in Habitat-I and it started to be relatively positive in Habitat-II but is still the position in Habitat-II was to stop migrations.If you read carefully documents it was the idea that urbanization should be controlled and stopped.
I think that a fundamental achievement and a change to Habitat-III is the notion that urbanization is impossible to stop, and should not be stopped, because it is bringing development, it is bringing prosperity and it is bringing democracy in much of the places, is bringing gender development, etc.
So that in my view is a fundamental change but what is happening today in the notion of migration with different scales, not only rural – urban but international migration, forced migration because of war or situations of war, the world is becoming again very pessimistic a bit about the positive aspect of migration as a transformative force for the world as it has been historically.
And I think more progressive forces need really to remind us that migration is a good thing, that cities should be hosting and should be organizing conditions to be responding to this but the agenda in this thing in my view is still a bit unclear.
Another thing, Habitat-II made some connection between environment and urbanization. But it was not clear enough. Still urbanization was a culprit, was a danger, was a threat to the environment.
Today I think, this equation has changed little bit and what we can see, is that urbanization when is well planned, well organized, well managed, can be a fundamental tool for environment protection and sustainability.
I think this is also a positive change that has come in these years and one where I’m a bit worried in this situation is a sort of regression in the notion of how the New Urban Agenda is going to be monitored how is it going to be reported, who is going to be responsible for that. The discussions today in Quito are still unfolding in that area but in my view much more clear messages of international and local and national accountability and transparency should be integrated into this agenda.
I believe there it is also a positive change if the agenda concludes as we are considering because in Habitat-II the agenda was all-encompassing there were 200 and something goals and very sectoral oriented covering all dimensions but in this sectoriality, difficult to understand that the city was working as a whole, was an integrated system.
I think a fundamental change for Habitat-III, is the notion that the best way to deal with sustainability is through a city-wide approach, through a perspective of laws, of economy, of planning, that looks at the whole city. And many of the sectoral things that were entry points in Habitat-II today will be integrated into these more holistic views and the responses will be a part of that.
To give you an example, for instance, Habitat-II will devote specific attention that itself at the time at itself today to issue like poverty or slums but today Habitat-III is telling us that the responses to slums perhaps are not only in slum improvement per se, although it is important but in some related notions of how to control, how to respond to the whole city perspective – in terms of better redistribution of wealth, of opportunities, better management of the land, better creation of local economic activities for slum dwellers, etc.
So this change I think is also extremely important. And I’ll would consider that the New Urban Agenda is bringing also a very interesting dimension in the notion that this space could be a limit, could be an obstacle, could be an agent for change.
For instance we have studied that if you take inequalities in cities and you reduce economic inequalities in one specific neighborhood, you reduce some forms of access to services inequalities or inequalities in the provision of public goods, the last reduct, the last element to change is the space itself. The space is a concentrator of inequalities in itself, so it can be reversed and used for change for the whole city and the New Urban Agenda somehow is looking at this positive aspects.
To recall that Prepcom 3 – Surabaya was a very important political discussion and technical, in which some elements that we wanted as UN-Habitat international community, academicians and people worried with the fate of the New Urban Agenda. But some member states thought that monitoring, reporting and all associated with this that has to do with who is responsible for what, and who is accountable and under which forums and mechanism for reporting.
Some forces managed to convince at that time member-states and many of the issues related to monitoring and reporting were diluted. The document at the time was weak and worrisome because it was giving a free hand as the document said, on a voluntary basis.
Something that the UN-Habitat, obviously we oppose because we believe that September 2016 we are discussing with governments that it should be brought to the document. The fundamental issue that the reporting, as it is for instance in the Paris agreement, reporting is mandatory every five years. It is a serious issue in which you create conditions to make sure that this journey that we are starting for the next 20 years will have benchmarks, and will be and it will be possible to know in these benchmarks that we are going in the correct or not correct direction.
And in that case who can be held accountable for that and in our view and we hope that this is going to change not only in terms of a document but a serious form of embracing reporting and monitoring in a way that if I don’t do it, you can knock on my door as civil society or as an international society, in terms of either development agencies – UN and others to say that you are not doing your work and something should be changed.
For that there are two or three fundamental ingredients. One is that the New Urban Agenda and SDGs and particularly what we call Urban SDGs which are Goal-11 and other indicators of target with an urban component, they should not be considered as parallel agendas or isolated agendas, but UN-Habitat and other UN agencies and partners, we are working in bringing a connection of these two.
We are analyzing in which way some of the fundamental components of the New Urban Agenda dialogue with the SDG indicators and to establish frameworks and mechanisms of connection of these two. This is one ingredient of success fundamentally.
The second one is other international development agendas. Paris agreements. I mean Climate Change and other elements in which cities as the panel, as the eminent panel of Climate Change is telling us cities are playing a fundamental role in C02 emissions but also in the possible reduction of them. And in the control or vulnerabilities of populations affected by climate change conditions, all these elements that point to resilience that point to better forms of planning are telling us that we need to connect all these international development agendas in which the element, that is the vector for these connections are the cities themselves.
Local governments for sustainability
Agenda-21, the very first summit that brought together the theme of Environment and Development in Rio in 1992 was of course, part of a serious preparation period just before. Actual preparations already started by 1990 and that is the birth year of I.C.L.E.I– Local Governments for Sustainability. At that time when nations embarked on preparing the negotiations it was felt that local governments could actually provide a good contribution to the discussion on Environment and Development, but there was no organization that particularly was dealing with sustainability issues.
That is why ICLEI was created in 1990 and then helped into the preparations of the summit and then ultimately of course as the outcome of the Rio summit, the Rio declaration foresees in a Chapter-28 which is about the Local Agenda 21 which we then have as a, as the organization ICLEI being, of course driving throughout the world, and I think in the meanwhile there are thousands of Local Agenda 21 or similar sustainability planning process that have been taken up by local governments, by the leaders, by citizens.
And so that is what we have been doing obviously, over the years the themes have been broadened and have even also been deepened. So today we are working with what we call 10 Agendas and I think the MDGs have been you know a driver for us to spread the thinking and the embracing of sustainability at the local level in particular in the Global South. But I’m very pleased that now with the SDGS that these are universal and not only you know looking Global south-wards but also Global north-wards. And it is even more important and great to see that there’s a standalone SDG-11 on resilient, safe and sustainable cities, and inclusive cities. So I think that is a real great achievement and this has been taken up by the Intergovernmental Conference and the United Nations General Assembly – it’s absolutely fantastic.
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change is an essential part of the overall sustainability agenda, we are also very pleased as ICLEI that we could contribute to finding that recognition and empowering of local and sub-national governments enshrined in the Paris text. It was not in the UNFCC convention nor in the Kyoto Protocol. So you know I think this is good because these are challenges that are so global, that are so large that all actors, all stakeholders that discussion; so it’s not only a governmental discussion nor only at national intergovernmental but also local and sub-national governments and then academia, the businesses, the youth, citizens, NGOs obviously- all of us can contribute to those challenges that are in front of us and therefore move ourselves also towards more global sustainability. The leadership in a number of Asian countries are doing fantastic, fantastic things – but the problems are also quite severe I mean if we just think air pollution in Beijing, for example.
So I think it is important to continue supporting and providing assistance, training, capacity building to all those good leaders to help them, to move further on their work.
I would think the SDGs as some kind of a contract between nations and the citizens at a global level of trying to advance ourselves to a better quality of life and a better planet and so in that sense the job is huge. I think one of the biggest challenges will be to find that new governance and cooperation mechanism between these various actors – so I think that is what is going to be one of those issues that we will have to work hard on. I am confident because of the fact that at least common understanding on how we want to move forward, I’m confident that also with the other actors we can find that trust and that co-operation but secondly I think there are a couple of issues that we indeed have to work on very, very fast and this has to do with of course the ways of how we consume our energy, I mean can we have a discussion about fossil fuel, we have to decarbonize; that is absolutely essential but also how we you know build our infrastructure.
This is a long-lasting so can we have a discussion about how can we actually achieve a real change, a drastic transformation? Can we have you know a discussion about our buildings producing energy rather than consuming energy? Things like that.
We need to construct and/or provide infrastructure and opportunities for the next 40 years as what we have done in the last 4,000 years. If you just take the perspective that 3.5 billion people will live in urban areas again. So this is an enormous amount of funding and financing that is required. Obviously this cannot be financed just via the multi-lateral development banks and other mechanisms we have in place, we have to look locally- how can we raise those funds.
I think it is, it’s definitely necessary to try to see how can other cities, other local governments learn from those that have already on that path and how can we actually raise those funds locally and therefore, help ourselves.
You have to have good capacities to be able to analyze well, the problem and therefore also having the data already. Secondly, then be able to address solutions making priorities around the solutions-so you need also to have the information what are the solutions, and then thirdly, you have actually to be able to understand your partner’s with whom you are going to implement those solutions.
So it’s the supplier’s side as well as a financing part of it and then actually you have then when you actually get there you have to maintain it and make sure that all your citizens are embracing that part of the development, or you know planning that the you wish to undertake.
Now if you then look into the other actors where we have this kind of institutions, organizations, platforms of dialogue that provide that stability I think then that kind of cooperation, mechanisms between those that are the convenors, the connectors between the individual maybe cities or subjects and provide that stability and then again create that trust amongst ourselves – I think that’s one way of moving forward for sure and scale it up basically because that I think the scaling up will be one of the biggest parts that we have to achieve now.