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News & Events World Urban Forum 9: A promise or a responsibility?
World Urban Forum 9: A promise or a responsibility?
World Urban Forum 9: A promise or a responsibility?
Emilia Saiz

Major global agreements, such as the Paris climate change agreement, and the SDGs will not come to fruition without local governments


Over a year ago in Quito, after a long negotiation and high involvement of all stakeholders, the atmosphere I could feel in my constituency was that of a promise; a big promise of a different international understanding of the urbanization phenomenon, a new role of cities and local and regional governments in the international governance and a shared vision of the need to rethink models.


As we meet again in Kuala Lumpur for the World Urban Forum the feeling I sense is more of responsibility. It might be a personal perception, but after all this is what this piece is an opinion, no more or less than that. Allow me to elaborate.


The process towards the definition of the Quito outcome document was extremely rich for those of us working with local governance; it was an illuminating moment that put our new reality on urbanization in the global map.


For the first time we were able to discuss urbanization, not just as a megalopolis phenomenon, but also how it affected territories. We were finally discussing it not only from a government’s perspective but with all of the stakeholders in mind. It was our opportunity to put new priorities on the agenda but also to get the debate on urbanization right!


Urbanization needs to be understood as a deeply transformational factor in our global reality which can have both great potential for innovation, creativity and efficiency but also high risks of exclusion, lack of accountability and unsustainable practices.


This new understanding should not only influence change in our policies but also transform our governance systems at all levels and particularly the international governance architecture.


Our expectations were very high. Local and regional governments, together with civil society, academics and others made significant contributions, debated and influenced each other’s narratives coming to joint recommendations which, in some lucky cases, made it to the negotiators’ table. The member states also demonstrated capacity to innovate, to find compromises which were finally included in the outcome document.


In brief we are offering our commitment to partner with civil society and stakeholders for concrete implementation of the commitments of the New Urban Agenda building around the values of Right to the City, strong governance, inclusion and accountability.


We are calling member states and the international community to respect these agreements and define a clear monitoring mechanism that can involve critical stakeholders such as the local and regional government constituency through its World Assembly.


We are the guardians of the Habitat III legacy and, as such, we see this ninth session of the World Urban Forum and the World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments as an opportunity to ensure that this legacy is preserved and expanded upon, and to understand the New Urban Agenda as an accelerator of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.


Although we might not be where many of us thought we should be, I strongly believe that we have a great responsibility to protect and foster implementation of this legacy. It is in that mode that we are calling the World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments and will be actively participating in Kuala Lumpur.


A renewed vision of multilevel governance and governing in partnership will need to be developed to be able to answer the global challenges. Renewed dialogue and decision-making structures will need to be developed if they are to service the new global citizen that is now in the making.


The values, criteria and regulation of the global citizenship in an increasingly interconnected world with unprecedented swifts of populations will be closely related with our capacity to deliver the New Urban Agenda. The Paris Agreement, the Addis Ababa Agenda nor the Global Compact on Migration, let alone the 2030 objectives, will not be realized without the solid ground of the local governance that the New Urban Agenda focusses on.


So, all of us hold a great responsibility in Kuala Lumpur. We need to move ahead even with if the multilateral machine is a bit slower. Our hope is with the renewed leadership while being profoundly grateful to those that brought us here. Let us hope that the World Urban Forum will also inform the UN Reform.


From the local and regional governments’ constituency, we offer our full commitment to contribute to bring local governments to the table in the decision-making process. Please #Listen2Cities in Kuala Lumpur.


Emilia Saiz is the Secretary General of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). This world organization represents over 240,000 towns, cities, regions and metropolises and is present in 140 countries. UCLG facilitates the Global Taskforce, which convenes the World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments that will meet in Kuala Lumpur at the World Urban Forum.




This blog was originally posted on Place and is cross-posted here with the permission of the author.