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Source: Small Island Developing States

The launch of a dedicated fund to accelerate local action towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change, a “new social contract” to guarantee the right to housing for all, and commitments to increased gender equity as well as youth representation in local governance structures are among key outcomes of the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) World Congress and World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders.

The Summit produced the Durban Political Declaration titled, ‘Envisioning the Future of Our Renewed International Municipal Movement,’ and, for the first time at a UCLG Congress, a compendium of integrated policy recommendations resulting from a six-month consultation process with diverse stakeholders.

The World Summit convened alongside meetings of the World Congress and other UCLG governing bodies in Durban, South Africa, from 11-15 November 2019, bringing together over 3,000 delegates and other stakeholders. A key objective of the Summit was to “co-create” the course of UCLG over the next three years and shape its contribution to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the first five-year review of the New Urban Agenda (NUA), which was adopted at the third UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (UN-Habitat III) in October 2016.

The Summit featured the launch of the fifth report of the Global Observatory on Decentralization and Local Democracy (GOLD V), which assesses the contribution of local and regional governments to the localization of the SDGs. The discussions noted that the 2030 Agenda provides local authorities with a normative framework for, among others, re-engaging multiple stakeholders from the bottom-up to rebuild governance institutions and overhauling funding mechanisms for local development in support of increased social equity and sustainability. Participants welcomed the role of UCLG in supporting coordinated actions through local government associations organized at the national level, especially through its learning section.

The launch of the International Municipal Investment Fund (IMIF) – an initiative of Global Fund for Cities Development (FMDV), UCLG and the UN Capital Development Fund – with USD 7 billion in assets, aimed at accelerating progress towards the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement by increasing available investment for local SDG-oriented projects in developing countries.

The Summit placed particular emphasis on women’s leadership, with female mayors from Brazil, the Gambia, Sierra Leone, Spain and Sweden, among others, participating on numerous panels. During the closing session of the World Council, members endorsed UCLG’s commitment to mainstream the gender equality agenda by dedicating 15% of its budget to these activities, with support from a newly announced partnership with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). The Summit also convened special sessions to promote peace and intergenerational equity that included the launch of the ‘Plant Trees Not Bombs’ initiative, spearheaded by the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD). During the official opening session, Graça Machel, Chairperson, ACCORD Board of Trustees, said the campaign would plant 75 million trees to commemorate the UN’s 75th anniversary in 2020, as part of efforts to promote dialogue between youth and political leaders.

Recognizing the need to adopt multilevel as well as multi-stakeholder approaches to local governance, Summit sessions were organized around several parallel tracks, as well as multiple spaces for informal exchanges, networking and co-creation of policy agendas. These included:

  • The Assembly Track, led by local and regional government representatives. Discussions addressed the themes of: Decentralization and Local Finance; Aligning Local Priorities with the 2030 Agenda and the Right to the City; Resilience, Urbanization and Heritage; Multilevel Governance and National/Continental Advocacy; Migration Management and Peacebuilding; and Public Space and Demographic Challenges.
  • The Town Hall Track, led by civil society. Five town hall sessions convened on: Accessible and Inclusive Cities; Gender Equity and Women’s Empowerment; the Right to the City; Sustainable Urban Development; and Addressing Informality in Cities.
  • The Local4Action Track: An inclusive and collaborative space bringing together different spheres of the UCLG networks. More than 50 sessions took place dealing with a variety of topics under the headers of Global Conversations, Local Policies and Voices, LAB, Inspiring Voices and fora on regions and peripheral cities.
  • The Local4ActionHub – an informal networking space and venue for launching flagship initiatives and policy discussions, facilitated by UCLG regional networks. Topics featured at the Hub included: the Role of Agenda 2030 in Creating Citizenship; Creative Mobilities; and Digital Networking for Sustainable Urban Development.
  • The Statutory Track, comprising meetings of official bodies of UCLG.

A number of Special Sessions addressed key emerging issues, notably: co-creating open, inclusive, transparent and sustainable territories; migration; resilience; culture; biodiversity; and Beijing+25. The UCLG Learning Forum, focusing on key elements of the UCLG Learning Strategy for 2019-2021, also took place.

Addressing the UCLG General Assembly, outgoing UCLG President, Mpho Parks Tau, South Africa, highlighted the work done to “bring a human face” to the global platform and the acceleration required to respond to a rapidly changing world. He stressed the importance of UCLG’s function as a learning network, noting this is being enhanced through training programmes on localizing global agendas such as the 2030 Agenda, the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), and the NUA.

The Durban Political Declaration produced by the Summit underscores that the transformation needed in the world’s development model is only possible if local authorities and other stakeholders demonstrate sufficient collective responsibility in the form of political adjustments and compromises based on fairness, equality and sustainability. It highlights, among others, commitments of UCLG stakeholders to: renew democracy and citizenship to rebuild trust between communities and institutions; create a new financial paradigm that will leave “no one and no place” behind; and strengthen partnerships with the private sector and academia to co-create cities and territories committed to promoting local culture and knowledge.

On how the 2030 Agenda can pave the way to a new social contract, the Declaration takes note of the 2018 ‘Cities for Adequate Housing Declaration’ by local governments committed to: fostering the “right to housing and the right to the city,” with greater powers to regulate real estate; strengthening solidarity through a rights-based approach to migration; using local and territorial approaches to rethink and reshape governance as increasingly called for by citizens and social movements; and promoting intergenerational dialogues and peace.

The World Congress concluded with the election of Mohamed Boudra, Mayor of Al Hoceima, Morocco, and President of the Moroccan Association of Communal Council of Presidents (AMPCC), as UCLG Co-President, with the second candidate, Ilsur Metshin, Mayor of Kazan, Russian Federation, taking on a new role as Chair of the UN Advisory Committee for Local Authorities.

The UCLG World Summit is the largest gathering of mayors, councilors, presidents of local associations, and local and regional practitioners from around the world. The triennial gathering is designed to bring the world organization’s constituencies together to review and build on a legacy of commitments and advance UCLG’s role in shaping the multilateral agenda from a local and regional perspective. [IISD RS Summary Report] [IISD RS Coverage of the World Summit] [Durban Political Declaration] [UCLG Congress Website] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on 2016 World Congress and World Summit]

MIL OSI Asia Pacific News