Habitat III stakeholder umbrella group to receive official financial support
In the run-up to next year’s U. N. conference on cities, Habitat III, the voice of civil society is particularly disparate. It encompasses the needs of everyone from children to the elderly, grass-roots activists to planning professionals, rural farmers to urban slum dwellers.
To that end, the General Assembly of Partners (GAP), a special initiative of the World Urban Campaign, aims to solidify these diverse voices into something resembling a unified statement. That statement, known as The City We Need, will eventually be offered as formal input into the drafting of the Habitat III outcome document, the New Urban Agenda.
The GAP’s efforts to harness civil society’s energy received another boost during the first week of July in Stockholm. This was the group’s first formal meeting since the assembly was chartered in April on the sidelines of the Habitat III preparatory negotiations in Nairobi.
The Stockholm meeting was also important because it was to be the first time that the newly elected chairs of each of the group’s 14 constituent groups were set to come together. And while a quorum of these chairs did indeed take place, not everyone could make it to Stockholm. (The meeting also coincided with the first Urban Thinkers Campus, at the Future of Places conference.)
The group representing children and youths, for instance, sent its interim chair. But it could not muster a larger presence, despite its notable energy around Habitat III.
“Youth-led organizations are run by volunteers, like students with an interest in a policy, and do this work almost without any financial support,” said Chris Dekki, who represents the Major Group for Children and Youth at the United Nations, which is a member of the GAP group. “Young people are doing huge outreach and consultation efforts for Habitat III, but our ability to attend official meetings hinges on funding.”
In order to increase participation in the remaining GAP meetings, the Habitat III Secretariat has agreed to pay for the travel and accommodations for one chair and one partner constituent member from each of the 14 groups.
“This is good news,” said Dekki. “Without the money that we can now see from the Habitat III Secretariat, the children and youth constituency would be very underrepresented at these meetings.”
The same can likely be said of many of the other groups, as well.
The decision is important because it signifies the Secretariat’s faith in the GAP process as the voice of civil society and as a valid contribution to the New Urban Agenda. It also reflects the positive overtures toward the work of the GAP coming from the Habitat III Bureau, the eight-member committee of U. N. member states that is overseeing the conference on behalf of the General Assembly.
“The GAP is very excited and pleased to receive the support of the Habitat III Secretariat,” says GAP President Eugénie Birch, “because this will enable us to create an effective platform to develop consensus and to push forward the agreed upon ideas to enter the New Urban Agenda.”
The remaining GAP meetings are:
New York, 2-3 October 2015
Prague, 16-18 March 2016 (TBC)
Jakarta, July 2016 (TBC)
Quito, October 2016 (TBC)
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