Local government: First reactions on the New Urban Agenda ‘zero draft’

How does the Habitat III draft strategy address local authorities?


Friday’s release of the first draft of the New Urban Agenda has generated a flood of immediate reactions from close observers of the process who have reached out to Citiscope to offer their feedback. We have collated them in a series under some of the key themes that will come up during the first round of Habitat III negotiations on the document, beginning next week at U. N. Headquarters.

Can’t make it to New York but want to have your say in the conversation? Join the discussion in the Urban Dialogues online forum on the zero draft until 23 May. Want to share your thoughts with Citiscope? Email gscruggs [at] citiscope.org or cbiron [at] citiscope. org.

[See: U. N. issues draft New Urban Agenda, aiming for ‘actionable’ document]

“We were very excited to find numerous references in the Zero Draft to the role and participation of local and regional governments in the process and implementation of this process. Besides, it was particularly interesting to see how the New Urban Agenda is being portrayed as an action-oriented agenda, which could enable a sustainable development path on the local level, linked to the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement.

More responses to the New Urban Agenda ‘zero draft’

Municipal finance


Local government

National urban policies


What’s missing

“Besides, we also celebrate the specific role attributed to regions, for example when it comes to metropolitan areas. Important aspects of planning, development and implementation of an integrated territorial approach — a concept present in many parts of the text — is particularly connected to the competences of regions, and therefore should be emphasized. For example, the coordination and partnership with regions will also be required in topics as resilience building, systems for risk management and reduction, infrastructure, transport systems and mobility.

[See: All together now: The rising metropolitan sensibility]

“In this regard, we also praise the recognition of the importance of protecting natural resources and environmental dynamics, particularly in the context of territorial cohesion going beyond urban to also peri-urban, rural and natural areas. The text makes several references to the implications and effects of urban area over those — for example, in Paragraph 97 — however it does not promote the concept that cities equally depend on the provision, role and sustainable development of rural areas. Therefore, it should further situate the permanent flow and interdependencies among urban, peri-urban and urban areas within the territory, especially when it comes to food security or ecosystem services and maintenance.

“Finally, we would definitely appreciate further consistency in terms used during the text. Habitat III should be able to put an end to the struggle in the multilateral agreements on the language used to refer to states, regions and provinces — the level of governments and authorities in between the national and local levels. In the zero draft, terms as sub-national level, local authorities, regional governments are used to this end and could certainly enjoy more coherence.”

— Rodrigo Messias, policy officer, Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development (NRG4SD)

“We welcome the acknowledgement of the role of local governments associations, and particularly of the contribution of the 2nd World Assembly of Local and Regional Authorities to the Habitat III process, although we regret the lack of explicit mention of the Global Taskforce. We still trust this recognition and inclusion in the text will be achieved as negotiations progress as a key partner in the follow-up and review process. In this same light we welcome the reference to the General Assembly of Partners.

“We welcome the intention to increment the dialogue with local authorities through mechanisms such as the U. N. Advisory Commission for Local Authorities, BUT we would like this intention extended to policy definition and not mere dialogue. Although we feel it comes short, we hope that the call for a strong involvement of local and regional authorities will be also reflected in the modalities of the consultation and participation allowed to us in the governing bodies of UN-Habitat, going beyond the ‘observers’ role defined in Rule 64 of the Rules of Procedure, acknowledging local authorities as special status to become active partners.

[See: The only sustainable city is one co-created by all of us]

“The Global Taskforce further strongly recommends that the New Urban Agenda fully relates to, builds upon and strengthen the many sustainability efforts that have been undertaken by local and subnational governments worldwide in Local Agenda 21 or similar sustainability planning processes since 1996 and earlier and that have contributed to advance and support global multilateral processes on climate, on biodiversity, on disaster risk reduction and the adoption of the sustainable development goals, e. g. Sustainable Development Goal 11.

“The New Urban Agenda must achieve inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable urbanization through the design and implementation of optimal multilevel, sound, participatory policymaking mechanisms between national government and their other spheres of government, as well as with all stakeholders, in particular the private, research and non-governmental sectors.

[See: Cities must be part of defining the New Urban Agenda]

“Overall the renewal of the new social contract with the citizenship and the notion of co-creating could still be developed. So should be a clearer commitment to public service provision with a perspective of protection of the commons.

“All in all, a lot of room to develop a good agenda for the next years.”

— Emilia Saíz, spokesperson, Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments

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