Together to Quito: Special Bulletin Issue #1

12 May 2016

Dear colleagues,

Two weeks ago in New York, in the latest stage of the Open-Ended Informal Consultative Meetings for Habitat III, the co-leads of all the Habitat III policy units, and the co-hosts of all the regional and thematic meetings, met and provided inputs for a zero draft outcome document for Quito. Last Friday in New York the Bureau of the Preparatory Committee for Habitat III reviewed the various proposals and approved a consolidated zero draft document.

The purpose of Together to Quito is to explain the process, to explain the significance of the zero draft document, and to underscore how involved UN-Habitat has been in achieving this outcome.

The zero draft is titled the New Urban Agenda. Whilst the General Assembly recognized the phrase ‘the New Urban Agenda’ in its resolution 69/226 adopted in 2015, this is really the first time that an officially endorsed draft version of the NUA, with specific policy recommendations, and an outline of UN-Habitat’s proposed role, has been produced.

The zero draft draws together all the elements towards which UN-Habitat has been working as an organization. It includes, for example, a political declaration on the centrality of sustainable urbanization as a driver of development. The drafting process also included the reading of seven statements by UN-Habitat staff, which underlined the importance of the NUA being supported by specific implementable actions.

These specific implementable actions described in the seven statements have been further fleshed-out by UN-Habitat into 30 key action points (to be shared in the next Together To Quito) that encapsulate the five action areas of the NUA (that is, National Urban Polices; the three-prongs of legislation, economy and municipal finance, and planning and design; and city extensions, housing, and urban in-fills, with each broken down into five sub-points). In the near future, and following last Friday’s incorporation of important principles into the zero draft, UN-Habitat intends to present these 30 key action points as an implementation action plan to the Bureau of Habitat III.

View more:

Zero draft document

Seven statements

In one of its sections, the zero draft makes specific mention of UN-Habitat and the role for the organization envisioned beyond Habitat III, based on the Abuja Declaration. For UN-Habitat, this is a critical inclusion because it explains the potential role of our organization in the NUA, in sustainable urbanization, and in the achievement of the SDGs.

UN-Habitat’s role beyond Habitat III might include:

  1. Global monitoring of indicators and the consolidation of knowledge through the Global Urban Observatory, using measuring tools such as the Cities Prosperity Initiative.
  2. Coordinating within the UN system, using our specialized knowledge on urbanization.
  3. Boosting the role and voice of local authorities within the UN and in relation to the implementation of the NUA.
  4. That UN-Habitat will be the secretariat for a High Level Panel on sustainable urbanization.
  5. Supporting member states to implement the implementable action areas, comprising National Urban Policies, the three-pronged approach (legislation, economy and municipal finance, and planning and design), and local physical implementation such as housing.

    It is important to understand that while the SDGs are a vital element, they do not account for the NUA in its entirety. In fact, the five action areas of the NUA, and the many factors included in this zero draftcover some urbanization factors that are not explicitly covered by the SDGs. Also note that the 30 sub-points of the five action areas of the NUA are not finalized from UN-Habitat’s point of view either, and will almost certainly be refined or boosted, because more work needs to be done linking the NUA with the eighty or so SDG targets that include urbanization elements, and in identifying additional areas of observation.

    Whilst this is an endorsed zero draft, it is important to understand that the final outcome documentwill undergo many revisions before approval. It may be that a final outcome document will be agreed at Surabaya, but it could also be the case that there is no final agreement until Quito.

    In next week’s Together to Quito, we’ll explain in more detail how UN-Habitat has been contributing to the outcome document process.

Posted on: 25 May 2016