Outcome of GLI participation in the Habitat III Regional Preparatory Meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean

By Ellie Leggett

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The Toluca Declaration produced at the Habitat III Regional Preparatory Meeting for Latin America & the Caribbean has now been finalised. It confirms the commitment of the region to the implementation of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) which will be finalised in October at the Habitat III conference in Quito. The declaration also recognises the timing of the implementation of the NUA is crucial, as it closely follows the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the COP21 climate change agreements, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, and the Addis Ababa Action on Financing for Development.

The Toluca Declaration envisages the NUA as an urbanisation paradigm that promotes accessibility, equity, security, mobility and cultural identity. Imperative actions are recognised, including highlighting heritage and cultural diversity in the regeneration of urban areas, and building cities within a gender perspective that allows and promotes the empowerment of women. The key elements proposed for inclusion in the NUA by Latin America and the Caribbean are detailed under the headings of Urban and territorial planning; Urban governance; Adequate housing; Water and sanitation; Sustainable mobility; Land management, and Environment, climate change and resilience. A key theme in the declaration is the idea that urban planning and development should be integrated across all aspects and levels of government, while ensuring that the development of one area or region is not at the expense of another. A human-rights framework is utilised in a number of contexts of the declaration, such as in terms of access to housing, water and public space. The ‘right to the city’- the claim that cities should be safe and accessible for all members of the population, is intrinsic to the declaration. Furthermore, the environmental impact of the city is to be balanced so that the city does not exist beyond local ecological constraints.

At the local level, the declaration guides governments towards institutional solidity, professionalism and accountability in urban management for successful implementation of the NUA. The strengthening of the UN-Habitat is seen as crucial for it to continue to be the leading authority within the United Nations system. Opportunities for increased international cooperation, including South-South cooperation, are recommended to expand and contribute to the implementation of agreements adopted at the Habitat III conference. A wide range of stakeholders, such as civil society, volunteers, the private sector and the scientific community, are recognised as able to mobilise and share knowledge, complementing the efforts of governments.

A monitoring and reviewing mechanism is considered indispensable to identify challenges, mobilising international cooperation where necessary. Regional monitoring mechanisms are proposed, and the strengthening of developing countries’ capacities to implement the NUA.

The GLI team were working with the UN Major Group for Children and Youth (UNMGCY), which was established following the 1992 UN Conference on the Environment and Development. There, it was recognised that the achievement of sustainable development would require active participation of all sectors of society; hence nine civil society organisations were formalised as main channels through which participation would be facilitated in UN activities. The UNMGCY exists as a space for the voices of children and youth globally. At the conference, the aim of the group was to ensure that these voices were heard in the final declaration. Therefore consultation process with Latin American youth was carried out before the conference, providing the basis for the Position Paper of the UNMGCY, a document outlining the issues considered important to young people in Latin America.

The UNMGCY recognise the importance of young people as the leaders of future cities whose meaningful contribution to the new urban development paradigm is of paramount importance. By 2030, 60% of all urban dwellers will be under 18, and disproportionately represented in informal settlements. As these settlements are amongst the most disaster prone in urban areas, it is imperative that disaster risk assessment must be carried out in the upgrading of these settlements. A fiscal system which enables sustainable urbanisation is advised. Public space is articulated as a right for all people and as an essential ingredient for the well-being of urban populations. Urban spaces conducive to good mental and physical health are recognised as important, for example the construction of walkable and pro-cycling cities. States must actively enforce the rights of mobile populations as these are amongst the most marginalised. The development of the urban area must not surpass the boundaries set out by local bio-capacity. Finally, the UN-Habitat must ensure that the implementation of the NUA is effectively monitored and reviewed.

The Toluca conference was the last of the regional and thematic meetings to take place before the Habitat III conference in Quito in November. By the end of this week the ‘zero draft’ of the NUA is expected, and in July the General Assembly of Partners will meet in Jakarta.

Ellie Leggett is a second year Geography students. Ellie applied to attend this conference as she has always had a particular interest in urban Geography and would like to study it beyond her undergraduate degree.

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