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UN-Habitat Bulletin

Volume 231 Number 14 | Friday, 31 May 2019


Summary of the First Session of the UN-Habitat Assembly

27-31 May 2019 | UN-Habitat Headquarters, Nairobi, Kenya


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The inaugural session of the UN-Habitat Assembly was convened following UN General Assembly Resolution 73/239, which dissolved the UN-Habitat Governing Council as a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly and replaced it with the UN-Habitat Assembly, aimed at strengthening the organization through its organizational structure. This makes the UN-Habitat Assembly a very high-level decision-making body on sustainable urbanization and human settlements. Its first meeting was successful in delivering important results for addressing urban challenges and its discussions and outcomes directly link to other multilateral development meetings and processes, including the upcoming Climate Action Summit, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Sustainable Development Goals, of which more than one third of the targets have an urban component.

During its first session, the UN-Habitat Assembly succeeded in setting up the organizational components necessary for its functioning, including electing officials and operationalizing the Executive Board. The Assembly also delivered outcomes important for achieving its mandate, which is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. In this respect, five Resolutions were adopted, including one approving the new Strategic Plan for the period 2020-2023, a Decision on the arrangements for the transition towards the new governance structure, and a Ministerial Declaration on innovation for better quality of life in cities and communities. At the end of the meeting, with countries having pledged more than USD 150 million in support for the organization’s work, UN-Habitat’s priorities had been concretized through resolutions on, inter alia:

  • safer cities and human settlements;
  • capacity building for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and the urban dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development;
  • gender equality to support inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements; and
  • enhancing urban-rural linkages for sustainable urbanization.

The first session of the UN-Habitat Assembly, held at the UN Office at Nairobi, Kenya from 27-31 May 2019 attracted national delegations from 127 countries, including four Heads of State and Government and 49 Ministers. Over a third of the more than 2,900 delegates attending came from national governments, along with 129 from local government, including over 60 Mayors and around 470 non-governmental organizations, academia, and a strong presence of the private sector. The total number of participants, including other technical, UN-Habitat staff, and entertainers came to over 3,900 persons. This strong interest in the Assembly, together with the extensive variety of innovative ideas and tools that were exhibited and discussed throughout the week, reflected a commitment to sustainable urbanization that left delegates and participants with a renewed sense of optimism regarding the future of sustainable urbanization under the newly revitalized UN-Habitat. 

A Brief History of UN-Habitat

Origins of UN-Habitat

On 1 January 1975, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) established the UN Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation (UNHHSF), the first official UN body dedicated to urbanization with the task of assisting national programmes relating to human settlements through the provision of capital and technical assistance, particularly in developing countries.

Habitat I: The first UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat I) took place in Vancouver, Canada, from 31 May to 11 June 1976. It resulted in the creation, on 19 December 1977, of the precursors of UN-Habitat: the UN Commission on Human Settlements and the UN Centre for Human Settlements.

Habitat II: The Second UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) convened in Istanbul, Turkey, from 3-14 June 1996, on the 20th anniversary of the first Habitat Conference. The Habitat Agenda and the Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements, adopted by the Conference, outlined more than 100 commitments and strategies to address shelter and sustainable human settlements. With the adoption of the Habitat Agenda, the international community set itself the twin goals of achieving adequate shelter for all and ensuring the sustainable development of human settlements. Habitat II also reaffirmed the commitment to the full and progressive realization of the right to adequate housing.

UN Sustainable Development Summit: The Summit took place from 25-27 September 2015, at UN Headquarters in New York and adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes 17 SDGs and 169 associated targets. SDG 11 addresses urban areas, aiming to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” The Goal, in particular, contains targets to, by 2030:

  • ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums;
  • provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities, and older persons;
  • enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization, and capacity for participatory, integrated, and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries;
  • reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality, and municipal and other waste management; and
  • provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green, and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons, and persons with disabilities.

Habitat III: The UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) convened in Quito, Ecuador, from 17-20 October 2016 in line with the bi-decennial cycle. Habitat III was one of the first UN global summits after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement. It offered a unique opportunity to discuss the important challenge of how cities, towns and villages are planned and managed, in order to fulfill their role as drivers of sustainable development, and hence shape the implementation of new global development and climate change goals. Member States agreed and signed the New Urban Agenda (NUA), an action-oriented document, which sets global standards for achieving SDG 11, rethinking the way we build, manage, and live in cities.

73rd UN General Assembly (UNGA 73): In an effort to strengthen the organizational structure of UN-Habitat, UNGA 73 adopted Resolution 73/239 on December 2018, deciding to dissolve the UN-Habitat Governing Council as a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly and to replace it with the UN-Habitat Assembly. The Resolution also included a decision regarding the first meeting of the Executive Board, following its election by the UN-Habitat Assembly. Following this, the Committee of Permanent Representatives of UN-Habitat began meeting from March 2019 and, inter alia, considered issues related to the preparation for the first Session of the UN-Habitat Assembly.

UN-Habitat Assembly Report

Convening of the First UN-Habitat Assembly

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Acting Director-General, UN Office at Nairobi (UNON) and UN-Habitat Executive Director, opened the first session of the UN-Habitat Assembly. James Ohayo, UN Habitat Secretariat, moderated the session. Emma Stevens, Indigenous Youth Representative from the Mi’kmaq Indigenous Peoples, Canada, paid tribute to women in her community who lost their lives due to unsustainable development practices, and drew attention to the loss of traditional languages, calling for greater conservation efforts.

Election of the UN-Habitat Assembly President

Executive Director Sharif convened the first meeting of the UN-Habitat Assembly solely for the purpose of electing the President of the UN-Habitat Assembly and delegates elected the President of the UN-Habitat Assembly under the UN General Assembly rules of procedure, pending adoption of the UN-Habitat Assembly’s rules of procedure. Delegates elected Martha Delgado Peralta, Mexico, as President of the Assembly by acclamation.

Ceremonial Opening

The President of the first session of the UN-Habitat Assembly, Martha Delgado Peralta underscored UN-Habitat’s Strategic Plan, stressing the need for collective efforts to produce innovative solutions for sustainable urban development. She highlighted the importance of adopting policies to simultaneously advance social inclusion, environmental protection, and economic growth.

Executive Director Sharif highlighted UNON’s role as the only office of the Secretary General and the UN Headquarters of UNEP and UN-Habitat in the developing world, and highlighted work on infrastructure and efforts to become a more environmentally friendly compound, including through eliminating single-use plastics.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, via video message, stressed that the first session of the UN-Habitat Assembly comes at an important juncture as 60% of the urban infrastructure needed by 2030 is yet to be built. He emphasized that well-planned cities can facilitate economic growth and sustainable low emission development. He further cautioned that unplanned urbanization could generate severe problems, such as pollution, crime, inequality, disease, vulnerability to disaster, lack of affordable housing, and harmful emissions, calling for ambitious and concrete solutions to overcome these challenges.

Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), pointed to opportunities, including: incorporating circularity into city planning; innovating to ensure housing needs do not strain natural resources; integrating cooling infrastructure in urban spaces; ensuring environmental considerations guide development decisions; and increasing the capacities of local governments to implement change.

Keynote Addresses

Ridwan Kamil, Governor of West Java Province, Indonesia, shared his experience in “making and designing happiness” in the urban context. He encouraged decision makers to incorporate happiness in urban planning through, inter alia, building social infrastructure, redesigning public spaces, and restructuring public services’ provision.

Sona Jobarteh, UN-Habitat’s Goodwill Ambassador, The Gambia, reflected on what successful urbanization entails and how it could be developed sustainably. She underscored the importance of culture and the need to reflect it in communities’ social values. She called for a change in mentality and understanding, stressing that sustainability entails more than “new shiny buildings” and extends to knowing what is going on inside them.

Executive Director Sharif highlighted three priorities: well-planned and better managed cities; the need for transformational and ground-breaking innovation for a better quality of life; and a resourced and impact-driven UN-Habitat. On the impact of UN-Habitat’s work, she pointed out that more than two million people have improved access to water and sanitation, and 53 cities in 30 countries have benefited from state-of-the-art design solutions.

Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, stressed that UN-Habitat’s new governance structure lifts the organization’s status to a universal body. He emphasized that the world “is currently ill-prepared to plan effectively for rapid urbanization,” noting that many countries have seen a proliferation of slums and informal settlements, urban poverty, and increased environmental degradation. President Kenyatta emphasized collective international action informed by technological innovation to “transform our cities into engines of sustainable economic growth and development.” He called for overcoming institutional constraints and ensuring the necessary capacity- and resource-base for UN-Habitat to deliver its mandate. He further outlined national efforts to implement the NUA under four key priority areas, including mortgage funding, universal health care, affordable housing, and infrastructure development, and stressed Kenya’s commitment to supporting UN-Habitat’s work.

Report of the CPR

Subsequent to the ceremonial opening, and as part of the substantive meeting of the session, on Monday, Fernando Coimbra, Brazil, Chair of the CPR, presented the Committee’s report recommending that the UN-Habitat Assembly: adopt the rules of procedure; elect the CPR Bureau for 2019-2021; elect the Assembly Bureau for 2019-2021; and also refer to the  draft rules of procedure to the Executive Board for its consideration and adoption, and subsequent endorsement by the UN-Habitat Assembly. He noted that draft resolutions on the Strategic Plan for 2020-25, UN system-wide guidelines for safer cities, and guidelines on enhancing capacity building had been forwarded to the Assembly for consideration; and that the first session of the Assembly would send a strong political signal through a Ministerial Declaration. Coimbra recommended that the Assembly consider: shortening the Strategic Plan cycle from six to four years; and extending deliberations on stakeholder engagement and accreditation. Lori Dando, US, reported on stakeholder accreditation and engagement discussions, noting that, despite progress and hard work, a draft stakeholder policy had not been finalized and thus recommended continuing discussions to reach consensus.

Delegates then adopted the rules of procedure of the UN-Habitat Assembly (HSP/HA/1/8) and the provisional agenda (HSP/HA/1/1) with the inclusion of the CPR Chair’s report.

Election of Officers

For the first session of the UN-Habitat Assembly Bureau, delegates elected China as rapporteur; as well as Germany, Poland, and Ghana as Vice Presidents.

The Assembly also elected, on an exceptional basis, the CPR Bureau with the Eastern European Group nominating Serbia, the Group of Latin American and Caribbean (GRULAC) countries nominating Costa Rica, and the Asia-Pacific region nominating Bangladesh as Vice-Chairs. The African Group announced its nomination of Eritrea and Tanzania to Chair the CPR, with Eritrea chairing for two years and Tanzania for the rest of the term. Western European and Others Group (WEOG) had not submitted its nominee as at the close of the session.

Credentials

On Monday, delegates agreed that the UN-Habitat Bureau would also act as the Credentials Committee.

On Friday, President Delgado noted that the Bureau, acting as the Credentials Committee, found the credentials submitted by 84 member states to be in order and approved these credentials.

Argentina, for the Lima Group, and supported by the US, announced that they did not support the participation of the “illegitimate regime of Nicholas Maduro” in Venezuela, noting their support for Juan Guaidó as President, and called for this to be reflected in the report of the session. Venezuela “categorically” rejected the statement, noting that the NUA upholds the decisions of peoples in sovereign states.

Organization of Work, including the Establishment of an Executive Board and the Adoption of its Rules of Procedure

The Assembly took note of the organization of work (HSP/HA/1/1/Add.1) and established a drafting committee to consider the resolutions submitted by the CPR as well as any other resolutions submitted by members of the Assembly.

Activities of the UN Human Settlements Programme, including Coordination Matters

On Monday, Executive Director Sharif presented her report on UN-Habitat activities (HSP/HA/1/2), drawing attention to addendums on: joint activities with UNEP (HSP/HA/1/2/Add.1); cooperation with agencies, intergovernmental organizations, and other UN-Habitat partners (HSP/HA/1/2/Add.2); and draft guidelines on safer cities (HSP/HA/1/2/Add.3). She further noted that the report should be read in conjunction with the country activities report (HSP/HA/1/INF.3).

Sharif highlighted that in the new Strategic Plan 2020-2025, activities have been consolidated into four domains of change: reducing poverty and spatial inequality in urban and rural communities; enhancing the shared prosperity of cities and regions; strengthening climate action and improving the urban environment; and effectively preventing and responding to urban crises.

She further addressed relevant progress regarding nine resolutions adopted by the Governing Council at its 26th session, as well as the new governance structure for UN-Habitat. She stressed that the new Strategic Plan seeks to reposition UN-Habitat as a center of excellence and innovation, with adequate financial resources being a prerequisite for implementation.

Report on Progress in the Implementation of the NUA and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

On Monday, Executive Director Sharif presented her report (HSP/HA/1/4), and said that the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a global vision for people, the planet, and long-term prosperity, and that the adoption of the NUA at Habitat III in 2016 created a new framework to plan and manage cities to achieve sustainable development.

Highlighting climate change, transport, housing, and governance as the greatest challenges in the pursuit of sustainable urbanization, she underscored four main themes to address them: reinvigorating governance and civil society participation; reinforcing financial mechanisms; capacity development; and technology and information.

Executive Director Sharif stressed that the NUA forms the basis for the implementation of the urban dimensions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, emphasizing well managed urbanization as a transformative force and an engine for inclusive economic growth. She underscored that, despite progress on both Agendas, key concerns remain around: growing inequality in cities; climate change (with cities being responsible for 60-80% of energy consumption and 70% of greenhouse gas emissions); and conflicts, crises, and urban insecurity.

She urged for accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the NUA, by focusing on normative work, catalyzing networks of partners, and transforming cities through knowledge, policy advice, and collaborative action.

Executive Director Sharif concluded by stressing that the world is at a “life-changing crossroads,” requiring urgent collective action to reduce exclusion and inequalities in the world’s cities and communities.

Report of the World Urban Forum, Update on World Habitat Day and World Cities Day

On Tuesday, Executive Director Sharif, reported on the Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF 9) (HSP/HA/1/5), describing it as an inclusive platform supporting the achievement of the NUA and the SDGs. She also reported on the 2018 WUF, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, noting that it was attended by 24,000 participants from 163 countries, which reflects the importance of the urban agenda. She highlighted the Kuala Lumpur Declaration outcomes, including the need for integrated policy frameworks, strengthened partnerships and innovations. Executive Director Sharif announced that World Habitat Day will be hosted by Cameroon in the City of Yaoundé on 7 October 2019; and also highlighted that World Cities Day will be hosted by the Russian Federation, in the city of Ekaterinburg, on 31 October 2019. She further welcomed participants to WUF 10 in 2020, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and announced that WUF 11 will take place in Katowice, Poland, in 2022.

Strategic Plan of the UN Human Settlements Programme for the Period 2020–2025

On Tuesday, Executive Director Sharif introduced the draft Strategic Plan 2020-2025 (HSP/HA/1/7), noting that it provides links to the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development, the Paris Agreement, and the NUA. She stressed that the plan is the product of a participatory process and provides opportunities for UN-Habitat to be a thought leader and an agenda-setter in the human settlement discourse.

National Statements

National statements were delivered in Plenary on Monday afternoon, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

The EU expressed support for the new UN-Habitat governance structure, noting that all the conditions had been met for UN-Habitat to accelerate the implementation of SDG 11. She underscored gender equity and social inclusion as key priorities in cities and the need for a people-centered approach to leave no one behind. Outlining various EU initiatives, she noted that: the first urban agenda is being operationalized with 14 partnerships and 11 action plans; and an EU International Urban Cooperation Programme promotes city-to-city cooperation in 127 cities.

Palestine, on behalf of the G-77/China, reiterated the importance of the NUA and the need to contextualize future projects to address short and medium-term priorities, and underscored the centrality of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

Burundi, on behalf of the African Group, shared the African vision regarding urbanization and human settlements. He stressed that well-planned urbanization could contribute to the transformation of cities and structural reform of the economies, and called for strengthening human and institutional capacities. He highlighted relevant work under the African Union (AU) Commission, including monitoring implementation of the NUA in Africa and organizing awareness-raising workshops at the sub-regional level.

Delegations welcomed UN-Habitat’s new governance structure, noting that it will facilitate transparency and accountability. Many countries called for additional cooperation with UN-Habitat to accelerate the implementation of national urban agendas.

Kenya highlighted its support for the meeting, including a contribution of USD 500,000 for the participation of least developed countries, and called on UN-Habitat to guide states in the implementation of the NUA. The Russian Federation invited delegates to World Cities Day to be hosted in Yekaterinburg on 31 October 2019. Mozambique noted that the country has a cities and climate change policy to address climate-related risks, as well as a national housing policy to promote climate resilient buildings. Noting the new momentum for urban development, Senegal called for the means of implementation to ensure sustainable urban centers in all countries.

Ethiopia welcomed the work of the AU on achieving the NUA, the 2030 Agenda, and Africa’s Agenda 2063. Venezuela proposed rethinking housing as a social good and not just a market good. The Republic of Korea discussed initiatives using artificial intelligence and virtual reality technology to address urban problems.

Algeria highlighted development and geographical challenges in implementing the NUA. Iraq and Syria drew attention to the negative impacts of war and terrorism. Jordan called for collective responsibility to address the Syrian crisis and supported urban planning processes which cater to the needs of refugees. Palestine stressed challenges associated with occupying authorities that limit any development potential. Afghanistan reported on the roll-out of a “security of tenure” project for one million households, where land parcels will be registered in the names of both wife and husband. Guatemala noted national plans to incorporate disaster risk reduction measures in the urban development plan.

Uganda called for additional focus on secondary market towns and rural growth centers. Germany called for elaborating the role of the CPR to avoid an overlap with the Executive Board’s mandate. China proposed a global award for outstanding achievement for a city to be awarded on World Cities Day. Tanzania, Turkey, and Myanmar stressed the importance of sharing experiences and learning from others.

Norway underscored the importance of building partnerships with entities better positioned to act at the local level. The US stressed the need to ensure that all stakeholders have a seat at the table as well as the importance of building local capacities for self-reliance.

Germany announced a contribution of EUR 200,000 to the Multi-Donor Trust Fund to finance UN-Habitat’s new governance structure. Sri Lanka pledged to double its annual contribution to UN-Habitat from 2019. Japan highlighted that the country supports poverty reduction projects and the improvements of human environments, having contributed USD 120 million over the past five years. Kuwait announced a financial contribution of USD 100,000 towards the first session of the  UN-Habitat Assembly.

Mali noted the financial resource mobilization challenges related to implementing the NUA. India committed to continuing its annual contribution to the Trust Fund. Norway highlighted the importance of UN-Habitat’s financial independence. Nigeria and others called for sustainable and predictable funding to support UN-Habitat activities.

Eritrea highlighted that as most of their population still resides in rural areas, the country is embarking on a project to create “semi-urban areas.” Niger informed delegates that the country is working on new types of cement to bring down the cost of building and promote sustainable development. Israel announced that it would submit its first Voluntary National Review, in July 2019.

Cuba highlighted the negative effects of climate change, calling for a change in production and consumption patterns. Sierra Leone underscored employment as key for social stability. The Holy See emphasized additional urban problems related to identity loss and lack of social cohesion, calling for enhancing social life.

Sri Lanka, Argentina, Thailand, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Morocco, Israel, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Zambia, Singapore, Tanzania, Myanmar, Ghana, Botswana, and Serbia highlighted national efforts, initiatives, and programmes as well as progress towards achieving sustainable urbanization and reducing urban poverty.

Rwanda, Pakistan, Guatemala, Bahrain, Mali, Lesotho, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, India, and Uruguay outlined national policies and practices which align with the UN-Habitat Assembly first session’s theme of “innovation for better quality of life in cities and communities.” Palestine, Cuba, Sierra Leone, Syria, Nigeria, and Oman further described their national efforts to move towards sustainable urban environments.

Burkina Faso, Egypt, and others welcomed the Assembly’s theme and sub-theme, noting that these are key to addressing rapid urbanization at the national level. Portugal noted that the country’s urban policy is based on SDG 11, and includes a focus on decarbonization and incorporating circularity to promote a better quality of life. Mexico noted that the country’s new government has prioritized the elimination of poverty and reducing inequalities, including through urban development plans; and called on UN-Habitat to partner with other UN agencies to ensure the world meets the SDGs.

Cameroon highlighted that it is prioritizing efficient city design to address rapid urban growth, and announced a contribution of USD 565,000 to UN-Habitat’s work in the region. Zimbabwe drew attention to city upgrading programmes, home refurbishments, and urban regeneration activities at the national level. Describing the dire conflict situation in the country, Yemen called for financial assistance to ensure the provision of shelter to those most affected. Somalia called for special attention to post-conflict societies in the implementation of the NUA.

Spain noted that SDGs “will be achieved through a bottom-up approach,” stressing the role of local governments to promote social cohesion in urban centers. Brazil said that the new UN-Habitat structure will accelerate implementation of the NUA and the SDGs, stressing the need to increase coherence in capacity building, including via the relevant draft resolution. Emphasizing the role of the private sector, Colombia drew attention to the promotion of city models that are balanced, and focused on efficient land use, provision of services, and social inclusion.

Mauritius emphasized that “innovation is synonymous with economic stability, global prosperity, and survival,” and underscored the need to address local governments directly to promote sustainable urbanization, notwithstanding the role of national governments. Liberia emphasized the need to coordinate work among different sectors, not only to reduce disparities, but also to promote institutional collaboration.

Canada and Australia stressed that healthy, diverse, and safe communities leave no space for exclusion and intolerance. Underscoring that the NUA calls for inequality reduction, sustainable economic growth, and gender equality, they emphasized empowerment of women and girls as well as the need to ensure the recognition of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual and Intersex (LGBTI) community in the urban sustainability discussion.

Chile highlighted national initiatives including programmes to: provide housing to vulnerable families; revitalize deteriorated areas; and create a network of urban parks. Cambodia expressed commitment to the NUA and outlined efforts to mainstream relevant aspects into national policy and plans. The Philippines highlighted a long-term vision to provide shelter and security, and drew attention to city developments, including the new Manila Bay.

Malawi welcomed ongoing UN-Habitat reform efforts announcing a non-earmarked contribution of USD 10,000 and called for the UN-Habitat country office in Malawi to be reopened. Timor Leste highlighted national polices and legislation, and requested additional support for urban development and housing.

The Czech Republic called on UN-Habitat to initiate a system of permanent cooperation with all UN regional economic offices, further calling for greater cooperation and partnership within the UN system, and with the private sector and other entities. Underlining the need for public-private partnerships in the provision of low-cost housing solutions, Seychelles stated that the country has embraced the Blue Economy approach to harness the opportunities presented by the ocean.

Highlighting that the country’s 2015 constitution aligns with the SDGs, Nepal lamented the lack of basic services in many urban areas in the country, and pointed to collaborations with the private sector and local governments to help address this gap. The Solomon Islands noted his country’s priority to leave no one behind and called for speedy action to address the challenges presented by urbanization, stating that the government partners with UN-Habitat and development partners to implement the SDGs and the NUA.

Paraguay drew attention to the country’s new ministry of urban development and planning, which he noted provides the necessary regulatory backing for the development of affordable housing units in 250 municipalities, and for the implementation of decisions of the NUA. Sudan observed that success in implementing the SDGs will depend on capacity to manage rapid urbanization, observing that governments are less capable of dealing with rapid growth. He explained that a USD one million national fund for housing has been established to provide affordable housing, and so far 20,000 units have been developed.

The United Arab Emirates extended an invitation to delegates to the 10th World Urban Forum, in February 2020, in Abu Dhabi. The League of Arab States outlined its strategy for housing and urban development, and expressed a desire to further cooperate with UN-Habitat.

Poland highlighted its national development policy, including an urban development component, and the large-scale construction of affordable housing in 150 towns and cities. Finland highlighted a partnership-based national action plan for sustainable urban development, aimed at creating low carbon, smart, socially inclusive, and healthy cities. The UK noted support for resilient sustainable urbanization that drives economic development, highlighting a five-year, GBP 70 million urban development programme, and collaboration on Kenya’s affordable housing programme.

France outlined the country’s priorities including: housing for all, especially the most vulnerable; the implementation of the Paris Agreement; the preservation of biodiversity in urban and peri-urban areas; encouraging partnerships with academia, local governments, the private sector, and others; and sustainable urban planning. The Democratic Republic of Congo reiterated its dedication to promoting decent and affordable housing, and announced that the country would make a contribution to the voluntary trust fund in the coming days.

The Global Stakeholder Forum presented the first Global Stakeholder Forum Declaration on a new stakeholder compact for the NUA aimed at creating an enabling environment for innovative urban solutions. The Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development underlined that SDG 11 cannot be achieved through a business-as-usual approach, but requires innovative approaches and strategies.

The International Society of City and Regional Planners introduced the Habitat Professionals Forum, which represents 15 million professionals worldwide who are interested in engaging in the implementation of the NUA through national and local government partnerships.

Campus Housing Services called on the Assembly to consider requiring, in UN-Habitat’s procurement processes, that private sector institutions provide their statements of commitment to the implementation of the NUA during the tendering process. Expressing support for the Stakeholder Advisory Group, the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization called for UN-Habitat to also work with architects, city planners, and designers to assist countries to create sustainable, efficient urban areas. Global Rights to Cities stressed that actioning the “right to cities” will strengthen the implementation of the NUA and the SDGs.

UN Economic Commission for Europe highlighted the key role of regional commissions in sustainable urbanization, given its convening power and expertise, and called for governments to refocus activities in order to ensure effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The Global Stakeholder Forum highlighted the Stakeholder Forum Declaration, emphasizing the need to strengthen capacity for local governments for the implementation of the NUA as well as to set up national frameworks to enable local stakeholders to implement the NUA.

The Advisory Group on Gender welcomed the draft resolution on gender, describing it as “the most committed so far” and called for UN-Habitat to promote effective integration and mainstreaming of gender in policy and programmes. The International Council of Women encouraged member states to accelerate progress in order to achieve gender equality and requested that adequate resources be allocated for this. Grassroots and Informal Sector noted that grassroots women all over the world are key implementers of the NUA and encouraged states and UN-Habitat to accelerate progress in achieving gender equality and bring grassroots women into parity in decision-making processes.

The Regional Youth Advisory Board expressed appreciation for UN-Habitat’s collaborative efforts, noting that 500,000 young people have received training, and calling for the UN-Habitat Youth and livelihood unit to be funded and for youth issues to be mainstreamed across the agency. Habitat for Humanity urged governments and UN-Habitat to continue to prioritize housing in the achievement of development objectives. She highlighted efforts aimed at enabling stakeholder engagement on housing and land polices, and on ensuring the rights of vulnerable populations and women over safer and affordable housing.

Business Leaders Dialogue called for a significant evolution on how UN-Habitat works with the private sector. She noted that UN-Habitat could and should play an integral role in providing guidance to the private sector with the help of an intermediary, such as a capital advisory platform, which couldprovide innovative financing tools and mobilize investors to help unlock USD 100 million in financing.

Ax:son Johnson Foundation stressed the importance of open public spaces to drive innovation, cooperation, partnership and development. The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning underlined the importance of city planning for the achievement of the NUA, the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agreement, the Sendai Framework, and the Paris Agreement. The Pen Institute for Urban Research expressed willingness to share knowledge and research to assist states and UN-Habitat partners to achieve the SDGs. The International Union of Architects drew attention to a recent publication, “An Architectural Guide to the SDGs,” noting that this will help architects align their work to support the implementation of the SDGs. The Ohaha Family Foundation called for greater support for housing internally displaced peoples and refugees.

The Organization of Colleges of Urban Jurisprudence called for human rights- and people-centered approaches to urban planning. Urging the UN-Habitat Assembly to act in the self interest of all people, the Port Louis Development Initiative, called for imposing sanctions on those opposing sustainable development and action on climate change, and called for innovative change for all.

Shelter Afrique drew attention to the housing crisis, noting that there is a deficit of 51 million housing units in sub-Saharan Africa, and pointed to the organization’s innovative housing solutions to meet the housing gap. The UN Nairobi Staff Union welcomed the leadership of Executive Director Sharif, commending her efforts to engage, include, and involve staff in the delivery of UN-Habitat’s mandate.

Drafting Committee

On Monday, in plenary, President Delgado proposed, and delegates agreed, that the drafting committee would be chaired by Fernando Coimbra, Brazil. She noted that the Ministerial Declaration on innovation for better quality of life in cities and communities (HSP/HA/1/L.3) was scheduled for adoption on Friday, and called on delegates to forward any relevant, additional comments by Wednesday.

The drafting committee met from Tuesday to Friday morning, addressing six draft resolutions and one decision.

On Friday, drafting committee Chair Coimbra announced that consensus had been reached on five draft resolutions and one decision. He added that one draft resolution on access to and interrelationship between urban social infrastructure had been forwarded to the Executive Board for its consideration at its next meeting.

Delegates then adopted, by acclamation, a Decision on the arrangements for the transition towards the new governance structure of UN-Habitat (HSP/HA.1/L.9) as well as five Resolutions on:

  • UN-Habitat’s Strategic Plan for the period 2020–2023 (HSP/HA.1/L.4/REV.1);
  • UN System-Wide Guidelines on Safer Cities and Human Settlements (HSP/HA.1/L.5/REV.1);
  • Enhancing capacity building for the implementation of the NUA and the urban dimension of the 2030 Agenda (HSP/HA.1/L.6/REV.1);
  • Achieving gender equality through the work of the UN-Habitat to support inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities and human settlements (HSP/HA.1/L.7/REV.1); and
  • Enhancing urban-rural linkages for sustainable urbanization and human settlements (HSP/HA.1/L.8).

Final Outcomes

UN Human Settlements Programme Strategic Plan for the period 2020–2023: In the final resolution, the Assembly, inter alia:

approves the Strategic Plan for the period 2020–2023, in particular its four mutually reinforcing domains of change, namely: reduced spatial inequality and poverty in communities across the urban-rural continuum; enhanced shared prosperity of cities and regions; strengthened climate action and improved urban environment; and effective urban crisis prevention and response;

emphasizes the importance of developing a knowledge-based approach to urban and territorial development, and requests the Executive Director to implement that approach, including through collaboration with relevant actors and institutions; and

urges all Member States making earmarked financial contributions for the operational activities of UN-Habitat to ensure that such resources are fully aligned with the Strategic Plan and are in accordance with the priorities of the Member States benefiting from those contributions.

The Assembly further requests the Executive Director to, among other things:

  • submit for approval to the Executive Board a results framework with concise performance indicators and a method for the corresponding collection of data for evaluation against the indicators; an impact communication strategy; a partnerships strategy; a typology of human settlement demands; an accountability framework and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for assessing the implementation of the framework; a resource mobilization strategy; and a financial plan, all needed to support the implementation of the Strategic Plan for the period 2020–2023;
  • report annually to Member States through the Executive Board, and to the UN-Habitat Assembly on progress achieved in the implementation of the Strategic Plan and the activities set out in the UN-Habitat work programme;
  • continue strengthening the implementation of results-based management in all the programmes, projects, policies and activities of UN-Habitat and develop, in consultation with the Executive Board, a results-based management policy; and
  • ensure that reporting on funding is transparent and easily accessible by Member States.

UN System-Wide Guidelines on Safer Cities and Human Settlements: In the final Resolution, the Assembly, inter alia:

  • adopts the UN System-Wide Guidelines on Safer Cities and Human Settlements;
  • requests the General Assembly to ensure the publication of the Guidelines;
  • directs the Executive Director, taking into account the Guidelines, to provide the Executive Board with a concept note, including financial costing, on the implementation of a review process for the Guidelines in a manner that enables Member States to share their experiences and best practices;
  • encourages Member States to continue to engage with local authorities and other stakeholders, including those from civil society, with a view to the promotion and further refinement of their approaches to safer cities and human settlements; and
  • invites the UN agencies, programmes and funds working in the field of urban crime prevention and urban safety, including linkages to mobility but not limited to road safety, to share their experiences in making cities and human settlements safer.

The annex to the resolution contains the UN system-wide guidelines on safer cities and human settlements.

Enhancing Capacity Building for the Implementation of the NUA and the Urban Dimension of the 2030 Agenda: In the final Resolution, the Assembly, inter alia:

  • requests the Executive Director to draft a strategy to enable the Research and Capacity-Development Branch to coordinate and lead capacity building as a cross-cutting function, and further requests that the draft strategy be presented to the Executive Board for deliberation at its first resumed session;
  • requests the Executive Director to develop a strengthened and integrated capacity-building approach to support the achievement of sustainable urban development, with inclusive consultations that take into account the needs of Member States; and
  • requests the Executive Director to support Member States in their efforts to mobilize human and financial resources to develop and implement capacity-building programmes.

Achieving Gender Equality Through the Work of the UN-Habitat to Support Inclusive, Safe, Resilient, and Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements: In the final Resolution, the Assembly, inter alia:

  • requests the Executive Director, with the support of Member States, to strengthen and support UN-Habitat in executing a two-fold gender strategy in the following areas: mainstreaming gender equality and women’s empowerment into the normative work and operational programmes of UN-Habitat in all key focus areas; and setting up policies and programmes to support efforts to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment within the scope of existing resources;
  • encourages the Executive Director to engage and work meaningfully with other UN entities, civil-society organizations, women leaders in local authorities, the private sector, the media and grassroots women’s and community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations as well as experts, building on their leadership in and knowledge of sustainable development while observing gender equality and addressing the differentiated needs, notably of women and girls, in order to improve the efficiency and impact of programmes and activities;
  • urges the Executive Director to support and make optimal use of the Advisory Group on Gender Issues as well as other relevant networks to facilitate gender mainstreaming within UN-Habitat and the effective integration of the gender equality perspective into its policies and programmes aimed at implementing its Strategic Plan and Programme of Work, and in targeting improved gender parity in the Organization; and
  • recommends that the Executive Director allocate adequate existing resources for the development and implementation of an updated version for the period 2020–2025 of the revised policy and plan for gender equality.

Enhancing Urban-Rural Linkages for Sustainable Urbanization and Human Settlements: In the final Resolution, the Assembly requests the Executive Director to inter alia: in consultation with relevant international and regional institutions, develop mechanisms for enhancing urban-rural linkages, and calls upon the Executive Board to consider possible implementation options; disseminate and share good practices and policies relating to the impact of urban-rural linkages; assist Member States in developing policies and programmes to address migration from rural to urban areas; and to submit, through the Executive Board, a report to the second session of the UN-Habitat Assembly on progress on implementation.

Decision on Arrangements for the Transition Towards the New Governance Structure of UN-Habitat: In the final Decision, the Assembly decides, inter alia:

  • that the second session of the UN-Habitat Assembly will be held from 5-9 June 2023 as well as the content of the meeting’s agenda;
  • that the Bureau of the first session of the UN-Habitat Assembly shall remain in office until the end of second session of the UN-Habitat Assembly;
  • to assume responsibility on the follow up of the decisions and resolutions adopted by the UN-Habitat Governing Council;
  • to entrust the Executive Board to continue discussions on the development of a UN-Habitat Stakeholders Engagement Policy as well as to exceptionally receive the 2019 report of the Strategic Plan for the entire cycle of 2014-2019; and
  • to dissolve the Working Group on Programme and Budget.

Ministerial Declaration: The Ministerial Declaration of the first session of the UN-Habitat Assembly is titled ‘Innovation for better quality of life in cities and communities: accelerated implementation of the NUA towards the achievement of the SDGs.’ Through the Declaration, the Ministers responsible for cities and human settlements recognize that the current unprecedented era of increasing urbanization constitutes both a challenge and an opportunity to promote sustainable development across the urban-rural continuum.

In particular, the Ministers, inter alia:

  • recognize the systemic and multifaceted transformative power of urbanization;
  • underscore the urgent need to improve the quality of life for all, and to promote sustainable patterns of consumption and production;
  • recognize that innovative approaches and solutions are necessary to accelerate the implementation of the NUA to support the achievement of the SDGs as well as the need to invest in integrated, coherent, and inclusive approaches in policy development;
  • decide to address decent and dignified housing, urban development, and urban-territorial and urban-rural linkages in cities and other human settlements through the use of innovative solutions in planning, financing, construction, development, management, cooperation, and public-private partnerships;
  • endorse the UN-Habitat Strategic Plan for the period 2020-2023 and welcome and support the next WUF sessions;
  • recognize and fully support the role and expertise of UN-Habitat as a focal point for sustainable urbanization and human settlements, and call its Executive Director to support their local, regional, national, and international efforts; and
  • stress the importance of predictable and sustainable funding for UN-Habitat.

Regarding the NUA implementation, the Ministers commit themselves to taking the following actions, in line with national circumstances and capabilities:

  • adopt and implement place-based innovative, integrated, and systemic solutions to address spatial inequalities, poverty, slums, decent and dignified housing, and social protection, and to increase the prosperity of cities, while furthering climate action and urban resilience;
  • promote smart, sustainable, and inclusive strategic planning and integrated technologies to ensure quality of life for all, with proper attention to gender equality and social inclusion;
  • seek state-of-the-art and creative solutions for current and new urban challenges, with particular attention to the urban-rural continuum and territorial surroundings, and for the need to promote the development of rural regions by strengthening public-private partnerships and developing participatory solutions for cities and rural settlements;
  • strengthen regional, national, and local legislation and policies, institutions, and service providers;
  • promote sustainable and innovative financing opportunities and mechanisms and unlock new capital for investment in sustainable urbanization;
  • improve urban, village, and rural monitoring and forecasting systems, territorial modelling and planning tools, land use mapping, and data-management capacities;
  • recognize the importance of developing monitoring tools;
  • engage all stakeholders, including women, children, youth, the elderly, persons with disabilities, local communities, indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons, and persons in vulnerable situations, in participatory and inclusive urban governance; and
  • strengthen mobilization and advocacy efforts, particularly the yearly observance of Urban October, which starts on World Habitat Day and ends on World Cities Day, to raise awareness, promote participation, generate knowledge and engage the international community in sustainable urban development.

Executive Board

Election of the Members of the Executive Board: On Thursday, the first session of the UN-Habitat Assembly elected 36 Member States to the Executive Board by acclamation: Angola, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Poland, Romania, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Uruguay, Canada, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and USA.

Malaysia expressed disappointment with the process for electing officers to the Executive Board, highlighting the lack of geographic and gender balance.

Noting that a previous call for a vote on the members of the Executive Board from the CEE region had not been considered and disassociating his country from the election, Ukraine outlined his county’s misgivings over electing the Russian Federation to the Executive Board for a four-year term, pointing to the occupation of Crimea and large-scale military action in the country by the Russian Federation. President Delgado noted that this statement would be recorded in the meeting report.

The Russian Federation cautioned against the politicization of UN-Habitat Assembly, noting that the issue of the status of Crimea had been resolved in line with international law, and stressed that the election of his country to the Executive Board was in line with the rules of procedure.

Adoption of the Executive Board’s Rules of Procedure: At the first meeting of the Board, Chair Dando proposed, and delegates agreed, to adopt their rules of procedure (HSP/HA/1/9). China, with the Russian Federation, proposed that non-state actors could participate in Executive Board meetings (rule 17) “as observers,” and with Brazil, Costa Rica, and Ethiopia, called for the rules to be endorsed by the Assembly. Romania and Poland noted that the rules had already been adopted and should not be reopened. The EU, supported by the US, underlined that this amendment would change the rule’s spirit.

Chair Dando assured delegates that the rules would be forwarded to the Assembly for adoption. Following a lengthy discussion, China then withdrew the amendment.

Adoption of the Provisional Agenda: The Board adopted the agenda (HSP/EB/1/1), including the adoption of the rules of procedure proposed by Chair Dando and the endorsement of the draft resolution on safer cities proposed by Germany, South Africa, and Brazil.

Election of the Executive Board Bureau: The Board elected China, the Russian Federation, and Argentina as Vice-Chairs; and Malawi as rapporteur.

Draft Workplan of the Executive Board for 2019–2020: Noting no supporting documentation for this item, Chair Dando proposed, and delegates agreed, that: the Executive Board would convene for its second meeting from 18-20 November 2019; the Bureau would meet prior to the next Board meeting; and the annual work programme and budget, and the annual report on the implementation of the strategic plan would be considered at the next meeting.

Approval of the Annual Work Programme and the Budget for 2020: Chair Dando proposed deferring consideration of the work programme and budget (HSP/EB/1/2) to the next meeting.

Executive Director Sharif noted that the Board’s first task would be to review the budget and work programme, and called for the Board to support financial resource mobilization.

Safer Cities: As recommended by the first session of the UN-Habitat Assembly drafting committee, Chair Dando proposed, and delegates agreed, to approve the draft resolution on UN System-Wide Guidelines on Safer Cities and Human Settlements (HSP/HA/1/L.4).

Executive Board Report: In plenary on Friday, Lori Dando presented the report of the first meeting of the Executive Board (HSP/HA/1/L.2), noting that the Board had adopted its rules of procedure (HSP/HA/1/9) and called on the Assembly to endorse these rules. The Assembly then endorsed the Executive Board’s Rules of Procedure and adopted the report.

High-Level Segment

On Wednesday, the first session of the UN-Habitat Assembly held its high-level segment.

Opening Panel: Julie Gichuru, Media Personality, Kenya, moderated the panel discussion.

President Delgado, noted that the future will be predominately urban and innovation is an essential ingredient for fostering prosperous, inclusive cities. She stressed the importance of local governments’ leadership for effective decision making and cautioned against corruption, ensuring that private sector engagement is based on sound regulatory policies.

Executive Director Sharif, invited delegates to reflect on: how cities could promote smart urban technologies; national requirements for fostering innovative solutions; how national institutions could be reinforced to better integrate new knowledge and solutions; the role of UN-Habitat in engaging actors in the smart cities sector; and what role UN-Habitat could play in assessing and advising on the innovation capacities of cities globally. She further stressed that the normative component of UN-Habitat’s work could assist countries to address crises in urban areas, and underlined the convening power of UN-Habitat to link governments and citizens with the private sector to create bankable urban development projects.

Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, said affordable housing is a priority and explained that demand for affordable housing units in Kenya has exceeded the country’s target of 500,000 new units. He stressed the need for innovative ways to achieve this objective, including by partnering with the private sector. Underscoring the role of small and medium enterprises, he stressed the need for creating the enabling environment for partnerships with the private sector, noting the role of governments in ensuring that the right policies and frameworks are in place. President Kenyatta reiterated Kenya’s commitment to the climate change agenda and to multilateral institutions including UN-Habitat, announcing the country’s contribution of an additional USD 100,000 to the Voluntary Fund.

Salva Kiir, President of South Sudan, drew attention to the lack of housing in South Sudan and the need to implement the revitalized peace agreement to pave the way for infrastructure development. He noted that private sector engagement is very weak in South Sudan, emphasizing the role of banks in providing loans for small businesses. President Kiir further announced his country’s contribution of USD 40,000 for UN-Habitat’s work, including implementation of the NUA.

Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji, highlighted the urgency of the climate crisis, calling for ambitious global action. He emphasized adaptation, noting that Cyclone Winston had exposed vulnerabilities across the national economy. He added that, in the face of worsening climate impacts adaptation efforts “will not save us without cutting emissions,” and highlighted the need for new financing mechanisms, access to expertise and new technologies, and the need for all stakeholders to be part of the solution. Prime Minister Bainimarama called on decision makers to attend the Climate Action Summit in September 2019, in New York, with more robust nationally determined contributions and revised emissions targets.

Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, Prime Minister of Yemen, emphasized multiple challenges for countries in conflict. He highlighted problems associated with infrastructure degradation and internally displaced people, and noted that innovation and technology could assist in overcoming some of the challenges. He underscored the need for safeguards and guarantees for private sector investors, including at the national level, drawing parallels between infrastructure development and investments. Prime Minister Saeed highlighted that the country’s oil and gas sector contributes 20% of profits to urban development, despite the current conflict.

Members of the panel then signed a graffiti wall, designed by eight Kenyan girls, depicting the future achievement of the SDGs.

High-Level Interactive Strategic Dialogues

Creating an Enabling Environment for Innovation: Elin Olsson, Secretary of State, Sweden, emphasized that urban development is site-specific so innovation should be based on local conditions and participatory planning, focusing on multifunctional solutions.

Wallis Goelen, Advisor to Deputy Director General, DG REGIO, European Commission, pointed out that innovation is not “spontaneous,” and a policy framework and enabling conditions are necessary alongside targeted interventions that support bottom-up solutions. She noted that over the next seven years, the EU would provide EUR 370 billion to support innovation, and called for creative monitoring and reporting beyond traditional statistical data, and for social entrepreneurship.

Siraj Sait, University of East London, UK, highlighted the first Global Stakeholder Forum Declaration on a new stakeholder compact for the NUA, aimed at creating an enabling environment for innovative urban solutions.

Irene Campos Gómez, Minister of Housing and Human Settlements, Costa Rica, highlighted a fund for technological innovation aimed at small businesses as well as a virtual solid-waste management platform. She cautioned against pushing innovation for its own sake, seeing it rather as a way to do things differently.

Fatimetou Abdel Malick, President, Nouakchott Regional Council, Mauritania, underscored a people-centered approach at the local and regional levels and noted that rapid unmanaged urbanization increases risks but also provides opportunities for innovation.

Implementation, Partnerships, and Good Practices for Cities and Communities: Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director, UNEP, pointed to the need to “capture the attention” of the youth, noting that UNEP is working on improving communication to connect better with local communities, including through local languages.

Basim bin Yacoub Al-Hamer, Minister of Housing, Bahrain, emphasized public engagement to provide innovative solutions to urban challenges. He highlighted the importance of an effective monitoring system in order for governments to take proactive decisions. Stating that “life is full of challenges and limitations,” Al-Hamer called for a stepwise approach to urban development.

Ridwan Kamil, Governor, West Java, Indonesia, underscored the importance of servant-leadership in delivering services to the community, and described West Java’s “Government 3.0” as a model of participatory governance. Underlining the need to prioritize people, he stressed that inclusive collaboration will be the driving force to effectively implement the NUA and achieve the SDGs.

Noraini Binti Roslan, Mayor, Subang Jaya, Malaysia, stressed that local authorities should not wait for the national government to provide funding, but should rather work through multi-stakeholder partnerships to address community challenges. She highlighted the importance of empowering the people and engaging in new partnerships to create “win-win” solutions.

Cezanne Maherali, Uber, East Africa, noted that the company has created affordable access to mobility, highlighting that it continues to find innovative ways to decrease costs while fostering sustainability. She described UN-Habitat as the interlocuter between governments and the private sector, noting that public-private partnerships could contribute to addressing urban challenges.

Alex Awiti, Vice Provost, The Aga Khan University, Kenya, highlighted that UN-Habitat could play a key role in sharing lessons and best practices to help address rapid urbanization across borders. He pointed to the important role of partnerships between academia and decision makers in development planning.

Investing in Urban Innovation for Business: Shimoy Hajare, Youth Representative, Jamaica, called for focusing on: innovation in the context of addressing needs; and youth entrepreneurs in the blue and green economies. She emphasized the importance of apprenticeship to close the skills gap, and urged innovation and creativity in a youth-accessible context. Hajare opined that an inclusive city should provide a space for everyone, and called for more dialogue to encourage investment in youth.

Marina Klemensiewicz, Secretary of Urban Infrastructure, Ministry of Interior, Argentina, highlighted collaboration with UN-Habitat on the elaboration of a first national policy for infrastructure, and outlined new legislation for implementing public-private partnerships, aimed at creating a stable investment environment. She stressed that national governments, other than establishing the necessary frameworks, need to build trust with the private sector and transmit this trust to local governments. Klemensiewicz underscored the importance of collective, multi-stakeholder planning processes to guarantee “at least a certain level of sustainability.”

Ullrich Sierau, Mayor, Dortmund, Germany, highlighted trust and consultation as prerequisites for fostering private sector investment, noting that in the last 20 years 100,000 jobs have been created in Dortmund. He emphasized that, in addition to adequate financial resources, building trust and taking quick decisions are key in a consolidated process of innovation. Sierau called for more inclusive decision-making processes, which take into account youth perspectives, the private sector, and civil society, and encourage innovation, partnership, and action.

James Hanna, Director of Datacenter Community Development, Microsoft, US, noted that investment in strong resilient communities, low carbon technologies, and youth makes business sense and translates into common success metrics. He highlighted the need for an early focus on technology in education systems, stressing that “technology is just the tool to be used in order to address the human side of the equation.” Hanna called for urgent action to address climate change, rapid urbanization, and poverty, stating that UN-Habitat could be the conduit to facilitate the actions required to deal with these challenges.

Advocating a systemic approach, François Pitti, Director for Innovation, Bouygues, France, highlighted his company’s City Play initiative, which poses the questions: what is your dream for the city; and what does it take to make it happen? He noted that co-designing smart cities with young people provided surprising results, calling for international processes, which listen to youth as part of a cultural revolution. Pitti called on UN-Habitat to link suitable relevant partners together to implement sustainable urban policies.

Marc Collins Chen, Co-Founder and CEO, Oceanix, US, explained how his company is partnering with governments to develop floating cities to address sea-level rise and the growth of coastal cities. He suggested that UN-Habitat could play an interesting role in matching startups with pilot cities in need of technology. He underlined the importance of scalable, replicable urban planning policies and actions to create more inclusive, sustainable cities.

Special Events

One UN Dialogue: This Dialogue brought together countries and UN agencies to discuss how to best utilize the UN Sustainable Development Group in the implementation of the UN System-wide Strategy on Sustainable Urban Development. Delegates heard reports from UN Resident Coordinators from Bolivia, Kenya, Montenegro, and Bahrain, amongst others, who are in the initial phases of implementing the Strategy by advising governments on urban policy; as well as heads of UN Agencies, who detailed further opportunities for collaboration with UN-Habitat in the implementation of the NUA.

Partnership and Pledging Conference: The Partnership and Pledging Conference, moderated by Julie Gichuru, Media Personality, Kenya, brought together Member States and a variety of stakeholders, with the aim of providing financial support for UN-Habitat’s approved programmes of work for 2019 and 2020.

Executive Director Sharif called the event a testimony to the global commitment to advance goals related to sustainable urbanization Noting that one third of the SDG targets have an urban component, she emphasized that the total cost of the Strategic Plan amounts to USD 1.9 billion.

Lars Gronveld, Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development, European Commission, stressed the need to find innovative ways to strengthen capacities by engaging in the financing agenda and unblocking constraints for urban finance. Irene Campos Gómez, Minister of Housing and Human Settlement, Costa Rica, underscored the importance of preferential loans and capacity building. Naser Khraibut, Kuwait, stressed that contributions go beyond monetary ones, highlighting that “if one is not part of the solution, he/she is part of the problem.”

Armand Roland Pierre Béouindé, Mayor, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, discussed major urban challenges, highlighting the need for financing to strengthen local governments. Alexandre Pinho, Microsoft, Portugal, drew attention to the digital transformation partnership with UN-Habitat, focusing on fit-for-purpose use of available resources, and value added via building partnerships.

During the pledging session, participants announced pledges for non-earmarked, soft-earmarked, and specific programmes in the 2019 and 2020 programmes of work. Germany, Switzerland, India, Madagascar, Japan, Malawi, Kenya, Morocco, Republic of Congo, China, Sweden, France, South Africa, Nigeria, The Gambia, Colombia, and Poland announced contributions and pledges. The Conference raised more than USD 150 million in contributions and commitments.

Executive Secretary Sharif acknowledged the new pledges and contributions in addition to existing contributions from Member States, local governments, and other donors, including civil society organizations and the private sector.

Innovative Urban Mobility for Sustainable Cities in Africa

Panel on Urban Mobility: Oliver Lah, Wupperthal Institut, Germany, moderated the session. Rafael Tuts, UN-Habitat, on behalf of Executive Director Sharif, emphasized the need for more inclusive, safe, and reliable transport as an enabler of social and economic development. In a video message, Jean Todt, UN Special Envoy for Road Safety, pointed out that 1.5 million people die on the roads annually, and recommended: regulating ride hailing services; advancement in transport technology; and promoting infrastructure updates that prioritize non-motorized transport.

Zemedkun Girma Tessema, Africa Transport Policy Programme (ATPP), World Bank, highlighted that the ATPP aimed at contributing to transport policy development. Sylvain Haon, Union Internationale des Transports Publics, explained how his organization is working on sustainable urban mobility strategies and engaging with local communities, emphasizing the need for mobility champions.

During the high-level panel discussion, James Macharia, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, and Urban Development, Kenya, discussed transport challenges in Nairobi and the introduction of an integrated transport system combining Bus Rapid Transport with commuter trains and investments in the road network. Tazer Gebreegziabher Berha, State Minister, Ethiopia, discussed plans to triple the road network, highlighting challenges around maintaining infrastructure, administering the rail networks, and highway connectivity issues.

Claver Gatete, Minister of Infrastructure, Rwanda, outlined transport regulatory requirements and highlighted the role technology plays in “tap and go” payment on buses, and bus arrival information. Noureddine Selmi, Minister of Equipment, Housing and Territorial Planning, Tunisia, discussed collaboration with Morocco and Libya on a major highway project, and efforts to develop the interior of the country and build smart cities.

Damià Calvet i Valera, Regional Minister of Territory and Sustainability, Catalonia, Spain, highlighted: an integrated fare system; the need to expand the transport network; and a t-mobility card, a new method to calculate fares according to real distance travelled. Jane Akumu, UN Environment, stressed the need for more fuel-efficient vehicles, especially in African cities, noting that although motorization rates are low, growth rates are in double digits.

Operationalizing Mobility Policies: Chris Kost, Africa Director, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, called for ensuring a dedicated space for public transport in city planning, not as an after-thought, but as a priority. Amanda Ngabirano, Vice President, World Cycling Alliance, underscored cycling- and walking-inclusive plans for cities. Winnie Mitullah, University of Nairobi, stressed the need for building relevant skills and expertise, in addition to financial resources.

Edwins Mukabanah, Chairman, Federation of Public Transport Sector Operators, Kenya, highlighted capacity building, sustainable funding, and data access and management. Susan Goodwilie, Flone Initiative, discussed the need for safe and accessible public transportation for women and other vulnerable groups in African cities.

Inspiring Innovation and Mobility Solutions: Stefanie Holzwarth, UN-Habitat, moderated the session. Arlene Ducao, Multimer Biosensors, presented a tool, which uses biometric data to measure cyclists’ stress levels in Nairobi. Vincent Loubiere, Airbus Urban Mobility, focused on integrating air mobility within a broader, holistic mobility system. Cezanne Maherali, Uber, East Africa, highlighted Uber Movement, a tool using Uber data to enhance city planning, and Speeds, a tool measuring average speed on individual streets.

Federico Parolotto, Mobility in Chain, presented different projects around the world, including redistribution of urban spaces and the use of technology for data collection. Filip Lövström, CEO and CTO, Opibus AB, focused on electrified safari vehicles and motorbikes, offering cost-effective and environmentally sustainable transport solutions.

Gladys Njeri, University of Nairobi, discussed acceleration and incubation services as well as funding support to scale up transformative solutions for urban mobility in African cities. Jackie Klopp, DigitalTransport4Africa, highlighted efforts to connect different mapping initiatives for high-quality, transport-related data generation, and sharing through open source tools.

Jonas Tesfu, Co-Founder and CEO, Pangea Accelerator, highlighted ways to accelerate the uptake of digital solutions to address urbanization challenges in Africa. Alex Mungai, Little Cab Kenya, presented some of the benefits Little Cab provides, including environmental sustainability, employment creation, and safety.

Mobility Solutions for a Better Climate Future and Tracking Action Towards the SDGs: Maruxa Cardama, Secretary General of the Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport, highlighted a vision for decarbonizing transport in cities, and efforts to mobilize the transport sector towards the UN Secretary-General’s upcoming Climate Action Summit. Robert Ndugwa, UN-Habitat, discussed progress in monitoring target 10 of SDG 11 on access to public transport, and support to countries to collect relevant information.

Philip Turner, International Association of Public Transport, highlighted outcomes from the 2014 Declaration on Climate Leadership, resulting in over 350 projects in 80 cities from over 100 organizations addressing sustainable transport. Anne Leemans, Yellow Design Foundation, Belgium, presented the SPINAPP project, designed to enable stations to become more environmentally sustainable and secure.

Susan Grant-Muller, University of Leeds, UK, discussed behavioral measures aimed at reducing carbon from the transport sector by encouraging people to rethink transport choices, delivered through digital technologies.

Towards Implementation Action: Daniel Guenther, BMZ, presented on the Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI). Noting that “the future happens first in cities,” Philip Dinga, C40 Cities Finance Facility, said the Facility is city-driven and non-burdensome.

Concluding the event, Debashish Bhattacharjee, UN-Habitat, presented the session’s communiqué, which includes recommendations to governments on, inter alia, better coordination between national transport and urban policies to improve mobility outcomes at the city and metropolitan levels.

Closing Plenary

Adoption of the report: UN-Habitat Assembly first session’s Rapporteur Wu Peng (China) presented the draft report (HSP/HA.1/L.1) and the draft proceedings (HSP/HA/1/L.1/Add.1) of the first session of the UN-Habitat Assembly. Plenary adopted both reports with the clarification that incomplete sections would be completed by the Rapporteur.

Closing remarks: The US looked forward to adopting an inclusive, transparent and fair civil society policy; pointed out that the 2020-23 Strategic Plan needs to be more focused; cautioned against positioning UN-Habitat as a catalyst in the climate action arena; called for avoiding vague terminology when talking about women; and pointed out that irrespective of the NUA, every country has a sovereign right to decide how they conduct trade with other countries.

Turkey highlighted the Kenya/Turkey Infrastructure, Cities and Local Action (ICLA) coalition as a transformative initiative to scale up climate action, noting that this requires integrated partnerships involving all stakeholders.

Kenya congratulated President Delgado and delegates for a successful first session of the Assembly, highlighting milestones including the adoption of five resolutions, approval of the Strategic Plan and work programme, and called on all to take advantage of new governance structure. He highlighted the ICLA call to action on maximizing the contribution of sustainable urbanization to climate mitigation and urbanization.

Costa Rica underscored gender equality, welcomed the resolution on gender, stressing the need to mainstream gender perspectives in all policies and in the work of UN-Habitat.

Expressing appreciation for the Assembly outcomes, the EU thanked President Delgado and her team, as well as Executive Director Sharif, and highlighted the “exceptional” contribution of the outgoing CPR Chair Coimbra. She assured delegates of the EU’s commitment to sustainable urbanization and human settlements.

Indonesia, Malawi, and Ethiopia congratulated President Delgado and Executive Director Sharif for successfully conducting the first session of the UN-Habitat Assembly, and highlighted the adoption of the Strategic Plan 2020-2023 and key resolutions to accelerate sustainable urbanization and quality development of human settlements.

Niger, on behalf of the African Group, underscored the contribution of well-planned urbanization to the reduction of inequalities and structural economic reform. He noted that the African Group will continue work on sustainable urban development and encourage capacity building at national, regional, and international levels. Reiterating the group’s commitment to work with UN-Habitat to address urban challenges, including refugees and displaced people living in camps, he called for innovative methodologies to further bolster UN-Habitat’s presence on the ground.

In her closing remarks, Executive Director Sharif lauded the Assembly for successfully completing its work, noting that 21 countries had pledged USD 152 million to support the implementation of the NUA. Announcing that “UN-Habitat is back,” she thanked the Kenyan government, UN-Habitat staff, and all delegates, and reiterated the Secretariat’s support to ensure “no one and no place is left behind.” President Delgado praised Sharif for bringing back trust to the organization, expressed her thanks to all for the smooth running of the first session of the UN-Habitat Assembly, and gaveled the meeting to a close at 5:17 pm.

Upcoming Meetings

Innovate4Climate: Innovate4Climate (I4C) is a global event on climate finance, climate investment, and climate markets. In 2019, its third edition will bring together business, finance, policy, and technology leaders to accelerate action on financing climate-smart development by focusing on green finance, clean cooling, battery storage, climate-smart urban design, and Asian climate markets, among other issues. dates: 4-7 June 2019 venue: Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre location: Singapore, Singapore www: https://www.cvent.com/events/innovate4climate/event-summary-decee7fe0cf94765af069f3e7c52ff47.aspx

XIII UNESCO Creative Cities Conference: The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Creative Cities Network will convene its annual Creative Cities Conference. The Network was created in 2004 to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development. dates: 10-15 June 2019 location: Fabriano, Italy www: https://en.unesco.org/creative-cities/

European Urban Resilience Forum: The Forum will explore the co-benefits of adaptation and mitigation, social justice in adaptation actions, strategic narratives for urban heat and health, and innovative schemes for municipal financing for resilience and nature-based solutions. The event is organized by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and the European Environment Agency (EEA). date: 25 June 2019 location: Bonn, Germany www: http://www.urbanresilienceforum.eu/ and http://iclei-europe.org/calendar/?c=search&uid=3rBYfpeK

Resilient Cities 2019: Resilient Cities is the global platform for urban resilience and climate change adaptation. Resilient Cities was first launched in 2010 with the goal of connecting local government leaders and climate change adaptation experts to discuss adaptation challenges facing urban environments around the globe and forging partnerships that could have lasting impacts for cities. dates: 26-28 June 2019 location: Bonn, Germany www: https://resilientcities2019.iclei.org/

2019 UN Civil Society Conference: The 68th UN Civil Society Conference will focus on SDG 11, “to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable by 2030.” The agenda will explore the interlinkages among all 17 SDGs, including critical issues relating to gender. dates: 26-28 August 2019 location: Salt Lake City, US www: https://outreach.un.org/ngorelations/68th-un-civil-society-conference

Climate Action Summit 2019: UN Secretary-General António Guterres will convene a Summit to mobilize political and economic energy at the highest levels to advance climate action that will enable implementation of many of the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The UN 2019 Climate Summit will convene on the theme ‘Climate Action Summit 2019: A Race We Can Win. A Race We Must Win.’ It will seek to challenge states, regions, cities, companies, investors, and citizens to step up action in six areas: energy transition, climate finance and carbon pricing, industry transition, nature-based solutions, cities and local action, and resilience. date: 23 September 2019 location: New York City, USA www: https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/

World Habitat Day 2019: World Habitat Day is celebrated annually on the first Monday of October. The event focuses on the state of human settlements and people’s right to sufficient shelter. It also reminds people that they are responsible for the habitat of future generations. date: 7 October 2019 host country: Cameroon location: worldwide www: https://www.un.org/en/events/habitatday/background.shtml and https://unhabitat.org/world-habitat-day/

Seventh Asia-Pacific Urban Forum: The seventh Asia-Pacific Urban Forum (APUF-7) provides a platform to discuss and analyze the status of implementation of, as well as challenges and opportunities associated with, the NUA, the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the region. APUF-7 will launch ‘The Future of Asia-Pacific Cities Report 2019’ addressing four main thematic tracks: the future of urban and territorial planning; dynamic governance and capacity development; financing innovation in urban infrastructure investments; and new data and technologies for smart cities. dates: 15-17 October 2019 location: Penang, Malaysia www: https://www.unescap.org/events/apuf7

2019 Sustainable Built Environment Conference (SBE19): Under the theme, “Sustainability in the built environment for climate change mitigation,” SBE19 will address sustainability and climate change issues as they relate to the built environment, which includes cities, urban and peri-urban areas. SBE19 is part of a series of regional events that will feed into Beyond 2020, in June 2020. date: 23-25 October 2019 location: Thessaloniki, Greece contact: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki email: info@sbe19-thessaloniki.gr  www: http://sbe19-thessaloniki.gr/#contact-infos

World Cities Day 2019: The UN designated every 31 October as World Cities Day. Events to mark the Day focus on promoting the international community’s interest in global urbanization, pushing forward cooperation among countries in meeting opportunities and addressing challenges of urbanization, and contributing to sustainable urban development around the world. date: 31 October 2019 host city: Ekaterinburg, Russian Federation location: worldwide www: https://www.un.org/en/events/citiesday/

6th UCLG Congress: World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders: Organized by United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), the 6th edition of the triennial UCLG Congress: World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders, will be the first UCLG Congress to coincide with the implementation phase of global agendas such as the NUA, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement on climate change. The meeting will provide an opportunity to present progress in the implementation of the SDGs and their impact at the local level, and to evaluate the evolution of the role of local and regional governments in international policy. dates: 11-15 November 2019 location: Durban, South Africa www: https://www.uclg.org/en/media/events/uclg-world-congress-and-world-council and https://www.uclg.org/en/media/news/uclg-world-congress-2019

Smart City Expo World Congress 2019: Smart City Expo World Congress 2019 aims to be the meeting point to encourage all the stakeholders to engage in dynamic action to enable a sustainable and inclusive future to take hold. To this end, the event will focus on five main tracks touching on the most pressing issues facing cities: digital transformation; urban environment; mobility; governance and finance; and inclusive and sharing cities. dates: 19-21 November 2019 location: Barcelona, Spain www: http://www.smartcityexpo.com/en/the-event/about-2019-edition

Tenth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF10): The Tenth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF10), convened by UN-Habitat, will address key action areas, including: innovative financing mechanisms for sustainable cities; innovative urban solutions in housing, mobility, planning, and governance; technology and data as enablers for sustainable cities; building human and social capital for a sustainable urban future, with a special focus on youth and women; empowering cities as open investment platforms to harness an enabling business and regulatory environments; and the impact of migration on cities. dates: 8-13 February 2020 location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates www: https://unhabitat.org/wuf10/

Beyond 2020: This conference is organized by Chalmers University of Technology and Research Institutes of Sweden, with the support of Johannesburg Science Park and Gothenburg City. It aims at sharing insights in various sustainability-related fields, while also summing up key learnings from regional conferences, in order to share lessons on city planning for the future. date: 9-11 June 2020 location: Gothenburg, Sweden contact: Silvia Caggiati and Karin Weijdegård email: silvia.caggiati@chalmers.se and karin.weijdegard@johannebergsciencepark.com  www: https://beyond2020.se/

Eleventh Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF 11): The eleventh session of the World Urban Forum (WUF11), convened by UN-Habitat, will be held in Poland in 2022. dates: TBC 2022 location: Katowice, Poland www: https://unhabitat.org/wuf/  

2nd UN-Habitat Assembly: The UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) will hold the second session of the UN-Habitat Assembly at UN-Habitat headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2023. The event will bring together UN Member States, UN specialized agencies, local authorities and non-State actors, including civil society, youth and women, the private sector and academia. dates: 5-9 June 2023 venue: UN-Habitat headquarters location: Nairobi, Kenya www: https://unhabitat.org/habitatassembly/

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