Summary report, 11–15 November 2019

World Congress of United Cities and Local Governments and World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders

The United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) World Summit is the largest gathering of mayors, councilors, presidents of local associations, and local and regional practitioners, from around the world. The triennial gathering is designed to bring the world organization’s constituencies together to review and build on a legacy of commitments and advance the UCLG’s role in shaping the multilateral agenda from a local and regional perspective.

The main outcomes of the 2019 Summit were the Durban Political Declaration, titled “Envisioning the Future of Our Renewed International Municipal Movement,” and, for the first time at a UCLG Congress, a compendium of integrated policy recommendations resulting from a six-month consultation process with diverse stakeholders. Titled, “Outcome Document of the World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments,” the compendium also offered bottom-up continental and region-specific priorities. During its plenary session on Friday, the UCLG World Council also appointed a new presidency.

Other outputs during the week included the launch of three initiatives to support localization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), namely:

  • The International Municipal Investment Fund (IMIF) - an initiative of UCLG and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) in collaboration with the Global Fund for Cities Development (FMDV). The Fund will be managed by Meridiam, an independent investment company with extensive experience in financing public infrastructure projects and currently managing €7 billion in assets. The fund aims to accelerate progress towards the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda) and the Paris Agreement on climate change, by increasing available investment for local SDG-oriented projects in developing countries.
  • The “Plant Trees Not Bombs” campaign, which took place in the presence of high-level officials from Durban municipality, with the aim of demonstrating that local policies for peace are on the top of the agenda of the constituency and of the World Summit.
  • The Fifth Report of the Global Observatory on Decentralization and Local Democracy (GOLD V), which assessed national strategies for the implementation of the global agendas in each world region.

The Summit saw a significant boost to the UCLG’s commitment to mainstream the gender equality agenda, with an announcement that 15% of the UCLG budget is to be dedicated to these activities, with support from a newly announced partnership with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

The Summit’s policy outcomes further reflect an evolving role for the UCLG and its Global Task Force (GTF) in serving as an authoritative interlocutor for local and regional government constituencies with the UN and other parts of the multilateral system, as they seek to articulate new visions of planetary governance and transformation that put empowered people and the planet first.

Many speakers noted that the Summit represented a significant moment in the reconstitution and re-imagining of the multilateral system as a whole, to advance a new paradigm of equality, subsidiarity, and ecology. Others highlighted the timeliness of the Summit in giving voice to rising young leaders, who are speaking with authority and driving responses to the climate change emergency. The Summit also offered sober reflections on the crisis of legitimacy in parts of the international system, perhaps best described in one observation as a world aflame with protest and ecological challenge.

Deliberations at the Summit will help chart the course of the UCLG over the next three years, and shape its contribution to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the first review of the New Urban Agenda in 2020. On the immediate horizon for the “decade of SDG implementation” is the UCLG’s contribution to the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women/Beijing+25 and an invitation from the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres’ office to help shape the global multilateral agenda from the perspective of LRGs, during a hearing in 2020 to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the UN.

Over 3,000 delegates and other stakeholders participated in the UCLG World Congress and World Summit at the International Conference Centre in Durban, eThekwini Municipality, South Africa.

Brief History of UCLG and Related Processes

The World Summit builds on the legacy of the century-old international movement of municipalities. UCLG was founded in 2004 to ensure subnational and regional governments and other local authorities have a voice in the international processes that are defining the sustainable development and climate change agendas and addressing other areas of interest at the local level. Since its creation, UCLG has been convening city and local government representatives around common issues affecting subnational jurisdictions and defending the interests of local governments on the world stage.

Habitat I: The UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat I) took place in Vancouver, Canada, from 31 May - 11 June 1976. The Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements adopted by the Conference officially established the UN Centre for Human Settlements as the UN agency mandated by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of adequate shelter for all.

First World Assembly of Cities and Local Regions: The First World Assembly of Cities and Local Authorities met in Istanbul, Turkey, from 30-31 May 1996, ahead of Habitat II. The final declaration on Habitat II issued by the World Assembly represented the constituency’s official contribution to the Conference.

Habitat II: Habitat II convened in Istanbul, Turkey, from 3-14 June 1996, on the 20th anniversary of Habitat I. The Habitat Agenda and the Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements adopted by the Conference outline more than 100 commitments and strategies to address shelter and sustainable human settlements. With the adoption of the Habitat Agenda, the international community set the twin goals of achieving adequate shelter for all and ensuring sustainable human settlements development. The Istanbul Declaration recognizes local authorities as the “closest partners” of UN-Habitat and “essential” in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. Article 102 of the Habitat Agenda acknowledges that municipal governments “can be an effective partner in making human settlements viable, equitable, and sustainable,” given that their level of administration is “closest to the people.”

UCLG Founding Congress: In May 2004, mayors, councilors, and elected city, local, and regional representatives gathered in Paris, France, to establish the UCLG Congress. The final declaration of the Congress addressed sustainable development and globalization, decentralization, and local democracy, cooperation, and diplomacy, and world health.

Second UCLG World Congress: At UCLG’s second World Congress, held October 2007 in Jeju, Republic of Korea, the organization and other stakeholders discussed the consequences of urbanization, cooperation with regions, and the challenges of tomorrow’s city. The final declaration lays out commitments on global warming and environmental protection, human rights, peace and development, and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In addition, a policy paper on local finance was approved.

First World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders & Third UCLG World Congress: In November 2010 in Mexico City, Mexico, the first World Summit convened in conjunction with UCLG’s Congress, adopting a document titled, “The City of 2030 – Our Manifesto.” The Manifesto lays out the common goals of local leaders and their determination to make the urban world a better place.

Second World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders & Fourth UCLG World Congress: Held from 1-4 October 2013 in Rabat, Morocco, the second World Summit celebrated the centenary of the international municipal movement and allowed participants to debate and exchange views on the most vital issues for subnational authorities and partners. The Summit’s outcome document, the Rabat Declaration, recognizes the need to address change, innovation, and the issue of just societies by reinforcing bottom-up governance under the leadership of inclusive LRGs.

Global Task Force (GTF): Set up in 2013 as an initiative of UCLG President and Mayor of Istanbul, Kadir Topbaş, the GTF is a mechanism for coordinating advocacy efforts of the major international networks of local governments in international climate change and sustainable and urban development policy processes. The GTF organized the Second World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments as a three-part process to provide formal input to Habitat III.

FfD3: Taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 13-16 July 2015, the third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) adopted the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, which includes a global framework for financing development post-2015, along with specifications of action areas, data, monitoring, and follow-up. The Agenda includes a focus on cities.

UN Sustainable Development Summit: The UN Sustainable Development Summit took place at UN Headquarters in New York, US, from 25-27 September 2015. The Summit 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.” It includes seven related targets addressing, inter alia, housing, transport, urbanization, and waste management, as well as three targets on means of implementation.

Paris Climate Change Conference: The UN Climate Change Conference convened in Paris in November - December 2015 and culminated with the Paris Agreement. The Agreement sets the goals of: keeping global average temperature rise to well below 2°C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels; and enhancing global adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change. In the lead up to the Conference, LRGs showcased the way in which they are leading, from the bottom-up, to address climate change by increasing pre-2020 ambition.

Second World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments: The first session of the Second World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments (WALRG) was held in New York, US, on 15 May 2016, immediately prior to Habitat III Informal Hearings with Local Authorities Associations, during which representatives of LRGs exchanged views with member states and observers on the zero draft of the Habitat III outcome document.

First Session of the UN-Habitat Assembly: The inaugural session of the UN-Habitat Assembly convened from 27-31 May 2019, following UNGA 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. The Assembly brought together more than 3,000 delegates from national and local governments, including more than 60 Mayors, and representatives of non-governmental organizations, academia, and the private sector. In its final outcome, the Assembly sought to establish direct linkages to other multilateral development meetings and processes, including the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in September 2019, the 2030 Agenda, and the SDGs, of which more than one-third of the targets have an urban component.

Third World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders & Fifth UCLG World Congress: The third World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders convened from 12-15 October 2016 in Bogotá, Colombia, under the theme “Local Voices for a Better World.” The event, which included plenaries, two permanent working platforms, workshops, policy dialogues, community forums, learning forums, and other interactive sessions, was held immediately prior to the Third UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) which took place from 17-20 October 2016 in Quito, Ecuador. On 14 October, the GTF convened the second session of the WALRG. The Second World Assembly adopted a statement containing key recommendations from local and regional governments (LRGs) for Habitat III’s main outcome, the New Urban Agenda, intended to guide urban development policy across the world during the next two decades. In addition, UCLG launched the GOLD IV report, providing analysis, innovative examples, and case studies from around the globe to support the recommendations of the Global Agenda of Local and Regional Governments for the 21st century.

Report of the Meeting

The organization of the 2019 World Summit reflects the UCLG’s convening power at the heart of a “network of networks,” reaching deep into multiple constituencies to facilitate an act of policy co-creation.

For this reason, the Congress agenda had multiple tracks to facilitate structured dialogues, including the:

  • Assembly Track – Led by local and regional government representatives;
  • Town Hall Track – Led by civil society;
  • Local4Action Track – An inclusive and collaborative space to bring together different spheres of the networks;
  • Local4ActionHub – An informal networking space and venue for launching flagship initiatives, bringing together representatives of different tracks;
  • Statutory Track – Meetings for official bodies of the UCLG.
  • Special Sessions – Thematic meetings focusing on some of the UCLG’s priority policy areas; and
  • UCLG Learning Forum – Learning interaction opportunities focusing on key elements of the UCLG Learning Strategy 2019-2021.

Over the course of the five days, delegates and attendees had access to most of the meetings, with the exception of sessions restricted to members of the UCLG, primarily in the statutory track. The first two days were dedicated to preparatory and networking sessions. On Wednesday, the Congress convened its first plenary session and had its official opening. On Thursday, a second plenary, and a meeting of the UCLG General Assembly – the membership body responsible for policy – took place. A third plenary took place on the final day of the Summit, on the theme of intergenerational dialogue. Other sessions on the final day included the WALRG, a meeting of the UCLG World Council, and the official closing ceremony.

This report covers a cross section of the formal sessions, as well as policy-relevant outcomes of the World Summit. For more details, please see IISD’s daily coverage, at:

Official Opening

To the sounds of the Ndlovu Youth Choir, South African poet and storyteller, Gcina Mhlophe, opened the Summit on Wednesday evening. Mxolisi Kaunda, Executive Mayor, eThekwini Municipality, South Africa, invoked the spirit of ANC founders, John Langalibalele Dube and Pixley Ka Isaka Seme. He said the Summit would build on the great work of LRGs.

Graça Machel, Chairperson, African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) Board of Trustees, announced plans to commemorate the UN’s 75th anniversary in 2020, stating it would feature dialogues between youth and political leaders, and plant 75 million trees.

Fabrizio Hochschild Drummond, UN Under Secretary-General, noted that local and regional leaders are in the vanguard of pioneering solutions and confronting global risks in an increasingly complex world. He invited the UCLG to support and contribute to a UN75 ( Initiative consisting of dialogues to take place around the world on the future envisioned by the SDGs, and on tools for global cooperation, that will culminate in a leaders’ meeting in 2020.

Mpho Parks Tau, President, UCLG, emphasized participation, women’s rights, mobility, and financing. He highlighted the unveiling of the IMIF, which is based on a partnership between UCLG, UNCDF and FMDV.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Acting President, South Africa, reflected on challenges for cities in providing tangible development opportunities in the face of shrinking resources and unequal wealth, stressing the need to give a voice back to the people.

In her closing remarks, Thembi Nkadimeng, President, South African Local Government Association (SALGA), thanked participants for their contribution, expressed appreciation to UCLG Africa, and looked forward to the remainder of the meeting.

Plenary Sessions

Reinventing Local Democracy: This plenary session took place on Wednesday and was moderated by Sanjay Pradhan, CEO, Open Government Partnership. It considered four dimensions: public involvement in municipal budgeting; citizens overseeing and reporting on public policy implementation; the maintenance of a lobbying register to curb interest-peddling; and whether those who are excluded can be empowered. Other issues discussed included: decentralization as fundamental for democracy but requiring citizen commitment and participation; the corrupting effects of populism; the declining quality of democracy; and the fact that democracy is not just about civic and political rights but also involves social and economic rights.

Localizing Sustainable Development: Gearing up to the Implementation Decade: This plenary session took place on Thursday and was moderated by Edgar Pieterse, University of Cape Town, UCLG Ubuntu Advisory Group. It marked the launch of the GOLD V report, which assesses the contribution of LRGs to the localization of the SDGs and the national and regional institutional contexts in which LRGs operate. Participants welcomed the role of UCLG in supporting municipalities to localize the SDGs through local government associations organized at the national level, especially through its learning section, and opportunities to forge stronger links with other cities and towns. Other issues raised included: the value of practical examples, such as the use of digital platforms to enable the dissemination of good practices; the observation that the SDGs represent a broad normative framework and a cultural revolution, re-engaging from the bottom-up to rebuild institutions; the need to overhaul the global financial system so as to reframe incentives, aligned with the SDGs; and the need for institutional reform, with a seat at the global decision-making table for LRGs dedicated to engaging with a movement of citizens.

Intergenerational Dialogue for Peace and Solidarity: This session took place on Friday and was moderated by Vasu Gounden, Executive Director, ACCORD.

Tamires Gomes Sampaio, Director of Lula Institute, Sao Paolo, Brazil, emphasized that global peace is not only about absence of war, but about absence of inequality, poverty, and unemployment. Johnny Araya Monge, Mayor of San José, Costa Rica, shared stories of his country’s progress on social and environmental issues and stressed that in order to have ecological balance there also needs to be social balance.

Raghav Ranganathan, Organizational Development & Conflict Engagement, emphasized the need to create robust spaces for dialogue between opposing parties at the local level to ensure that everybody’s voice is included. Jan van Zanen, Mayor of Utrecht, President of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities, noted that inequalities would persist in the absence of fair chances for everyone.

Prisca Amponsah, University of Ghana, reflected on how young people can engage and have their ideas heard. Responding to this, Aisen Nikolaev, Head, Sakha Republic, Russian Federation, called on young people to fight for their rights, and elect people to public office who are committed to improving the lives of young people.

Sofia Moschin, Italian Youth Delegate, made the case for using knowledge in a creative, competent way and highlighted the UN 2018 Youth Report on SDGs, Youth, Education, and Unemployment. Aníbal Gavíria Correa, President of the Assembly, Cities Alliance, highlighted the impact of urban violence on young people and how education can reverse this. Drawing on Medellin, Colombia, as an example, he explained how the city had transformed into an urban innovation laboratory, with a 95% drop in the murder rate.

Imen Ouardani, City of Sousse, Tunisia, emphasized the need for trust between young people and the state, and strategies to engage youth through local government councils. Mariam Iddrisu, Mayor of Sagnarigu Municipality, Ghana, and Vice-President, Network of Locally Elected Women in Africa (REFELA) West Africa, presented examples of youth engagement in Ghana, drawing attention to the underrepresentation of women and gender stereotyping as major issues, and called for support to organizations such as REFELA.

Assembly Track

The Assembly Track was introduced as a dedicated space for continental, sectoral, and thematic priorities that contribute to the global policies of the UCLG. Structured in high-level roundtable discussions on Wednesday and Thursday, the sessions were convened by UCLG region or sector, based on position papers developed in the run up to the Summit. Each session involved representatives of LRGs, and other UCLG-affiliated organizations, and conveyed recommendations to the World Assembly, which met on Friday.

Decentralization and Local Finance: This assembly was led by UCLG-Africa and discussed how to support decentralization and financing of LRGs to enhance their capacity to act on the global agenda. Chaired by Léandre Nzue, President, UCLG-Africa, the session discussed: the rapid growth of Africa’s urban population; the design of sustainable cities; targeting finance; access to credible credit rankings; the relations between subnational and national authorities; innovative financial instruments, including green bonds; and the use of digital technology to support transparent revenue collection.

Aligning Local Priorities with the 2030 Agenda, and the Right to the City: “Lightning rounds: European actions on the SDGs”: This assembly was led by Europe. The session examined ways in which European municipalities and regions are implementing the SDGs, with the participation of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), Mayors and representatives of the European Commission, and UCLG-Africa. Chaired by Marlène Siméon, Director, European Platform of Local and Regional Authorities for Development, the session addressed obstacles to the achievement of the SDGs, migration policy; equal access to health services, gender and participatory democracy; the alignment of EU policies with the SDGs; and the importance of strengthening global networks for local authorities.

Resilience, Urbanization and Heritage: This assembly was led by Eurasia and Asia-Pacific (ASPAC) sections. The session considered resilience and disaster risk reduction, notably the Sendai framework localization strategy, with the participation of Mayors, and other representatives of UCLG-ASPAC, against the threats presented by a rise in natural or human-made disasters. Facilitated by Dave Cull, Co-President, UCLG-ASPAC, the session addressed: rapid population growth in Eurasian cities; a call on UCLG to play a role in attracting finance for international financial institutions for investment in cities; balancing industrial development and environmental protection; UCLG’s work on heritage and conservation; the co-benefits of climate change mitigation; localization of the SDGs; and UCLG regional advocacy.

Multilevel Governance and National/Continental Advocacy: This assembly was led by the Americas. The session focused on the next steps to ensuring a multilevel and multi-stakeholder governance and strategies for national and continental advocacy. Facilitated by Paola Andrea, Deputy Director, Intendencia de Montevideo, the session addressed: the governance crisis in Latin America, the impact of poverty and inequality on the ability of people to live together; mistrust in political institutions, and the special role of local governments in engaging directly with citizens, and, with a focus on gender, the impact of poverty on women and children. The session agreed key messages on: re-engineering multilevel governance; social innovation; and the role of the UCLG in enhancing the role of local governments globally.

Migration Management and Peace Building: This assembly was led by the Middle East and West Asia (UCLG-MEWA). Facilitated by Mehmet Duman, Secretary-General, UCLG-MEWA, the session explored the relationship between migratory movements, the consolidation of peace at the local level, and the need for social cohesion policies. Issues raised in the discussions included the need to address: social inclusion; the different needs of refugees and migrants; empowerment of local governments to act on the SDGs; and regional solidarity.

Public Space and Demographic Challenges: This assembly was led by Metropolis, the metropolitan section of UCLG. The session considered demographic growth in urban areas and the role of LRGs in addressing issues around public space. Facilitated by Xavier Tiana, Metropolis, the session addressed: reconciling the economic growth and competitiveness of urban areas with sustainable development; UCLG’s role in mobilizing collaboration; and the experience of exclusion as part of urbanization. Discussion also took place on citizen dissatisfaction with political institutions no longer appropriate to the demands of society in the 21st century.

Town Hall Track

Convening for the first time at a UCLG Congress, the Town Hall track aimed to provide a space for civil society stakeholders to co-create the future of the municipal movement, through interactive exchanges with leaders of LRGs. Diverse constituencies presented policy papers that were prepared as part of consultative processes in the lead up to the Summit, aimed at feeding into policy, advocacy, research and learning agendas in the coming years. Representatives of coordinating networks presented the key outcomes and policy recommendations to the World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments on Friday.

Opening the series of five town hall sessions that took place on Wednesday and Thursday, Fernando Casado Caneque, Centre of Partnerships for Development, noted that the successful adoption of SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities) marked the transition from the Habitat III slogan, “listen to cities,” towards a focus on inclusive urban development.

Accessible and Inclusive Cities: This town hall was led by World Enabled, and explored how local leadership can promote universal design principles in line with the six pillars of the Global Compact on Inclusive and Accessible Cities. Discussions kicked off with a presentation by María Soledad Cisternas Reyes, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility, who stressed that accessibility is a bridge to inclusion and securing diverse rights. The session moderators highlighted recommendations in the policy paper on this topic, which includes a call to the world organization to establish a Community of Practice on Accessible Cities to foster peer-learning on universal design policies. In their discussions, participants underscored that investing in accessibility provides an opportunity to maximize the potential of all citizens, including people living with disabilities and older persons. Noting that most countries have accessibility regulations but struggle with implementation, participants proposed solutions such as: involving civil society to sustain good practices beyond electoral cycles; training architects and urban planners in universal design; and raising awareness on the inherent dignity and rights of all people.

Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: The town hall was led by the Huairou Commission and partners, who introduced a policy paper making the case that gender equality and women’s empowerment are fundamental to producing and nurturing just and prosperous communities, and are enablers of efficient and accountable local governance. Female mayors from Brazil, The Gambia, Italy and Sweden spoke on achievements, as well as challenges facing women leaders. Among other issues, they lamented the growing backlash against female politicians, especially on social media, and stressed the need to reach out to women in both urban and rural areas. In the ensuing discussion, participants highlighted, inter alia, the importance of strengthening networks for sharing information and best practices, and ensuring the further institutionalization of local consultative processes to mainstream gender in local government structures.

Right to the City: This town hall was led by Habitat International Coalition and drew on a thematic policy paper that calls for viewing human settlements through a rights-based lens, with a focus on six themes: “financialization” of cities and housing; the rural-urban divide; territorial and social inequalities; democratic backsliding and human rights curtailment; migratory movements; and resilience. Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, made the case for building an alternative movement, which she called “The Shift,” stating it is necessitated by the “whole slew” of violations against human rights that have come with intensive urbanization. The ensuing discussions underscored the need to question assumptions about what constitutes an attractive or competitive city, with the observation that viewing cities from a human rights lens calls for more polycentric and human-scale approaches. Among measures that cities can take to counter growing exclusion and poverty, speakers called for: valuing the social, not just economic, function of land to reduce speculation; and providing spaces for excluded groups to access services and participate in governance processes.

Sustainable Urban Development: This town hall was led by the General Assembly of Partners (GAP), and opened with representatives of the eight constituent groups highlighting key messages in the thematic position paper. They noted, among other principles, the importance of: having a shared vision; being inclusive and respectful; building trust; having a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities; and monitoring progress. A round of “Lightning Presentations” then took place, highlighting good partnership practices from around the world. In conclusion, participants developed some messages for the World Assembly. They included suggestions on mechanisms to enhance transparency in partnerships, such as: requiring any party participating in the GAP to sign up to an ethical code; agreeing on the value-added of a project prior to implementation; and capacity building to reduce asymmetries in information and power within partnerships.

Addressing Informality in Cities: This town hall was led by the Cities Alliance, Slum Dwellers International and Habitat for Humanity International, who described the thematic position paper as a clarion call to local leaders, with recommendations on: strengthening access to land, services, and livelihood opportunities; national safeguards for development projects in cities to do no harm; recognizing residents of informal areas as full and equal citizens; and promoting evidence-based planning. The session highlighted examples from cities such as Freetown, Porto Alegre, and Ramallah, that are addressing exclusion in cities through changing the narrative on informal settlements as unsafe and dangerous places to places of social innovation and vibrant economies. Issues raised in the discussions included: how to safeguard the tenure rights of excluded groups in slum upgrading projects; innovative solutions to expand financial inclusion in housing markets; and negotiating with more affluent residents to recognize the need for integration in cities, including through shared public spaces. The session closed with a reminder that a new narrative is not enough in itself, as enabling policy frameworks and structured engagement of citizens is needed.

Local4Action Track

The Local4Action Track convened more than 50 sessions over the course of the Summit. Sessions dealt with a variety of topics under the headers of Global Conversations, Local Policies and Voices, LAB, Inspiring Voices, and fora on regions and peripheral cities.

Monday’s sessions covered many relevant themes on the challenges of local governance and included interventions on an integrated planning community of practice; and the importance of integrated planning; the importance of territorializing the SDG agenda; evidence and rights based approaches; that cities are at the forefront of innovation and are central to the success of global agendas; and the duty of youth to progressively fight to maintain local democracies.

Other sessions included the African Forum for Urban Safety (AFUS) Africa Women Assembly; 2019 AFUS Learning Exchange; Shaping Resilient Cities; Delivery of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities, Theory and Practice Using Multi-Criteria and Geospatial Tools; Localizing the Transformative Agenda: Scaling up and out Social and Solidarity Economy and Finance; VLRs - Building Blocks for a Community of Practice; Raising Awareness on Youth and others.

In Tuesday’s sessions participants discussed experiences and good practices regarding public - and multimodal - transport options; rebalancing the share of public and private travel options through different policy interventions; constitutional and legislative reforms to promote local democracy; differentiated approaches to account for people’s varying abilities and diverse backgrounds; the importance of rural-urban linkages, and the need to recognize and promote social and solidarity approaches.

There were also sessions on Culture Driven Public Policies; Safe Public Spaces; Forum of Regions; Training on Sustainable Mobility; Is Urban Policy Working for You?; Unlocking Pathways Towards Resilient and Climate-Smart Cities; Human rights and Right to the city: what emerging priorities for local governments?; Partnerships for Urban Equality’; Intermediary Cities; Towards a Global Partnership for Intermediary Cities; and others.

Wednesday’s sessions featured interventions on the tension between the deep inequalities experienced by women and the right to the city; the mismatch between devolution of responsibility to local governments and sufficient resources to implement the urban agenda; efforts to engage homeless people to map public spaces; growing inequalities between metropolitan areas and smaller rural towns; how partnerships could help build pathways for urban equality; and the implementation of global agendas.

Sessions that day also included Advancing Nature-Based Solutions for Resilient and Socially Inclusive Cities: Public Space Potentialities; SDGs and Decentralized Cooperation: Working on Agenda2030 Locally & Globally; The World Observatory on Subnational Government Finance and Investment: Making Fiscal Decentralization Work; Towards a Universally Accessible 2030 - Local Action and Partnerships; Launch of the European Commission City Partnerships; Women’s Economic Autonomy and Empowerment Through Economic and Social Development.

Thursday had sessions that covered pertinent issues such as how cities have launched Local2030 hubs; decent and quality work and employment within the framework of sustainable local development; how to harness the potential of local governments in promoting and defending digital rights.

Additional sessions that day included Children Uprooted: What Can Local Governments Do?; The Global State of Metropolis; Capacity Development for Inclusive Local Service Delivery; Digital Rights and Global Agendas: A Roadmap for the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights; Transforming Cities; Local 2030 Hubs – A Global Network to Localize Agenda 2030; Listening to Citizens, Local Democracy at the Center of Governance.

Friday’s session dealt with the challenges of future proofing local government associations with regards to organizational effectiveness, membership, party politics, and financial stability; integral approaches to public space that emphasize multistakeholder collaboration; local government initiatives for conflict prevention, peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction and many others.

 There were also sessions on Local Government Associations 2.0 – ready for the future; Governance for Public Spaces: Challenges and Difficulties from an Inclusive, Diverse, and Equality Point of View; Peace Initiatives: Inspiration from the UCLG Peace Prize finalists; Ethical Cities Project; Regional Strategies Toward the SDGs.

Local4Action Hub

Events in the Local4Action Hub convened over the five days and focused on learning and discussing emerging good practices. The informal and interactive space provided a platform for brainstorming on many issues that have not yet found their way onto the official agenda.

On Monday, Mpho Parks Tau, President, UCLG, inaugurated the Hub as the “heart” of the Congress, and explained that thematic discussions would be facilitated by UCLG regional networks, aimed at crafting a common policy agenda around five themes: finance; multi-level and multi-stakeholder governance; resilient and sustainable cities; demographic growth and associated challenges for cities; and migration. Emilia Sáiz, UCLG Secretary-General, highlighted the role of the Hub as a space for co-creating a policy-making mechanism “that will define the future of our movement.” In discussions, participants stressed: that cities deal with the consequences of failed international systems, including climate change and financial collapse; that the challenge for women leaders is to be heard; that the role of corruption at the national level must be challenged; and the need for directing international funding streams to benefit local communities. There were also sessions on creating an enabling environment for human rights at the local level in Africa; and launching a call to action after the Marrakech Mayoral Declaration.

Tuesday included a session on “The role of Agenda 2030 in Creating Citizenship: How can local governments use the SDGs to connect with their citizens?” The session prompted a frank and informal exchange on the importance of active citizen engagement, mechanisms for inclusive citizenship, and examples of local SDG co-creation.

Thursday featured a world café on “Creative Mobilities” with presentations on urban regeneration, a culture-based manual for local development, and a culture-based approach that had helped communities reinvent their transport approaches. Another session, on cities facing crises, opened with a short UCLG film on how local authorities respond to crisis. Discussants highlighted the impact on social cohesion, basic services and infrastructure resulting from an influx of Syrian refugees into a Lebanese city, with 100,000 people displaced. A representative of a municipality described the creation of a framework of co-existence to manage the provision of services and relations between refugees and citizens.

On Friday, the Hub had a session on “Digital Networking for Sustainable Urban Development,” which focused on learning about policy practices in the digital era. Metropolis presented the USE Platform with more than 300 case studies on uses of technology, and an online community available to link cities with similar challenges.

Other Hub events addressed: city diplomacy; water resilience; transformational leadership; changing mindsets in the public sector; the New Urban Agenda; city-to-city partnership; access to capital markets; local disaster risk reduction and localizing the Sendai Framework; housing; and culture and governance. 

Statutory Track

Under this Track the UCLG Section Caucuses for CEMR, Eurasia, MEWA, Africa, Latin America and the Americas, well as Metropolis (Regional Secretaries Meeting) met. There was a meeting of the Financial Management Committee and of the Committee on Statutory Affairs. The Executive Bureau also convened, which was the last Executive Bureau for the current mandate. It received updates on key work areas and members’ proposals. A new Executive Bureau was also appointed for the 2019-2022 mandate in Durban during the World Council. The General Assembly, which meets on a triennial basis, gathered all members of UCLG. It received the reports from the Presidency and the Sections and appointed the members of the World Council, based on the electoral processes. The Summit concluded with UCLG World Council on Friday.

Special Sessions

A number of special thematic sessions, consisting of moderated panel discussions on key emerging issues, took place from Monday through Thursday.

The Future of Transparency and Open Government: Co-creating open, inclusive, transparent, sustainable and inclusive territories: Juana López Pagán, Coordinator of the UCLG Community of Practice on Transparency and Open Government moderated the session, sharing a draft Manifesto on Open Government and Transparency. This session considered the role of democracy in development, quality of life and peaceful co-existence. Other issues discussed were governance in terms of striking a balance between representative and participatory democracy and the promotion of gender-sensitive local government.

The Future of Migration: Mohamed Boussraoui, UCLG, moderated this session, which highlighted rural-urban migration as the biggest challenge and structural factors driving migration such as conflict, climate change and the lack of economic opportunities. The limited experience of local authorities in managing migration, and the fact that they are not involved in decision-making on migration, was noted, as well as strategies for combating xenophobia and the need to view migration as an opportunity and not just a problem.

The Future of Resilience: Debra Roberts, Co-Chair, Working Group II, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, moderated the session. Several panelists shared experiences and approaches to city regeneration. This session also addressed strengthening local leadership in developing contingency and action plans. The need for a regional perspective to enhance the resilience of small and intermediary cities, and links to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction were also highlighted.

The Future of Culture: Jordi Pascual, UCLG, moderated the session, which explored culture as an expression of social justice and identity in the context of colonialism. Efforts aimed at broadening artistic and cultural experiences in Rome, and several Portuguese cities, were highlighted. There was emphasis on the role that libraries play, often as the only free-to-access indoor spaces for social interaction.

The Future of Housing: Ryan Macauley, UN Habitat, moderated the session. Issues discussed included a human rights-based approach to housing, as reflected in the 2018 Cities for Adequate Housing Declaration. The need to guarantee adequate housing to all citizens was stressed, as well as the absence of up-to-date lists of informal settlements and their lack of recognition in legal frameworks. Various approaches to urban housing were highlighted in Subang Jaya, Malaysia; Ekaterinburg, Russian Federation; Nanterre, France; and Taipei City, Taiwan. Key messages included the need for: strengthening strategies for effective peer-to-peer learning and political advocacy; a multilayered approach to unplanned settlements; and defending the fundamental right to housing.

Ecology for the Future: This session was moderated by Gino van Begin, Secretary-General, ICLEI. Discussions focused on: climate emergency declarations as a pathway for city policy responses; a shift to human-designed systems based on principles of ecology, and embracing circular, long-term, and systems-based ideas; and the role of local communities in tree planting. The role of cities in climate action was highlighted, noting this is where both economic growth and risk are concentrated and where a territorial approach can be pursued.

The Future of Biodiversity: This session was moderated by Gino van Begin, Secretary-General, ICLEI. Urban biodiversity platforms, such as “Cities With Nature,” were highlighted, as well as the importance of vertical integration of strategies and action plans for the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework. Efforts to create spaces for biodiversity and other sustainability initiatives were discussed, and the question of how to raise the profile of biodiversity in urban agendas was raised.

The Future of Equality – Beijing+25: This session consisted of two panel discussions moderated by Lucy Slack, Deputy Secretary-General, Commonwealth Local Government Forum, and María Cristina Grunauer de Falú, National University of Tucumán, Argentina, respectively. The first panel explored persisting inequalities, 25 years after the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and the backlash against gender equality. Panelists reflected on the status of gender equality in South Africa, The Gambia, Russian Federation, and Malaysia. Issues raised during the second panel discussion included: a call to support the CEMR Standing Committee for Equality statement from UCLG to be presented to the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW64), on Beijing+25 and Agenda 2030; obstacles that also hinder the development of women and efforts centered on mobilizing civil society; and Beijing+25 as an opportunity to renew and review the Beijing Declaration and relaunch its action plan.

The Future of Local Finances: Judy Nkosi, Director, National Treasury, South Africa, moderated the session. Discussions focused on the gap between revenue remitted by municipalities to the central government and the amount allocated to local government. A compendium of solutions to cover funding gaps was highlighted, including land value capture. The need to balance stable returns with acceptable risk was raised, as a means to stimulate investment. Other issues included generating data to facilitate local development, and mechanisms to strengthen trust between central and local governments.

Learning Forum

On Thursday, UCLG Secretary-General, Emilia Sáiz, addressed the Fourth UCLG Learning Forum, a one-day session focused on interactive learning opportunities, providing an assessment of the state of learning within the network and recommendations to extend the reach of UCLG policies.

The day included sharing experiences on: localizing the Sendai Framework; evolution of the modules and methodologies; a discussion on key components to nurture the learning agenda; and a dialogue between existing learning mechanisms on how to ensure transferability.

The session provided concrete recommendations to boost the reach of UCLG policies through learning, and specific recommendations on innovative learning methodologies and mechanisms.

General Assembly

The UCLG General Assembly convened late on Thursday evening. In his introductory remarks, UCLG President, Mpho Parks Tau, recounted activities over the last three years; including on housing, migration, localizing the SDGs, and engagement with stakeholders and municipalities around the world. He emphasized the work done to bring a human face to this global platform and the acceleration required to respond to a rapidly changing world. He stressed the importance of UCLG’s function as a learning network, which is being enhanced through training on localizing global agendas such as the Sendai Framework, the New Urban Agenda, and Agenda 2030.

The Assembly then considered a proposed Universal Declaration for Humankind Rights, a set of collective rights based on responsibility, dignity, and equality between generations to be tabled for approval of the World Council. UCLG sections reported on impacts, challenges and key recommendations, to be overseen by the new UCLG governing body. This was followed by elections for the new President of the UCLG – a consensus approach that concluded with the appointment of the new Presidency on Friday.

World Council

On Thursday, the World Council met back-to-back with the General Assembly, holding the first round of the elections to the Presidency. A consensus process was adopted, culminating in the appointment of the new UCLG President on Friday.

On Friday, outgoing UCLG President, Mpho Parks Tau, reconvened the World Council. The Council adopted the agenda and a report of the Council’s 2018 meeting in Madrid, and noted the President’s Report.

Adoption of Workplan: Parks Tau reported that the focus in 2019 had been on the preparation of the World Summit in Durban and an enhancement of policy work on behalf of LRGs, including localization of Agenda 2030, and conveyance of this work to the UN General Assembly. He explained that work in 2020 would build on international mobilization, furthering work on the SDGs, and review of the New Urban Agenda.

Secretary-General Sáiz, noted that the workplan aims to accelerate implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the transformation of local governance, including through: advocacy and policy development; learning, research, and monitoring; and strengthening the network. Sáiz recalled that UCLG has been invited by the UN Secretary-General to participate in a special hearing with local authorities to help shape the multilateral agenda, as part of the UN75 anniversary activities in 2020.

Sáiz further noted the upcoming UN conference marking Beijing+25 and announced that UCLG has allocated 15% of its budget towards gender-based activities. She concluded with comments on preparations for the UCLG Culture Summit in 2021.

Carola Gunnarsson, Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, invited the World Council to adopt a statement prepared at the Summit to be forwarded to the 64th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women/Beijing+25, and welcomed the UCLG commitment to bring stability to its gender equality work programme and the preparation of a strategy to guide its work.

Mxolisi Kaunda, Executive Mayor, eThekwini Municipality, South Africa, reported on the activities of the UCLG Committee on Urban Strategic Planning. Geneviève Sevrin, Director, Cités Unies, France, reported on the UCLG Political Committee on Crisis, Sustainable Cities and Resilience and the Task Force.

Welcoming the gender declaration, Christopher Kang’ombe, Mayor of Kitwe, Zambia, drew attention to the need to also listen to young people’s voices and reported on a UCLG-Africa initiative to convene a general assembly for young leaders on the sidelines of the upcoming Africities 2021 Summit in Kisumu, Kenya. 

Adoption of the Universal Declaration of Humankind Rights: Co-Moderator Roland Ries, Mayor of Strasbourg, provided an overview of the declaration that was unveiled at the Summit on Thursday. The Council adopted the declaration by acclamation.

Report of the Financial Management Committee: UCLG Treasurer, Berry Vrbanovic, reported that at its meeting held on 12 November 2019, the financial committee approved the financial accounts and agreed to invite the World Council to take note of the auditor’s report and approve the decisions presented.

On new funding sources, Vrbanovic highlighted a EUR 3.7 million grant by SIDA, stating it will enable the UCLG to launch a budget line on gender equity for the first time, as well as confirmation of funding from the European Commission to support the workplan.

Noting that the UCLG budget has surpassed EUR 5 million for the first time, he stressed that payment of membership fees is essential for funding the work of the Congress. Vrbanovic also thanked the City of Barcelona for continuing to host the UCLG Secretariat.

Members approved the financial report without comment.

Statutory Meetings, 2020-2022: Secretary-General Sáiz provided an overview of key meetings scheduled for the next biennium, requesting the Council to allow the Secretariat time to develop a detailed schedule in consultation with the incoming Presidency. She drew attention to an upcoming meeting of the UCLG World Congress in conjunction with the Metropolis World Congress, taking place in Guangzhou, China, in October 2020, noting this will be cost-effective and enhance synergies among different constituencies.

Heo Tae-jeong, Mayor of Daejeon, Republic of Korea, thanked members for selecting the city as host of the 2022 UCLG World Congress, pointing to the city’s profile as a leading hub of science and technology. He expressed hope that the Congress would also symbolize a new wind of reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

Johnny Araya Monge, Mayor, San José, Costa Rica, invited the UCLG Bureau to meet in Costa Rica, in 2021, on the 200th anniversary of independence.

Other Matters: Claudio Sule Fernández, City Association, Chile, called for a naming of the crimes against democracy occurring around the world that unlawfully stifle voices of dissent. He named the préfect of the Ecuadorian province of Pichincha Paola Pabón, who has been detained since October and the forced resignation of Mayor Iván Arciénega of Sucre, Bolivia. The Chair acknowledged a request from the Association of Municipalities of Chile that the UCLG name those local government representatives who had been incarcerated during unrest.

Election of President and UCLG Executive Bureau: The Council proceeded to the election of the Presidency. Parks Tau reported that consensus had been reached following extensive discussions and consultations with two candidates for the presidency. He invited President-Elect, Mohamed Boudra, Mayor of Al Hoceima, Morocco, and President of the Moroccan Association of Communal Council of Presidents (AMPCC), to the podium where he announced agreement on a “collegiate presidency,” in which the second candidate, Ilsur Metshin, Mayor of Kazan, was confirmed as Chair of the UN Advisory Committee for Local Authorities, and joined Boudra on the dias. Metshin thanked residents of his municipality and all who had supported his candidacy.

The Council also confirmed the election, by acclamation, of the following Presidency positions:

  • Chair of the UN Advisory Committee for Local Authorities: Ilsur Metshin, Mayor of Kazan;
  • Co-Presidents: Johnny Araya Monge, Mayor of San José; Uğur İbrahim Altay, Mayor of Konya; Jan van Zanen, Mayor of Utrecht; Li Mingyuan, Mayor of Xi’an; Thembisile Nkadimeng, Mayor of Polokwane.
  • Treasurers: Madelaine Alfelor-Gazman, Mayor of Iriga; Berry Vrbanovic, Mayor of Kitchener.
  • Special Envoys: Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona, Special Envoy to the UN; Fernando Medina, Mayor of Lisbon, Special Envoy for Local Development.

Boudra thanked all those who had supported his election, especially the UCLG-Africa section. He said the UCLG stands with partners and interlocutors on the sustainable development agenda.

Colau said it was a matter of honor and pride to represent the UCLG at the UN as an envoy on human rights. She directed a message to women members, assuring them that she would be an ally and champion of their progress in the global organization.

Parks Tau closed the World Council by inviting delegates to agree to the appointment of the incoming UCLG Executive Bureau and to ratify the incoming President’s nominations for special envoys and chair of the UN Advisory Committee on Local Authorities.

Closing Ceremony

The World Summit closed with an evening dinner featuring speeches and entertainment. Thembisile Nkadimeng, SALGA, expressed her sincere gratitude to approximately 2,000 delegates who travelled to the Summit from near and far, acknowledged the many months of preparation. Mxolisi Kaunda, Executive Mayor eThekwini Municipality, South Africa, expressed his profound gratitude for making the “cities are listening” Summit a success. He noted that the active participation and open debates exceeded expectations and that the Summit had witnessed an unprecedented convergence of views. He added that the new president now has the responsibility to translate urgency into action and build a stronger global movement for local and regional government.

Sáiz called upon Tamires Gomes Sampaio, and Sofia Moschin, youth ambassadors for global peace, to share takeaways from the Durban Political Declaration. Moschin reflected on a rights-based approach to migration through intercultural dialogues. Gomes Sampaio highlighted the fourth industrial revolution and the need to progress on gender equality. Describing the young women as “sentinels of the dreams of the people,” Sáiz called on UCLG to: be an equality-driven movement; to take a collective stand against poverty; and to focus on delivery of services to close the gap between haves and have nots.

Reflecting on an insightful and inspiring journey, Mpho Parks Tau, outgoing UCLG President, expressed his gratitude to the municipal movement. He noted a strengthening of the organization over the past triennium that has made its localization mission more visible on the international arena.

Noting that he had a difficult act to follow, Mohamed Boudra, President, UCLG, thanked outgoing President Parks Tau, and presented Sáiz with a token of appreciation. He described the Summit outcome as a torch to be carried forward, and closed the Summit at 7:11 pm.

World Assembly Outcomes

Durban Political Declaration

On Friday, 15 November, the UCLG Congress and World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments adopted the Durban Political Declaration, “Envisioning the Future of Our Renewed International Municipal Movement,” as one of the main policy outcomes from the Summit.

With sections on the next frontier of the international municipal movement, local ownership for the future of humanity, a new social contract, and on universality and solidarity, the Declaration sets out the conviction of the LRGs and their associations that the transformation needed in the world’s development model is only possible if it responds to communities with sufficient collective responsibility in the form of political adjustments and compromises based on fairness, equality and sustainability.

On the next frontier of the movement, the Declaration addresses: facing global trends by remaining firmly attached to the movement’s origins and the protection and fostering of local democracy, loyal to the principles of decentralization, subsidiarity, gender equality, self-government and accountability; commitments to equality, diversity and universality and a transition from an international to an interdependent interurban and solidary local governments system, with the protection of living beings and ecosystems as its core agenda; recognition that poverty and inequality remain at the core of most problems worldwide; the catalyzing force of cities and regions, and the rural-urban continuum in amplifying and scaling up action; the critical role of driving changes in consumption and production to deliver inclusive and fair services for the preservation of the commons, and human rights; and approaching advances in the fourth industrial revolution.

On local ownership and the future of humanity, the Declaration addresses: the movement’s facilitation of a local-global platform to facilitate recognition that local issues can no longer be solved solely at the local level; renewal of the movement’s bottom-up engagement in pursuit of inclusive and just societies appropriate to conditions across different continents; recognizing that enhancing the voices of LRGs internationally is not an aim in itself; a new financial paradigm that will leave no one and no place behind; partnerships with the private sector and academia to co-create cities and territories committed to promoting local knowledge and expertise to harness co-production of data and data-informed cities and territories; and recognition that the 2030 Agenda represents an opportunity to renew the social contract, and for the movement to make the global agenda localized and locally-owned as a prerequisite for its successful implementation.

On Agenda 2030 and paving the way to a new social contract, the Declaration addresses: the right to housing as a core priority and the Cities for Adequate Housing Declaration, with greater powers to regulate real estate; fostering solidarity through a rights-based approach to migration; renewing democracy and citizenship to rebuild trust between communities and institutions; using local and territorial approaches to rethink and reshape governance as increasingly called for by citizens and social movements; defense of public representatives and exercise of public service; and intergenerational dialogues and peace.

The Declaration also highlights the importance of: harnessing new people-centered experiments and tools in pursuit of transformational change and a culture of peace; an ecological transition to international, local and regional governance based on an integrated territorial approach, building systems of cities based on solidarity rather than competition, a shift in consumption and production patterns, clean mobility, and replacing output-driven with creative cities; urban sprawl; decent work in the digital era; rethinking the complexity of the global supply chain and shorter and natural circuits in cities; building resilient communities in ways that go beyond reacting to disasters and embraces the management of natural resources; as well as global social justice and culture. On gender equality, the Declaration stresses the need for concrete actions to make the voices of women and girls heard and included, putting equality at the center of all decision making.

On universality and solidarity, the Declaration commits the movement’s members and associations to: further collaborative and peer-to-peer action and learning for the Decade of Implementation of the SDGs; the dissemination of the movement’s messages and the achievement of cohesion and solidarity through learning, decentralized cooperation and city diplomacy, using innovative methodologies and new tools to upscale knowledge and cooperation.

The Declaration reaffirms the World Summit’s commitment to active participation of subnational government networks and the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments and ecosystems of organizations. It further reaffirms the World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments as the true platform to reflect local and regional voices and perspectives; and acknowledges the intentions and content put forward in the Declaration as the “municipalist agenda.”

Outcome Document of the World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments, Durban Formal Session, 15 November 2019

The outcome document of the World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments (WALRG) notes that the constituency of local and regional government considers the next decade as the most critical for collective implementation of global goals and development agendas, with the Assembly providing a unique opportunity to renew shared commitments and vision to “leave no one and no place behind,” accelerate action, and strengthen partnerships.

The document notes WALRG’s role, convened by the Global Task Force, as a mechanism to review implementation of the New Urban Agenda, offering a space for structured dialogue with civil society and other spheres of government to create transformation, and celebrates the constituency’s contributions to Habitat III, and the Rio Conventions on climate change, biodiversity, and desertification.

The WALRG commits to establishing and strengthening its institutional and governance arrangements in its quest to formalize the relationship between LRGs and the international community in order to prepare for and implement the Urban Decade. It also welcomes the role of GTF founding member ICLEI to use and resource its focal point status within the Rio Conventions and related processes, providing the GTF and WALRG “with appropriate and well-coordinated entry points.” Other members of the GTF are invited to take and resource similar roles in areas such as migration, culture, gender, “safe and inclusive cities,” housing and other areas.

The document notes the WALRG’s unique opportunity to consolidate the voices and actions of its constituency and put forward principles of solidarity to enable the urgent transformation that societies and communities are calling for. On strengthening governance and institutional processes of the GTF and the WALRG, the document commits to explore the best mechanisms of interaction and coordination with the UN Secretary-General’s Office to ensure that the LRG constituency is best positioned and heard.

The outcome document notes that civil society has called on WALRG to:

  • Put the people and the planet at the forefront of its actions through multistakeholder partnerships and joint policy making;
  • Commit to leaving “no one and no place behind” by promoting accessible and inclusive policies;
  • Promote and mainstream gender equality; and
  • Recognize everyone’s right to the city and address informality as an opportunity for innovation and solutions.

The document further notes that members of the LRG constituency have called on the WALRG to support policies for localization by taking steps to address:

  • Decentralization to empower local and regional governments;
  • Securing dialogues among spheres of government, and enhancing capacities and access to finance for local and regional governments, to ensure renewal of the multilateral system;
  • The territorial approach to development as essential to the development of life systems;
  • Rural and urban linkages as a contribution to resilient cities;
  • A rights-based approach to cities to provide solutions to the triple informalities of work, housing and transport;
  • Participatory processes; and
  • Developing culture as a strand of global solidarity, a vector of peace and an operational component of localization.

Finally, the outcome document identifies thematic priorities for the Global Task Force and the Assembly, including:

  • Urban development based on a low emissions pathway with the aim of achieving climate neutrality in LRG infrastructure before 2050;
  • Resilience as a core part of LRG planning strategies;
  • Prioritization of nature-based solutions and mainstreaming of nature in cities and regions, recognizing the value of nature as fundamental to collective economic and social wellbeing, in the context of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and Earth’s planetary boundaries;
  • Securing safe access to food, water, energy, sanitation, and education for all; and
  • The creation and sustainability of people-centered, safe and culturally vibrant communities.

Upcoming Meetings

Smart City Expo World Congress 2019: With a focus on stimulating dynamic action to enable a sustainable and inclusive future to take hold, the Expo 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:

Madrid Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 25): Relocated to Madrid following Chile’s withdrawal as host, the Madrid Climate Change Conference will feature the 25th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 25) to the UNFCCC, the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 15), and the 2nd session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 2), along with meetings of the UNFCCC subsidiary bodies. The pre-sessional period will be from 26 November - 1 December 2019.  dates: 2-13 December 2019  location: Madrid, Spain  www:

19th Conference of the International Observatory of Participatory Democracy (IOPD): This year’s conference will address the theme, “Participatory Cities with Full Rights. Participatory Democracy and the Right to the City.” The Conference will also serve as the framework for the awarding of the annual “Best Practice in Citizens’ Participation Distinction.”  dates: 7-10 December 2019  location: Iztapalapa, Mexico  www:

OECD Local Development Forum 2019: The Forum will bring together hundreds of local development practitioners, entrepreneurs and social innovators to share good practices about how employment and skills programmes are meeting employer demand, what’s being done to help people and places catch-up, and how social innovation can be leveraged to create an inclusive local economy.  dates: 10-11 December 2019  location: Antwerp, Belgium  www:

Tenth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF10): 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 enabling business and regulatory environments; and the impact of migration on cities.  dates: 8-13 February 2020  location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates  www:

64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW64) / Beijing+25: In 2020, the global community will mark the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995). The year 2020 is a pivotal year for the accelerated realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, everywhere.  dates: 9-20 March 2020  location: New York, US  venue: UN Headquarters  www:

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 lessons learned from regional conferences, in order to inform city planning for the future.  dates: 9-11 June 2020  location: Gothenburg, Sweden  contact: Silvia Caggiati and Karin Weijdegård  email: and  www:

UN@75th Anniversary Celebrations: The UN will mark its 75th anniversary with a one-day high-level meeting of the UNGA on the theme, “The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism.” A Youth Plenary will be convened in conjunction with the 2020 ECOSOC Youth Forum and include a “youth-driven, global” dialogue on the theme of the commemoration event. Related events will include commemoration of the signing of the UN Charter on 26 June 2020 and UN Day on 24 October 2020 through observance ceremonies in New York.  date: 21 September 2020  location: New York City, US  venue: UN Headquarters  www:

Ninth European Conference on Sustainable Cities and Towns: Hosted by the City of Mannheim, and ICLEI Europe, the 2020 edition of the triennial conference on local sustainable development will demonstrate the urgent need for local governments to assume responsibility for urban transformation and lead the way in guiding Europe towards a secure and sustainable future.  dates: 30 September - 2 October 2020  location: Mannheim, Germany- Rosengarten  www:

13th Metropolis World Congress: Founded in 1985, the World Association of Major Metropolises (Metropolis) brings together 137 member cities and metropolitan areas with a population of over one million. Held triennially, the Congress provides a platform for global decision-makers to respond to urban challenges. The 2020 Congress will highlight China’s Belt and Road Initiative, share urban management experiences and step up construction efforts for an international exchange hub.  dates: tbc  location: Guangzhou, China  www:

CBD COP 15: The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will review the achievement and delivery of the CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. It is also anticipated that the final decision on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework will be taken, together with decisions on related topics including capacity building and resource mobilization. The meeting will be preceded by an open-ended intersessional Working Group process to develop the post-2020 framework. The first meeting of the Working Group took place in Nairobi, Kenya, from 27-30 August 2019. Its second meeting will be held in Kunming, China, from 24-28 February 2020. The third meeting of the Working Group is expected to convene from 27-31 July 2020 in Colombia.  dates: 5-10 October 2020 (tbc)  location: Kunming, China  www:

9th AfriCities Summit: At least 8,500 delegates are expected to attend the ninth edition of the Summit, which is convened by UCLG-Africa with the aim of building partnerships with a wide range of state and non-state actors.  dates: 16-20 November 2021  location: Kisumu, Kenya  www:

2022 World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders and 7th UCLG Congress: The 7th edition of the triennial UCLG Congress: World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders will take place in Daejeon, Republic of Korea, in 2022.  dates: tbc  location: Daejeon, Republic of Korea  www:

Further information


Negotiating blocs
European Union
Non-state coalitions
Local Authorities