The United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) World Council 2021 began with a discussion about human rights and contributions of local and regional governments to the UN Secretary General’s report, “Our Common Agenda.” Emilia Saiz Carrancedo, UCLG Secretary General, welcomed delegates to the meeting taking place in the context of the Smart City Expo World Congress, in Barcelona, Spain, and also online, in a hybrid format. Mohamed Boudra, UCLG President, called the UCLG Forum of Regions’ new roadmap for coordinating cities and regions essential for transforming the social contract and for establishing a new mode of interaction with governments.
Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted how the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed inequalities and structural discrimination in societies. She recognized numerous examples of cities working to protect the most affected people, highlighting a shift to people-centered governance.
Philippe Rio, Mayor of Grigny, France, said the pandemic underlines the importance of accelerating the role of local municipalities in safeguarding human rights and the SDGs. Linda Voortman, Co-mayor of Utrecht, the Netherlands, urged translating human rights to the local level as a tool for pursuing concrete transformation.
Thembisile Nkadimeng, Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, South Africa, and Co-President of UCLG, chaired a segment on local and regional governments “breaking through as one.” Volker Türk, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, presented on the UN Secretary General’s Report, “Our Common Agenda,” which had been mandated to address present and future challenges. He highlighted the important role of local governments and cities who are often the first point of contact and thus key to addressing the challenges.
Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona, Spain, and UCLG Special Envoy to the UN, welcomed delegates to Barcelona, and expressed readiness to collaborate on the Common Agenda. She noted the proposal to have an advisory committee with local governments, and said it is vital to ensure “inclusive multilateralism.”
Other mayors commented on the importance of including a “circular culture” perspective and rethinking the ways of production, health systems, and urban planning. Participants also discussed UCLG Policy Councils working towards the Pact for the Future, and the renewed mandate to bridge ties between the political and policy inputs for UCLG. José Ribeiro, Mayor of Valongo, Portugal, presented the International Observatory on Participatory Democracy distinction award on “Best Practice in Citizen Participation” to the municipality of Lima, Peru. Tania Peña, Youth Manager of the Municipality Lima, talked about their work engaging youth, including in response to the pandemic and crime prevention.
The meeting also addressed institutional matters, including the adoption of the report of the 2020 World Council, which was hosted virtually by the city of Guangzhou, China. UCLG President Boudra shared highlights of the organization’s work in 2021. UCLG Secretary General Saiz Carrancedo presented on the work of the Policy Councils and the UCLG work plan for 2022. Delegates heard a message by Heo Tae-jeong, Mayor of Daejeon, Republic of Korea, host of the seventh UCLG World Congress in 2022. Following exchanges on these issues delegates approved the work plan for 2022.
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