Habitat III and the role of the New Urban Agenda for Asian Cities

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From October 17-20, 2016, UN-Habitat held its most anticipated flagship conference for the 3rd time: Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador. This conference is celebrated every 20 years to define the way urbanization should be guided. These recommendations are defined in the New Urban Agenda that was adopted at the end of the ceremony which brings two years of consultations and negotiations among all kinds of urban stakeholders to conclusion. Being one of the most rapidly urbanized regions, Asia will be greatly affected in the next years, and the New Urban Agenda will have an impact on this.

Some of the key issues included in the New Urban Agenda are promoting a stronger role of local governments in urban development, a progressive view of equity and rights, and using urban planning to promote urban sustainable development that includes social, environmental, and financial elements. These are all areas in which CityNet has been active in different ways by reinforcing the capacities of cities and local governments from various different corners and stages of development in Asia.

Due to its broad and active work with cities, CityNet was invited to actively participate in several events during Habitat III. Represented by Mr. Sayel Cortes, CityNet role in Habitat III started with facilitating a pre-event on October 16, organized by UN-Habitat on “New Settlements and Host Communities: Planning for Sustainable Integration of Refugees” where relevant topics on forced migration, internal displacements, and other issues were addressed by experts from Africa and Asia mainly.

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It was then followed by a presentation on the benefits of the Urban SDG Knowledge Platform at the networking event “Why Seoul? Inclusive and Transparent City Development: Sharing Seoul’s Policies and Best Practices” organized by Seoul Metropolitan Government and UNDP on October 18. This was an important opportunity to promote the online knowledge platform, that UN-ESCAP, Seoul Metropolitan Government and CityNet are currently developing, which will be launched in Bangkok on November 30.

CityNet also participated as panelist in two sessions: “City Diplomacy: Connecting Global Cities Strategically” on October 19, which is part of a multidisciplinary research effort to understand how city networks work and how they can work better; and “Housing for All: An Indian Perspective” that gave a few examples of the policies India is doing to reduce informal settlements, where CityNet shared the result of the Affordable Housing workshop held in March this year.

Finally CityNet had the opportunity to facilitate a three-hour training session on “Urban Planning for City Leaders” where UN-Habitat experts on urban design, law, and finance explained how these three factors come together to plan a city. In addition, Habitat III provided a space for CityNet to meet new and old partners, as well as a few members to advance conversations that CityNet has been advocating particularly the Safer Cities Program and CityNet’s participation in the World Urban Campaign.

In conclusion, Habitat III has marked a historical moment for cities. With this new chapter starting, the challenges to implement the New Urban Agenda, including the specific actions, metrics, or mechanisms that are needed, are here. Asian cities will definitely be a global reference in this process, and CityNet is here to support them.