As Latin America Mobilises for Habitat III, Cities Alliance Offers a Platform for Knowledge and Cooperation
[8 March 2016] -- Come October 2016, all eyes will be on Latin America when the region hosts Habitat III, formally known as the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, in Quito, Ecuador.
The choice of Latin America to host Habitat III is a strategic one. The region has nursed important innovations in terms of urbanisation and urban policy, including institutionalised participatory channels for master plans, city planning, and budgets.
It has also been a source of progressive legal frameworks and land laws, such as Brazil’s City Statute and Law 388 in Colombia; equitable transportation systems; and expanding infrastructure in slums.
Moreover, there is a lot of momentum in Latin America for Habitat III and for urban development in general. In preparation for October, stakeholders and experts from across the region have been gathering to reflect on the opportunities for the regional urban agenda. While the launch of a new urban agenda will have a global impact, it will be even greater for Latin America because of its high levels of mobilisation beforehand.
Cities Alliance has supported many of these preparatory events, bringing together knowledge, expertise and experiences from the region and offering an international perspective. The process has also underscored how the Cities Alliance partnership adds value to Latin America: through knowledge and cooperation.
Building trust and the foundation for cooperation
Cities Alliance has a history of promoting innovations in Latin America, and the partnership is widely recognised as a key global player in the region with considerable expertise. And as a partnership with broad connections and a strong reputation in Latin America, Cities Alliance can bring members and partners together in a way that they haven’t experienced before.
For example, Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) and GIZ (the German Agency for International Cooperation) are two members of the Cities Alliance partnership that are very active in Latin America in advocating for a sustainable and equitable urban agenda and the Habitat III process, and we have worked with both to maximise knowledge sharing in the leadup to Habitat III.
Cities Alliance worked with HFHI to support the 2nd Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Forum “Vivienda para la Vida” (Housing for Life) in Monterrey, Mexico this past May as part of the preparations for Habitat III.
And at a November 2015 Habitat III thematic meeting on Intermediate Cities in Cuenca, Cities Alliance, GIZ, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) cohosted a very successful side event that brought together experts from the region to discuss its contribution to Habitat III and the new urban agenda.
Organising conferences and side events such as Monterrey and Cuenca offer more than opportunities for knowledge sharing. They are an important part of developing synergies and building trust among stakeholders in a region where international cooperation on urban development issues is still a relatively new concept.
This is particularly important for Brazil and Chile, both Cities Alliance members that are in the process of transitioning from aid recipients to donors. They are no longer receiving aid, but are not yet recognised as donors. At the same time, Latin America is a rich source of knowledge resources, and Cities Alliance provides a flexible platform for knowledge sharing and working together.
For instance, the partnership supported (and participated in) a series of joint dialogue between Brazil and the European Union to exchange technical know-how on a range of sectors and issues, including on the role of national governments in supporting cities for the implementation of the new urban agenda.
On a regional level, Chile and Brazil are active members in the General Assembly of Ministers of Housing and Urban Development of Latin America and the Caribbean (known by its Spanish acronym MINURVI). Cities Alliance has participated in the 2014 and 2015 meetings of MINURVI, consulting on the Assembly’s Habitat III report and providing suggestions and recommendations.
The Cities Alliance Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) team has also fostered cooperation between Chile and Brazil through the Cities Alliance Joint Work Programme on Gender Equality, a platform for promoting the role of women in development and ensuring that gender equality is mainstreamed across Cities Alliance activities.
Both countries were interested in finding ways to strengthen the gender approach in national policies, and Cities Alliance facilitated hiring a consultant to study policies and provide recommendations. The findings will be included in the Habitat III process and used as input for international advocacy. They will also be presented at the next meeting of MINURVI, which will take place before Habitat III.
We have also fostered cooperation with other members of the partnership. For example, Chile has been working at the community leader level to promote exchanges among community leaders to discuss how projects can include a gender angle. The Cities Alliance LAC team facilitated a connection with Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), which has extensive experience in this area. SDI and Chile are now working together to discuss now to improve gender in projects and perspective among community leaders, many of whom are men.
A Cities Alliance strategy for Latin America and the Caribbean
The preparation process for Habitat III offered Cities Alliance a unique opportunity to get input and support from key members and partners for a new strategy to guide the partnership’s activities in Latin America. As a result, we have crafted a regional strategy that is connected to both regional demands and global trends, and promotes synergy among key members as much as possible.