Cities Alliance Members Kick Start Joint Advocacy for Habitat III

Our members have established a Joint Work Programme to formulate common key advocacy messages and how best to disseminate them in the leadup to Habitat III.

In addition to promoting a standalone urban Sustainable Development Goal, the Cities Alliance’s advocacy efforts are also focused on the next major global event for cities: the third United Nations conference on housing and sustainable urban development (Habitat III) in 2016.

When it comes to city issues, the Habitat conferences are arguably the most influential globally. The first Habitat conference in 1976 sparked an international debate on urban issues, and resulted in the creation of UN-Habitat.

Habitat II in 1996 set out the Habitat Agenda, a global plan of action for urbanisation, and established the World Urban Forum. For its 2016 conference, Habitat III will focus on implementing a new urban agenda.

In preparation Cities Alliance members have established a Joint Work Programme (JWP) to formulate common key advocacy messages and how best to disseminate them in the leadup to Habitat III. The JWP comprises UN-Habitat, the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), the German Federal Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and Habitat for Humanity International.

The JWP held a dialogue 26 May 2014 in New York City. Around 35 representatives came to discuss lessons learned from the Habitat implementation process and expectations for Habitat III. The policy dialogue was facilitated by Ana Maria Argilagos of the Ford Foundation, one of the Cities Alliance’s newest members, and featured a thought-provoking keynote address by Robert Buckley of the New School.

Buckley argued that the framing of urbanisation and urban development has not worked in the last 20 years, and is even less likely to work now. “Unless slogans like ‘the right to the city’ detail specific policies, they will be dismissed by fiscally-pressed Finance Ministers who are already cutting back on government expenditures,” he remarked.

Without urbanisation messages that resonate, interest in cities is waning, which will ultimately impact the ability to deal with the major urban challenges of our time. Buckley called for the argument on behalf of cities to be reframed and target the right audience for Habitat III.

Within this context, participants highlighted a number of key areas for action:

  • Consider focusing on inclusive development approaches
  • Adopt clear advocacy messages highlighting the opportunities that a new urban agenda could create for all
  • Continue the legacy of Habitat II, especially its focus on the role of local governments and communities in development
  • Stress Habitat III’s potential to create a new, compelling vision for cities with commitments from local and national governments
  • Be aware to speak to the right target audiences and national ministries for Habitat III

This was the first such dialogue hosted by the JWP, and it will not be the last. With many governments and development partners focusing on the procedural aspects of the preparation process, the Cities Alliance JWP provides a much-needed space for members and partners to discuss the future urban agenda.

“It is fantastic to see the partnership for the promotion of the urban agenda growing. This will be key for a successful Habitat III preparation process,” noted Dr. Rene Peter Hohmann, Sr Urban Specialist who represented the Secretariat at the event.

For more information on current and planned activities of the Joint Work Programme, please contact the Cities Alliance Secretariat (