As Latin America Mobilises for Habitat III, Cities Alliance Offers a Platform for Knowledge and Cooperation
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 in May 2015 as part of the preparations for Habitat III, and co-hosted a very successful side event at a November 2015 Habitat III thematic meeting on Intermediate Cities in Cuenca.
Most recently, the partnership actively participated in the Habitat III Regional Meeting held in Toluca, Mexico in April 2016. At Toluca, Cities Alliance co-organised seven side events (out of a total of 44 held) with a wide range of partners, including Brazil’s Ministry of Cities, the Governments of Colombia and Ecuador, UNDP, UNEP, AVINA, the World Resources Institute, GIZ, OECD, UCLG, FLACSO, MINURVI, the Central American Social Integration System (SISCA), as well as universities and civil society organisations from the region.
Prior to Toluca, Cities Alliance co-organised a preparatory workshop in Mexico City 16-17 April together with CAF (Development Bank of Latin America), the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), FLACSO Ecuador, GIZ, and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). The workshop brought together some 25 policy unit experts from Latin America, representatives of national governments, the Ministers of Housing and Urban Development of Latin America and the Caribbean (known by its Spanish acronym MINURVI), and institutions to provide inputs to the draft Toluca Declaration, many of which were incorporated in the final version.
Organising conferences and side events such as Toluca, 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 not particularly strong.
This is particularly important for Brazil and Chile, both Cities Alliance members that are in the process of transitioning from aid recipients to 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 MINURVI. Cities Alliance participated in MINURVI’s 2014 and 2015 meetings, 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, both male and female.
Asian Cities Offer Recommendations on Creating Inclusive Cities
In addition to supporting the Habitat III process in Latin America, Cities Alliance is also promoting the debate on how to shape the New Urban Agenda in Asia. This February, a regional symposium held in New Delhi brought together a range of stakeholders from over eight Asian countries to share ideas on how to create inclusive cities and provide recommendations for the Habitat III process.
This is a critical issue in Asia, where more than 60 percent of the increase in the world’s urban population over the next three decades will occur and over 900 million people live on less than US$1.25 a day, more than half of them in urban areas. Cities across the region have undertaken various initiatives aimed at creating inclusive cities and reducing urban poverty.
To learn from their experiences, the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA), the Cities Alliance, the GIZ Inclusive Cities Partnership Program and GIZ Inclusive Metropolitan Environments for the Urban Poor Project convened a regional symposium in New Delhi 23-24 February 2016.
Working groups at the symposium came up with a set of recommendations for the New Urban Agenda and Habitat III process leading to the implementation of SDG 11:
- Provide adaptive institutional frameworks and cooperation mechanisms
- Enhance coordination and exchange among different sectors and governance levels
- Find the right balance between the formal and the informal: Informalise the formal and simplify developments
- Respect citizens’ social and sustainable rights
- Ensure access to urban basic services and affordable housing to all
- Improve municipal finance to ensure inclusive development
- Overcome the rural-urban divide by knowledge generation, capacity development and cooperation
There was broad consensus among the discussants that inclusive urban approaches should focus on integrated planning, formulating a national urban policy, and including the private sector as well as poor and disadvantaged people in the planning and decision-making process. It was emphasised that it is equally important to redefine the notions of informality, urbanisation and inclusion.