The NUA needs to clearly articulate the right framework conditions for partnerships so that they are successful and can make a transformative contribution to its implementation. By Marie-Alexandra Kurth, Lisa Reudenbach and Fernando Casado.


By Marie-Alexandra Kurth, Lisa Reudenbach, and Fernando Casado

[25 July 2016] -- Urbanisation is transforming the social and economic fabric of entire nations, societies and economies. Cities are engines of growth, and history has shown that urbanisation can modernise societies. It can also promote more accountable governance systems, address inequalities more effectively, and increase life expectancy.

But these benefits can only be harnessed if urbanisation is pro-actively planned, managed and catered to the urban poor, who are most affected by inadequate policy responses to urbanisation.

At the same time, local authorities – the legitimate and relevant actors who ensure the steering of a territorial strategy based on the common interest – should have the institutional, regulatory, technical, and financial capacities to engage in proactive urban planning that benefits the poor.

Experience clearly shows that partnerships between national government, local authorities, and organised civil society that are based on high-quality data collected by communities produce development solutions that are more sustainable and affordable for the poorest. In simple terms, they create more inclusive cities. Therefore, it is crucial to reinforce territorial partnerships for development, led by local governments in partnership with community/citizen organisations, the private sector, and academia.

How the NUA embraces the role of partnerships

The third draft of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) suggests that there is a commitment to an urban paradigm shift towards an agenda that will develop and implement national urban policies within local-national partnerships, building integrated national systems of cities and human settlements (Article 12).

The draft proposes a Call for Action urging national, sub-national, and local governments as well as relevant stakeholders at all levels to revitalise, strengthen, and create partnerships – enhancing coordination and cooperation to effectively implement the NUA (Article 16).

Furthermore, the section on planning and managing urban spatial development emphasises promoting urban-rural partnerships and inter-municipal cooperation mechanisms as effective instruments to perform municipal and metropolitan administrative tasks, deliver public services, and promote both local and regional development (Article 84).

In addition, Article 106 calls for promoting knowledge-sharing and peer-learning partnerships to progressively eliminate inequalities. This section also promotes universal and equitable access to sanitation, hygiene, and safe, affordable drinking water for all.

The most significant change is the articulation of Article 112. This article recognises that successful implementation of the NUA requires an enabling environment that taps into all available sources, traditional and innovative, at the global, regional, national, sub-national, and local levels.  It also requires enhanced partnerships – among governments at all levels, the private sector, civil society, the United Nations system, and other actors – that are based on the principles of equality, non-discrimination, accountability, respect for all human rights, and solidarity, especially with the poorest and most vulnerable.

Other relevant claims of support are proposed, for example:

  --  Article 136, which suggests supporting local government associations as promoters and providers of capacity development;

  --  Article 139, which welcomes new multi-stakeholder partnerships in urban development processes and suggests the establishment of clear and transparent policy, financial and administrative frameworks and procedures, as well as planning guidelines for multi-stakeholder partnerships; and

  --  The follow-up and review section, in which the member states propose a voluntary, country-led evaluation process to create and enhance partnerships among all stakeholders; foster exchanges of urban solutions and mutual learning (Article 149); and call for strengthening mobilisation efforts through partnerships, advocacy, and awareness activities on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda (Article 151).


A clearer enabling framework for effective partnerships is needed

For many, this new draft shows a frank recognition of the need to create an enabling framework for partnerships as an essential precondition to realising the transformative commitments set out in the NUA. Globally, there is growing recognition that the NUA and its linkages to the SDGs will not be implemented through unilateral organisations, and that inclusive and resilient partnerships will be crucial for its implementation.

However, the right framework conditions must be further enhanced so that the partnerships are successful and can make a transformative contribution to implementing the NUA. These aspects need to be emphasised through Prepcom3 in Surabaya and in the last mile towards Habitat III:

  --  More specifics on how to create enabling partnerships:  Identify the areas where partnerships can add value and the needs that require urgent attention. Stakeholders in cities will need to prioritise the joint areas of work and define a mechanism for building consensus.

  --  Supporting inclusive partnerships through the entire cycle:  Partnerships will need support to be identified, designed, implemented, managed properly, and evaluated based on the impact created and results achieved. Doing this properly will require partnership brokers, enhancing organisations that catalyse joint action, proposing mediators, and enabling access to funds. These elements together will help partnerships flourish and ensure the key organisations have the right mindset and expertise to develop them effectively.

  --  Enabling the partnership mindset: Implementing the NUA through partnerships will require a change of mentality towards a culture of partnership that encourages and eases the collaborative spirit. This involves enhancing the creation of partnership forums, seminars, capacity building programmes, knowledge exchange platforms, compilations of successful partnership case studies, and partnership champions who create the proper background for its development.

  --  Providing a proper partnership Monitoring and Evaluation framework: It will be essential to build consensus around the concept of successful partnership. This includes reviewing partnership activities, framing the expected outcomes and impact through solid Key Progress Indicators, and providing a joint framework for evaluation. Currently, the NUA does not address how implementation will be measured and evaluated. 

The NUA has advanced significantly over the course of several drafts, finally embedding inclusive partnerships in the core of its third draft proposal. In order to make these partnerships an essential component of the implementation process, however, the NUA must create an enabling environment for partnership building. We must all play a crucial part in ensuring these missing factors are addressed before the final NUA is proposed in Quito. 

About the Authors

Marie-Alexandra Kurth, Sr. Urban Specialist, and Lisa Reudenbach, Urban Specialist, coordinate a Joint Work Programme among Cities Alliance members, which has been set up as an opportunity for joint programming and advocacy activities toward Habitat III.

Fernando Casado is the director of the Centro de Alianzas para el Desarrollo and GlobalCAD, based in Barcelona. GlobalCAD is supporting the Cities Alliance Secretariat’s Joint Work Programme with a common voice toward Habitat III.



Urbanisation can modernise societies, address inequalities, promote accountable governance, and increase life expectancy. Photo: Susanna Henderson/Cities Alliance          

For many, this new draft shows a frank recognition of the need to create an enabling framework for partnerships as an essential precondition to realising the transformative commitments set out through the New Urban Agenda.


Related Items:

Cities Alliance Joint Work Programme for Habitat III

The Future of the City Rests on Bridging the Inclusivity Gap

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