What is Habitat III?
Habitat III is the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development that is to take place in Quito, Ecuador, from 17 – 20 October 2016. Habitat III is the third in series of bi-decennial conferences that began in 1976 in Vancouver, with the second Habitat II held in Istanbul in 1996.
Learn more about Habitat III and how the important inter-governmental agreements on Sustainable Development from 2015 (e.g. the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement) now need to be anchored in its New Urban Agenda here.
The official preparatory process for Habitat III took off in September 2014 with the convening of the 1st Preparatory Committee in New York. At that time, key stakeholder mechanisms were the World Urban Campaign, which had been gathering partners around Habitat III agenda since 1996, as well as the Global Task Force of Local and Regional Governments in the Post-2015 Development Agenda Towards Habitat III.
Over the past 2 years, limited progress was made on the overall organization of the conference due to a lack of key decisions on inter-governmental process and stakeholder engagement, the pace of establishing the conference Secretariat and the relative priority of the SDGs and climate negotiations in the agenda of all stakeholders.
The UN General Assembly Resolution adopted in December 2015, however, resolved many pending issues by clarifying the negotiation process for the preparation of the outcome document and announcing a number of input mechanisms, including preparatory consultative regional/thematic meetings, debates through expert Policy Units and dedicated hearings with Local Authorities and other stakeholder groups prior to the informal negotiation sessions in New York.
It has to be commended that the Resolution refers to the 2nd World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments and General Assembly of Partners as part of the innovative mechanisms of stakeholder engagement.
It is important to note that all the preparatory consultation processes have to conclude their work before the release of the Zero Order Draft in late April. Thematic meetings hosted by local governments may play an important role as their outcomes are expected to be presented as inputs to the preparations of the Zero Order Draft, in addition to traditional UN regional meetings.
Once this document is released, the main negotiation process will be conducted in New York through informal sessions where hearings with Local Authorities and civil society will take place in May and June respectively.
Meanwhile, the 2nd UN Environment Assembly to be held in Nairobi in May that will gather Environment Ministers from around the world may have a significant role, within the scope of related issues in environmental dimensions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Also, the World Humanitarian Summit in May in Istanbul - as an initiative of the UN Secretary General - and the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly in September in New York may be considered as key channels to secure the engagement of Heads of States and Governments in the HABITAT III process.
Throughout these processes, certain events could be considered as important milestones for additional stakeholder inputs, awareness and advocacy: the German Habitat Forum on 1-2 June in Berlin and the Resilient Cities Congress in Bonn on 6-8 July ahead of the 3rd Preparatory Committee in Surabaya at the end of July, as well as Climate Chance – World Conference of Climate Actors at the end of September ahead of the Conference in October.
ICLEI at Policy Units
Monika Zimmermann and Emani Kumar, Deputy Secretary Generals of ICLEI are acting as international experts at the Policy Units on Urban Ecology and Resilience (Policy Unit: 8) and Urban Services and Technology (Policy Units:9) respectively.
ICLEI at Regional and Thematic Events
ICLEI South Asia and South East Asia Secretariats actively engaged at the 6th Asia-Pacific Urban Forum (APUF-6) in October 2015 which preceded the Habitat III Regional meeting. Four out of the seven Thematic Events are hosted by ICLEI Members. Events in Tel Aviv on civic engagement and in Montreal on metropolitan areas were already concluded in 2015. In 2016, Mexico City will host the event on finance on 9-11 March and Barcelona on public spaces on 4-5 April.
ICLEI in the Global Task Force
The Global Task Force of Local and Regional Governments in the Post2015 Development Agenda Towards HABITATIII was created at the end of 2012 in order to support the work of the Mayor of Istanbul, President of UCLG in his engagement as the member of the UN Secretary General´s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons in the Post2015 Development Agenda, launched after the Rio+20 Summit. In time, the Global Task Force played a critical role in particular in the negotiations related to Sustainable Development Goals which concluded in September 2015 with the adoption of 17 Goals, including Goal:11 on sustainable cities and human settlements. ICLEI has been participating in the work of the Global Task Force since the beginning as a lead member. At the GTF Consultation Meeting in Barcelona on 9-10 February, Kathrine Brekke, Head of Urban Research represented ICLEI and provided specific inputs and updates in terms of outcomes of COP21 that concluded with the Paris Climate Agreement as well as the preparations of the 2nd United Nations Environment Assembly to be held in Nairobi on 23-27 May.
ICLEI at the General Assembly of Partners
The General Assembly of Partners (GAP) evolved a special initiative of the World Urban Campaign which is the key stakeholder mechanisms at the HABITATII Agenda and World Urban Forum. During the 2nd Preparatory Committee of the HABITATIII in Nairobi in April 2015, the GAP was launched with the adoption of its constitution and by-laws. As of February 2015, GAP consists of 14 Partner Constituencies including Local and Subnational Authorities, where Yunus Arikan, ICLEI´s Head of Global Policy and Advocacy acts as the Co-Chair. The GAP Executive Committee Meeting met in Berlin on 7-9 February for the planning of the year round activities where Yunus Arikan represented Local and Subnational Authorities Partner Constituency.
ICLEI calls for active engagement of Environment Ministers and community at HABITATIII through UNEA2
As the world´s highest level decision making body on environment, the 2nd UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) will take place in Nairobi on 23-27 May focusing on delivering on the environmental dimensions of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and with a thematic focus on health and environment.
This UNEA session is specifically important as it will enable environment Ministers and community to have the first assessment of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement. Yunus Arikan, Head of Global Policy and Advocacy represented ICLEI at the preparatory meeting of the UNEA-2 held in Nairobi on 14-19 February, including consultation meeting of the Global Major Groups and Stakeholders (website, report) as well as interventions at the official sessions Open Ended Working Group of Committee of the Permanent Representatives.
Throughout these events, ICLEI called for Environment Ministers to consider at UNEA-2 to adopt substantial inputs to the HABITATIII consultations since almost all the outcomes related to cities and sustainable urban development that were adopted within the scope of the intergovernmental processes concluded in 2015, have strong relations to the environment.
The call was also included in the joint statement of Major Groups and Stakeholders at the closing plenary of the OECPR meeting on 19 February.
(The on-demand webcasts are available online. An ICLEI intervention on behalf of Local Authorities Major Group (LAMG) was delivered at the plenary on 15 February afternoon starting from 22:20:00, and the response by UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner is available starting from 27:10:00.)
ICLEI at other fora related to HABITATIII
In 2015, ICLEI became a member of Cities Alliance, a global partnership for urban poverty reduction and the promotion of the role of cities in sustainable development. As one of the first immediate outcomes of this engagement, ICLEI started to participate in the Cities Alliance Joint Work Programme for HABITATIII which held its first meeting of 2016 in Bonn on 13 January, where ICLEI was represented by Monika Zimmermann, Yunus Arikan and Katherine Brekke.
On 25th February HRH The Prince of Wales International Sustainability Unit convened around eighty key stakeholders from within the Habitat III process and from the wider discourse on sustainable urbanisation to a meeting at Lancaster House, London, entitled; "Situating the City: The role of integrated planning in sustainable and equitable economic transformation.". Building on ICLEI's long-standing partnership with ISU and as a lead member of ICLEI's CityFood Network launched at the World Congress 2015 in Seoul, Mayor Soyer highlighted the importance of city-region and urban-rural linkages in sustainable urban development. Maruxa Cardama, Executive Director of the Communitas Coalition where ICLEI acts as a lead partner also participated in the event as moderator.