United Cities and Local Governments
Information
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: United Cities and Local Governments
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Agenda 21 (10 hits),

General Content

a) What are the expectations for the outcome of Rio+20, and what are the concrete proposals in this regard, including views on a possible structure of the Outcome document?

1) A serious, profound, in-depth analysis on the foundations of sustainable development in the light of the changes in the world during the last 20 years. This would entail updating the notion of development and including a fourth pillar of culture.

2) The outcome document from Rio+20 Summit should include a specific chapter devoted to local and regional authorities and a renewed Agenda 21, taking into account the era of urbanization the world has entered. The special perspective of local and regional governments? deriving from their proximity to the citizens is instrumental for the success of sustainability and for the implementation of good governance mechanisms, based on transparency, participation and accountability. National strategies for sustainable development should take into account the local realities and trends with the active assistance of local governments. There is a necessity to go beyond the clusters and sectoral approaches.

3) An agreement on a renewed global governance system for Sustainable Development which would go beyond the environment pillar (see point 2.specific elements ? c.). If environmental governance has to be strengthened and better coordinated by a reinforced organisation, sustainable development has to be implemented in a transversal way that would involve looking at the three existing pillars when designing new policies and implementing programs. Strengthening governance at local level and particularly in urban environments and making local and regional authorities further accountable will be key to achieving sustainability.

4) Sustainable development goals, elaborated jointly with stakeholders. The sustainable development goals should not be limited to environmental goals and would be closely linked with the Millennium Development Goals. Alternatively a ?green roadmap? could define the concrete steps to undertake in order to achieve a sustainable society. This green roadmap should be the tool ensuring implementation of the sustainable agenda for the next 20 years in the new institutional framework for sustainable development. This roadmap has to be elaborated and implemented with the full partnership of major groups? representatives.

b) What are the comments, if any, on existing proposals: e.g., a green economy roadmap, framework for action, sustainable development goals, a revitalized global partnership for sustainable development, or others?

Regarding the global economic and financial crisis the world is currently facing, there is a growing understanding that the system we have been relying on cannot further be followed. Local authorities do believe that green economy is not the appropriate angle to envisage sustainable development. Considering a ?green society? would better reflect the transversal approach that should prevail in sustainable development, looking jointly at economic but also social, environmental and cultural dimensions of a sustainable way of life for all.
c) What are the views on implementation and on how to close the implementation gap, which relevant actors are envisaged as being involved (Governments, specific Major Groups, UN system, IFIs, etc.);

The new international governance framework for sustainable development should ensure the transition towards reduction of poverty and green society, providing clear objectives and concrete indicators to measure progress at all levels (international, regional and local).

The Rio Conference in 1992 proved the growing awareness of the role of civil society and non-state actors, first through the large participation of local authorities? representatives and NGOs and also by the formal recognition of stakeholders through Major groups institutionalized in the Agenda 21 (among which local authorities in chapter 28). Indeed participation of the citizens and good governance, that were already to be found in local Agenda 21 are crucial elements of sustainable development.

The new IFSD should be built on the necessary partnership between national governments and local partners and in the first place local authorities (but also business, civil society?). Structural dialogue with stakeholders would allow decisions to be taken with level of decision closest to citizens. Indeed, local governments, as decentralized level of the States, and given their proximity to citizens should be closely involved in elaboration and implementation of all national policies. It should include mechanisms to allow synergies and task sharing to ensure optimal decision making and implementation.

A good example that could be followed regarding cooperation between all levels of governance is the Plan for local authorities actions on biodiversity adopted during the 10th COP on biodiversity (CDB) in November 2010.

d) What specific cooperation mechanisms, partnership arrangements or other implementation tools are envisaged and what is the relevant time frame for the proposed decisions to be reached and actions to be implemented?

1. The Agenda 21 as encountered a great success at local level with the adoption in many cities and local governments of local Agenda 21. But it has lacked a specific support from national governments and the international community to shape an institutional framework for cooperation that would have enhanced and upscaled the implementation of the actions entailed in the local agendas 21: Rio+20 is the opportunity for national governments to give a clear support and to strengthen the implementation of local Agenda 21.

2. International decentralized cooperation should also be strengthened as one of the essential tool for cooperation and development. The local root of actions, sustained in a limited territorial dimension not only guarantees a local appropriation and a greater sustainability to actions, but it also provides them with a more democratic base as well. Although there are important differences in the way these problems are faced, the options to fulfill the demands of the citizenship are often very similar and constitute a solid base for horizontal cooperation and for the exchange of experiences.

3. Local authorities have further developed and adopted their own international tools to support and implement sustainable development policies that should be supported and upscaled as part of national action plans and strategies such as:

i. The Global Cities Covenant on Climate - "The Mexico City Pact"- is a voluntary initiative of mayors and local authority representatives that aims to advance climate actions. By signing the Pact, signatories commit to 10 action points, including the reduction of emissions, adaptation to the impacts of climate change and fostering city-to-city cooperation.

ii. The Agenda 21 for culture which is the first international ?charter of principles? on local cultural policies and sustainable development. It advocates to integrate culture and the three other dimensions of sustainability. It was approved in Barcelona on 8 May 2004. 450 Local Governments adopted the Agenda 21 for culture as a reference document for their programmes on culture.

iii. The Global Charter-Agenda for Human Rights in the City, a tool developed by local governments since 2006 in cooperation with experts, social movements and UN agencies (UNESCO and UN HABITAT) aiming to promote the fulfillment of human rights in cities.

Specific Elements
a) Objective of the Conference: To secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assessing the progress to date and remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development and addressing new and emerging challenges.

Contributions could include possible sectoral priorities (e.g., (e.g., energy, food security and sustainable agriculture, technology transfer, water, oceans, sustainable urbanization, sustainable consumption and production, natural disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation, biodiversity, etc.) and sectoral initiatives that contribute to integrate the three pillars of sustainable development could be launched and endorsed at Rio+20.

To secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assessing the progress to date and remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development and addressing new and emerging challenges.
Contributions could include possible sectoral priorities (e.g., (e.g., energy, food security and sustainable agriculture, technology transfer, water, oceans, sustainable urbanization, sustainable consumption and production, natural disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation, biodiversity, etc.) and sectoral initiatives that contribute to integrate the three pillars of sustainable development could be launched and endorsed at Rio+20.

In the next 30 years, 2/3 of the world population will live in cities. As a consequence, the fight for sustainable development and reduction of poverty will mainly take place in urban areas. The new challenges of ?sustainable urbanization? and ?sustainable consumption? introduced by the UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon are therefore of crucial importance in the international agenda of the 20 coming years. The debate on the management of these territories, infrastructures and services in the city is essential for a real change of paradigm to pursue a sustainable urban development.

In this regard the new international governance framework should take into account support and empowerment of local governments that will have to face this challenge first hand.

Sustainable development cannot be envisaged without the fulfillment of Human rights in the city, the recognition of culture as a key component of sustainable development, access for all to basic services ? water, sanitation, education, health, transports, habitat-, as well as sustainable urban planning . Cities will have to be inclusive, creative, better planned and organized, with capacities to reduce and manage wastes, reduce carbon footprint, increase renewable energies use and as such contribute to a more cost-efficient and rationalized use of natural resources.

I. Taking forward the right to the city.

Today, international law and the UN system recognize the need to go beyond the state-centric approach of Human rights protection and to share the duty with other stakeholders and levels of government.

With this background, local authorities from different regions of the world have jointly worked to take forward the so-called ?right to the city?, which further led to the Global Charter-Agenda for Human Rights in the City. This tool conceived by local authorities, with the support of the academia and civil society, provides a rights-based approach and a specific action plan to local authorities aiming to strengthen the social aspect of sustainable development. Sustainable urban development in particular can only be achieved by ensuring social sustainability, thus facing issues such as poverty, precarious employment, spatial segregation, insufficient provision of basic services, discrimination and educational deficit.

II. Culture as fourth pillar of sustainable development.

Local authorities are advocating for culture to be recognized as the fourth pillar of sustainable development. There is a growing understanding that the world is not only facing economic, social, or environmental challenges ? the three pillars currently acknowledged as the components of sustainable development ? but that creativity, knowledge, diversity, and beauty are the unavoidable bases for dialogue for peace and progress as these values are intrinsically connected to human development and freedoms. The new approach addresses the relation between culture and sustainable development through dual means:
1. the development of local cultures (i.e. heritage, creativity, knowledge...).
2. ensuring that culture has its rightful place in all public policies, particularly those related to education, the economy, science, communication, environment, social cohesion and international cooperation.

The key importance of culture has already been recognized through the Agenda 21 for culture, signed and implemented by almost 450 cities and local governments in the five continents, in partnerships with international organizations, national governments and civil society.

Culture is contributing to a green society, in particular through preservation of natural and historical heritage, promotion of creativity, cultural industry and tourism. Culture has a great role to play in public policies of the developing countries and should particularly be recognized in its relations with other issues such as environment, education, social cohesion, identity and international cooperation between nations. In that regard, UNESCO has included considerations related to SD in all activities since 1996; but also UNDP, UNEP and UN Habitat do include cultural considerations in their programmes.
Including culture as fourth pillar of sustainability would reinforce the integration between the three existing pillars, and add coherence to the paradigm of sustainability.

III. Access to basic services

Due to their proximity to citizens and inhabitants, cities and local authorities are a pivotal sphere of government for the development and implementation of basic services which will lead to poverty alleviation. They have further a strong convening power and the potential to develop key partnership with the civil society and private sector to improve the delivery of these services

Among basic services a special focus should be given to access to water, recognized as an international human right in July 2010, with the great satisfaction of local authorities that had advocated it for years. The General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on States and international organizations to provide financial resources, build capacity and transfer technology, particularly to developing countries, in scaling up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all. This international commitment to ensure access to water to population, which was already included in the MDGs should be further adopted as a sustainable development goal which would take into account the essential role of local governments to reach it.

In order to fully deliver basic services local governments need the effective decentralization of responsibilities, policy management, decision-making authority and sufficient resources, including revenue collection authority. In that regard, local authorities have been closely involved in the development of the ?International guidelines on decentralization and access to basic services for all? adopted by UN Habitat.

IV. Disaster risk reduction

Territories at all level should rely on principles and recommendations of the Hyogo framework, adopted in 2005 and signed by 168 countries to implement disaster risk reduction strategies, such as prevention and mitigation plans.

Local governments should benefit from capacity building to help them integrate disaster management in their developing strategy in order to protect their population and ensure them of healthy lands, secured land tenure and reliable infrastructures and services.

Furthermore, urban areas are particularly impacted by climate change, its impacts and the increasing natural disasters. Sustainable urban planning has to take into account disaster risk reduction strategies, sustainable planning being a way to minimize over costs, such as those caused by urbanization of land exposed to risks.
V. Sustainable urban planning

The city of tomorrow is no longer divided into functions or sectors, it offers a variety of opportunities for citizens to engage. This requires a more holistic and positive view of urbanization. People keep coming to cities looking for opportunities that they will not have elsewhere. Metropolises around the world have developed into true development motors in their respective countries. The increase of slum dwellers and human settlements needs to be anticipated and addressed as an opportunity rather than a problem. Sustainability policies will need to be based on well planned and well governed cities that will be able to partners with all stakeholders for the provision of services, especially transport, water, energy and housing but also health or social services.

A way to adapt to the need for sustainable cities, consuming less energy and reducing their carbon footprints, can be found in the concept of the city of proximity. This concept was developed by local authorities and refers to the key competencies of local governments for spatial planning and urban development. This philosophy reinforces the compact and inclusive city, allowing for self sustaining territorial units with a distinct identity, and should enable citizens to undertake their activities in their own neighborhoods. Public space will fill more social functions and the concept of mobility will change as travel distances are reduced. This type of strategy would include such areas as broad band access (IT), new modes of communication, new work structures, revision of public services? grids (schools, sports), increase of energy saving concepts such as public transport, electric cars and bicycles, walkable cities as well as new food supply chain and urban agriculture.

b) Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication: views regarding how green economy can be a means to achieve sustainable development in its three dimensions, and poverty eradication; what is its potential added value; experience to date, including what has worked and how to build upon success, what are the challenges and opportunities and how to address the challenges and seize opportunities, and possible elements of an agreement in outcome document on a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication

b. Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication: views regarding how green economy can be a means to achieve sustainable development in its three dimensions, and poverty eradication; what is its potential added value; experience to date, including what has worked and how to build upon success, what are the challenges and opportunities and how to address the challenges and seize opportunities, and possible elements of an agreement in outcome document on a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Regarding the global economic and financial crisis that all countries of the world are currently facing, the reflection process around sustainable development should not put emphasis on economy but on human-beings whom should be at the centre of sustainability, taking into account their diversity, cultural specificities and plurality of knowledge systems.

"The way towards a green economy should recognize, value and protect common goods and goods of general interests such as water resources, energy resources, the atmosphere, biodiversity, forests ? It should furthermore take into account: payment for environmental services, protection of the environment and of the populations, decent working conditions for employees and respect of economic, social and cultural
rights."

The issue of ?payment for environmental services? although not unknown to the UN system is still a newcomer to its regulations and texts. It is very important to value and to finance benefits that are provided by ecosystems services such as freshwater provision, forests? climate regulations and others if we like to maintain the balance on earth.

The definition of a green economy has to take into account the principle already known and recognized of shared but differentiated responsibility , as developed and developing countries, will not be able to evolve towards such an economy at the same speed, an issue that can even be encountered between regions of a same country. It also has to take into consideration the sometimes wide differences between the population of a same Nation: a sustainable society can not be achieved without fighting against poverty and in particular without reducing inequalities. (See also point 2.b).

The transition policies will need to create opportunities and supportive systems to enable least developed countries to progressively enter a green economy (technology transfer, financial aid, trainings?). In that regard, Local governments are the best places to identify population?s needs and should receive full support of national government and be included in international mechanisms.

A green economy should further fully take into account the cultural dimension of sustainable development. Correlation between successful national and local strategies to achieve MDGs, and explicit consideration of culture as a dimension in development has been shown.

This has to be acknowledged and implemented through the new international governance framework to be adopted.

c) Institutional framework for sustainable development: Priorities and proposals for strengthening individual pillars of sustainable development, as well as those for strengthening integration of the three pillars, at multiple levels; local, national, regional and international.

c. Institutional framework for sustainable development: Priorities and proposals for strengthening individual pillars of sustainable development, as well as those for strengthening integration of the three pillars, at multiple levels ? local, national, regional and international.

Local governments strongly advocate for a new institutional framework for sustainable development. Building on the Agenda 21 and its successful implementation at local level, the outcome document from Rio+20 Summit should entail a specific chapter devoted to local and regional authorities, recognising their key role in achieving SD objectives and ensuring them the means, legal, technical and financial to effectively and efficiently contribute.

The special perspective that local and regional governments can bring to the international debate due to their proximity with the citizens is crucial to developing commitment and solutions for sustainability. Good governance mechanisms, based on transparency, participation and accountability will be essential to the implementation of any decision taken. Greater sustainability is achieved through bottom-up approaches, which help to set priorities and resources allocation.

National strategies for sustainable development should take into account the local realities and trends with the active assistance of local governments. A new governance framework for sustainability should include the local and regional authorities as full-fledged partner in the decision making bodies.

Local governments agree on the need to set-up a strong structure that would ensure implementation of the existing international environmental agreements, through a multi-stakeholders? mechanism following ILO example. This move would take place inside the global reform of the international governance framework of sustainable development that should support a multi-level governance from local to global which gives way to a joint work between local, regional, national and global levels both in defining and in implementing sustainable development objectives.

d) Any proposals for refinement of the two themes. Recall that Resolution 64/236 describes the focus of the Conference: "The focus of the Conference will include the following themes to be discussed and refined during the preparatory process: a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development".

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