The group of countries that oversees the U. N.’s lead agency on cities have given it a preliminary green light to begin coordinating implementation of a global 20-year urbanization strategy — although that approval won’t go into effect until a highly anticipated assessment process concludes later this year.
Meeting last week at the Nairobi headquarters of UN-Habitat, the national governments that serve on the agency’s Governing Council agreed on a two-year, USD 500 million budget for the global body, as well as a work plan to guide its urban efforts through 2019.
The Governing Council, which functions as a board, also outlined a new monitoring framework for the 20-year strategy, called the New Urban Agenda. In adopting multiple resolutions, national governments laid groundwork that will enable UN-Habitat to advise countries and cities on how to plan, finance and regulate urban development, as well as track global progress toward the New Urban Agenda.
“This Governing Council has been a step forward in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda,” said UN-Habitat Executive Director Joan Clos, who was the agreement’s chief architect.
Calling the meeting, which drew 900 people to the Kenyan capital, “the beginning of a new period for UN-Habitat as a more efficient, effective and accountable organization”, E. U.diplomat Sebastian Gil said the agency will soon be “fit for its role in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda”.
However, such moves will not enter into effect until the agency receives marching orders regarding reforms by the U. N. General Assembly, the full slate of countries that meets annually in New York. UN-Habitat is currently under evaluation by a team appointed by U. N. Secretary-General António Guterres, with a report expected in June and related public meeting in late August.
As such, the decisions taken last week were, in the words of Kenyan diplomat Anthony Andanje, “signaling”. He told Citiscope, “At the moment there won’t be any impact until after we have had the assessment.”
Nevertheless, the steps taken in Nairobi are the first significant progress made since October to address how the United Nations will act on the voluntary, non-binding agreement reached at the Habitat III summit in Quito.
Negotiations last year to produce the New Urban Agenda nearly broke down multiple times over the role of UN-Habitat in the new agreement. Those talks finally settled on terminology describing the agency as “a focal point” but not clearly defining its new responsibilities. Last week’s meeting was the first step toward fleshing out that role.