CSU participation at the 1st UN-Habitat Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya May 27 – 31, 2019

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From 27 to 31 May 2019, UN-Habitat held its first historic session of the UN-Habitat Assembly in Nairobi Kenya under the theme “Innovation for Better Quality of Life in Cities and Communities”. On the eve of the Assembly, UN-Habitat organized the first Global Stakeholders Forum, bringing critical ideas on stakeholders engagement in the implementation process of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the restructuration of UN-Habitat.

Participants during a break at the conference 
The first UN-Habitat Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya in session

The Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization (CSU), represented by Ludivine Cornille, Director of Programs, participated actively in those important conferences. The Stakeholders Forum opened by presenting the newly established Stakeholder Advisory Board to the Executive Director of UN-Habitat. This 16-member high level Board of experts and leaders will complement and harness work from the existing platforms and civil society networks, and will bring concrete proposals to the Executive Director, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, to enhance stakeholders engagement in the work of UN-Habitat and the implementation process of the NUA and the SDGs.

During this Forum, Ludivine Cornille was invited to participate in the panel “Innovative mechanisms for stakeholder contribution to inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements”, along with Ms. Professor Eugenie Birch, University of Pennsylvania; Ms. Soon Young Yoon, Chair, Women Environmental Development Organization; and Alexander Juras, Chief, Civil Society Unit, United Nations Environment Programme. She presented the experience on the mobilization process of CSU constituencies for the SDG11 and the promotion of the NUA. She showcased the successful work of CSU in building bridges between the design community and the UN agenda. With CSU long-time partner the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in New York, and the multi-stakeholders conferences co-organized with UN-Habitat New York Office at the UN Headquarters during the negotiation processes of the SDGs and the NUA, CSU has been instrumental in introducing the SDGs and Habitat III to the design community. Thanks to CSU efforts, AIA adopted a resolution on the principles of SDGs (the 2030 Commitment/carbon neutral buildings). Also besides CSU partners AIA and l’Union Internationale des Architectes, the Regional Plan Association, architectural firms, construction firms and universities have been exposed to the SDGs through CSU. The City College of New York President, on CSU Advisory Board, is now launching a yearlong focus on SDG11.

One of the many working group sessions during the first Assembly
of the UN-Habitat in Nairobi, Kenya

By mobilizing the design community into the global development agenda process, CSU brought high-level attendance to conferences at the UN Headquarters in support of SDG11 and Habitat III. CSU facilitated the opportunity for designers to present international examples of sustainable architecture, infrastructure, and urban planning and design projects. It helped Member States in understanding more concretely how sustainable urbanization can become a model for sustainable development, and how a cross-sectoral approach can respond to some of the major global challenges at present, including climate change, migration, and extreme poverty and rising inequalities.

This concrete example nevertheless demonstrated the need for greater dissemination of the global processes on sustainable urbanization issues from UN-Habitat and the Habitat Professionals Forum to their constituencies. CSU is effectively interconnecting the UN agenda to the design community in New York. Based on this success, CSU is starting to expand its programs in different cities and regions, with correspondents in Tel Aviv, Washington DC, Rio de Janeiro, Munich, Rotterdam, Singapore, Bucharest and now Nairobi.

With more than 200 participants, the stakeholders shared innovative mechanisms for promoting better quality of life and suggested how to better collaborate in the implementation of the NUA and SDGs as well as in the coordination frameworks and mechanisms of UN-Habitat. They emphasized a need for enhanced advocacy, inclusivity and giving voice to all.

UN-Habitat informed stakeholders of ongoing processes that sought to strengthen the Agency’s engagement with all stakeholders. The development of the stakeholder engagement policy, and the stakeholder collaborative framework for implementation of the New Urban Agenda were presented as strategic steps towards aligning contributions of stakeholders with the new strategic plan for the period 2020 to 2025. Maimunah Mohd Sharif welcomed the important contributions of the stakeholders in reshaping the governance structure of UN-Habitat and in achieving the SDGs and NUA. The stakeholders agreed to present a Stakeholder Declaration of the First Global Stakeholder Forum at the UN-Habitat Assembly.

The next day following the First Global Stakeholder Forum, the First Session of the UN-Habitat Assembly started its deliberations electing the Executive Board of the Assembly and its members, under the leadership of the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, a video conference of the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Joyce Msuya, acting Executive Director of UNEP, and the elected President of the First Session of the UN-Habitat Assembly, Martha Delgado Peralta, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico. The Governor of West Java Province, Indonesia showcased successful examples of how well-planned and well-managed cities can make people happier.

During the five days of the Assembly, Member States, UN system and Civil Society representatives presented their recommendations. Member States adopted a Ministerial Declaration and reviewed progress in implementation of the NUA, and adopted resolutions on:

  • The UN-Habitat Strategic Plan 2020-2025
  • UN System-Wide Guidelines on Safer Cities and Human Settlements
  • Enhancing capacity-building for the implementation of the NUA and the urban dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
  • Achieving Gender equality through the work of UN-Habitat to support inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities and human settlements
  • Enhancing urban-rural linkages for sustainable urbanization and human settlements

Detailed information is available on the UN-Habitat bulletin Summary of the First Session of the UN-Habitat Assembly

Ludivine Cornille has been invited to give a statement, and presented to the first Session of the UN-Habitat Assembly the following recommendations from the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization:

  • Support a self-organize coordination mechanism for stakeholders engagement in the implementation process of the New Urban Agenda and the SDGs, building on successful civil society platforms and networks.
  • Strengthen the localization of the SDGs, and the dissemination of UN-Habitat activities to the United Nations Resident Coordinators, to engage pro-actively the citizens and build new synergies particularly among the design community, the private sector and local partners involved in urban issues.
  • Develop a stronger ONE UN System to share knowledge-based and support joint activities from the different agencies on urban development projects, to avoid duplication and create new collaboration among the UN partners. In the implementation process of the New Urban Agenda, UN-Habitat could play a coordinating role with the support of the Regional Economic Commissions.
  • Engage more transparently and effectively the Habitat partners in the restructuration process of UN-Habitat and the formulation of its activities and programmes. We support the newly established Stakeholder Advisory Group to the Executive Director of UN-Habitat and we look forward to contribute to its efforts.
Ludivine Cornille, Director of Programs of the CSU, delivering the Statement of the CSU during the first session of the UN-Habitat Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya

Following on the principles of the NUA and the SDGs, urban issues are best solved by taking a cross-sectoral approach. This will require an enabling environment and enhanced cooperation and partnerships at all levels. Ludivine Cornille emphasized the critical role that the professionals play to assure innovative, inclusive and sustainable urban and architectural design solutions, in line with the specific needs of the cities and communities. “We cannot work in silos, but bring our knowledge together to support governments in the development of adequate urban policies, that will respect our planet and the dignity and equality of all human beings.”

During the Assembly, the 21st Steering Committee of the World Urban Campaign took place at the UN Headquarters in Nairobi. The Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization participated in the discussions on a new strategy for strengthening the World Urban Campaign as a key driver in promoting urban SDGs and implementation of the NUA, and the review of the WUC Advisory role. The discussions also conveyed the review on how to enhance the contributions of the Urban Thinkers Campuses and the possible new global thematic campaigns such as Waste-Wise Cities and Making Cities Resilient. It highlighted the need for the World Urban Campaign members to advocate more effectively about the Campaign to their own members and constituencies.

About the author: Ludivine Cornille is a French Architect and Urban Designer. She established her own firm in Paris before she joined the National Institute of Housing in Mexico City, UN-Habitat in Nairobi and New York and ECOSOC. She is the Director of Programs of the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization and is currently based in Nairobi.