A revitalized local-national dialogue at the 1st universal UN-Habitat Assembly

31 May 2019

A delegation of over a hundred local and regional elected officials, practitioners and international networks made their way to the 1st UN-Habitat Assembly that took place in Nairobi from 27 to 31 May, demonstrating their commitment to the localization of the New Urban Agenda and to the renewed governance of UN-Habitat.

The UN-Habitat Assembly was the first of its kind, replacing the traditional UN-Habitat Governing Council. The organized constituency of local and regional governments welcomed the universal membership of the Assembly, gathering all Member States on decision-making on urban development, however pleading for a differentiated and structural mechanism of consultation of local governments within the new UN-Habitat governance structure. The Assembly has seen the constitution of the first UN Habitat Executive Board composed of 36 countries that will have the policy oversight in between Assemblies.

During the week-long UN-Habitat Assembly, the delegation of the Global Taskforce actively participated in side-events and multilevel and high level dialogues.

For the first time ever during UN-Habitat governing bodies meeting, a Local Governments’ Forum took place on 29 May, in the presence of the UN-Habitat Executive Director, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, gathering the representatives of the organized constituency from all world regions active in local government networks such as CLGF and ICLEI, AIMFCEMR, UCLG-ASPAC and UCLG-Africa.

Local governments play a key role in the development of the 2030 Agenda: mayors’ role is important to take out the urban challenges and find solutions to leave no one and no place behindMaimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director


The Governor of the host city Nairobi, Mike Sonko, appreciated the celebration of the Forum in the Kenyan capital, and greeted the international delegation with a warm welcoming message. The Kenya Council of County Governors was represented by the Governor of the Nakuru County, Lee Kinyanjui, who took the opportunity to highlight the importance of multi-level governance, in the framework of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) for the implementation of the SDGs.

Mpho Moruakgomo, President of the Commonwealth Local Governments Forum (CLGF), introduced the key messages of the delegation emphasizing the need of an enhanced local-national dialogue: “Everyday, local governments from around the world are working to make the global agendas reach and resonate citizens. Localizing the SDGs is at the core of our daily work, and at the heart of our ambitions. We will need a different place at the table make optimal use of our potential"

The content of the Global Taskforce Statement, that had been submitted already to the Assembly and all its delegations, was presented along the different interventions from Mayors and Governors from all continents. They called for a stronger UN Habitat that will be able to address the capacity building needs of the weakest in the constituency. They further recalled the importance of the normative work to be done which should trigger transformations in the legislative frameworks of the different countries.  They acknowledged the valuable partnership with civil society and stakeholders, gathered in the Global Assembly of Partners (GAP), and confirmed the commitment to protect and promote the Habitat III legacy.

Finally they called for enhanced consultation mechanisms for local governments and stakeholders. They highlighted the value of the United Nations Advisory Committee of Local Authorities (UNACLA) as a model to be enhanced in the governance structure of UN Habitat and celebrated the recently presented UN Wide Urban Strategy.


The legacy of Habitat III was brought firstly to the table by the Mayor of Smiltene, Gints Kukainis, who recalled the principle of subsidiarity to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs. Eures Ribeiro, Mayor of Bom Jesus Da Lapa, claimed that “strenghening the voices of local governments, through fiscal decentralization and capacity-building, will strengthen the NUA”.

Facing the many challenges that are slowing down the implementation on the NUA, Mochamad Ridwan Kamil, Governor of West Java, highlighted the need to focus “with the perspective of happiness” on a territorial sustainable development that offers opportunities for all. Regarding these challenges, the Mayor of Subang Jaya, Noraini Binti Roslan, insisted that, “cities need to be planned under the leadership of the local governments” to become resilient.

[ Read the Statement of the organized constituency of LRGs at the occasion of the First UN-Habitat Assembly ]


A better quality of life for citizens depends on listening to them and creating synergies between different stakeholders”, Vidal Llerenas, Mayor of Azcapotzalco, stressed the importance of multilevel dialogue and participation to co-create our cities. In this sense, Felicitas Kubala, Deputy Mayor of Mannheim, affirmed that building and enabling national frameworks to empower local governments is key for development.

Minister Damià Calvet, from Catalonia, and Vice Minister Arantza Leturiondo, from the Basque Country, representing regional governments, welcomed the territorial approach that the Global Taskforce was bringing to the urban discussion and recalled that the subnational sphere of government was ideally placed to implement the urban agenda as accelerator. They highlighted the work done in their respective territories.

Mohamed Sefiani, mayor of Chefchaouen, highlighted the importance to develop nationwide strategies to support sustainable urbanization based on a system of intermediary cities and recalled the groundbreaking agreement signed between Morocco, UCLG and UN-Habitat as a replicable example of shared responsibility.

unha lgf

The Government of Spain commended the work done by the constituency gathered in the Global Taskforce and confirmed its commitment to put localization high on the agenda of the United Nations.  

Networks representatives celebrated the evolution in the quality of dialogue and the level of interlocution with member states during the Assembly. They thanked the numerous national delegations represented in the Forum and extended the hand of the organized constituency to contribute to the achievement of the global goals through local action. 

"If we want to achieve the 2030 Agenda, the NUA is critical and a true partnership with national governments will be critical. UN-Habitat can be key in fostering this dialogue and ensuring that there is a true partnership in governance between equal but different spheres of governments. Global-local leadership is important to deliver a better world", Greg Munro, CLGF Secretary General


“We are making progress in making our voices heard broader and broader. We have managed to influence the global level, and the work done by the GTF is being key in this process, let us put gender equality high on the agenda as a constituency", Bernadia Tjandradewi, UCLG ASPAC Secretary General

There is a clear commitment of our constituency to contribute to the global dialogue and action for sustainable development. We are here, not only to share experiences and practices but to develop a transformational policy agenda for the better life of our communities. We believe the New Urban Agenda is a key accelerator of the 2030 ambitions”, Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of UCLG.


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