What the UN terms “The New Urban Agenda” is being developed – with the intention of having it approved by national governments at Habitat III, the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development in October 2016. But it does not need to develop a comprehensive list of goals and commitments because these are already in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement.
So the New Urban Agenda can focus on who will address these goals in urban areas, how and with what support. But it needs to recognize how much the SDG and Paris Agreement commitments depend on urban governments and on low-income urban dwellers whose unmet needs the SDGs are meant to address.
It is also necessary to acknowledge how important strong local democracies have been in successful cities, and how new urban agendas got buy-in from local governments in the past – for instance through participatory budgeting, Healthy Cities principles and the Making Cities Resilient campaign. So national governments need to agree on an urban agenda that urban governments and urban poor organizations buy into. This requires national governments to shift their attention from defining goals of good intention; early drafts of the New Urban Agenda have lots of “we commit…” and “we will…”). What is needed is to create or enhance the institutional and governance basis for achieving these goals in each urban centre – with no urban dweller left behind!