Draft Habitat III rules clarify role of local authorities, civil society


The degree to which local authorities
and civil society will have a say in Habitat III, next year’s U. N.conference on housing and urban development, became
clearer this week as proposed rules were put on the table at the United
Nations, according to sources close to the negotiations.

Since early this month, the Group of 77
(G77) bloc of developing countries, plus China, has been negotiating a proposal
for what are known as the “rules of procedure” and “modalities of
participation”, the parliamentary guidelines that will structure the format of
next year’s summit in Quito, Ecuador.

[See: Drumbeat builds among national governments to adopt
Habitat III rules

At the beginning of November, a body of
the U. N.General
Assembly — the U. N.Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Second Committee — held its annual hearing onUN-Habitat. The agency, the lead institution on
Habitat III,
is also the one tasked with implementing the outcome of the last such
conference, Habitat II,
which was held in Istanbul in 1996

The eventual expected outcome of that
hearing is a resolution on the agency, which in recent years has included
pointed language about the organization of Habitat III. In particular, it has called for the
secretary-general of the conference — Joan Clos, who is also the executive-director
of UN-Habitat
— to ensure that the level of participation by local authorities and civil
society meets and exceeds the uniquely strong level established at Habitat II.

[See: Let’s not forget the legacy of inclusiveness from
Habitat II

On Tuesday, South Africa, the chair of
the G77, presented its version of the draft resolution on UN-Habitat, which included detailed rules for the
format and structure of Habitat III.
Multiple sources close to the negotiations confirmed that the 17 November draft
resolution has been tabled. The document is now awaiting formal publication.

Once the circulated draft is officially
published, closed-door “informal” negotiations can begin between the G77 and
developed countries, a bloc usually led by the European Union, whose delegation
has been vocal about Habitat III since preparatory negotiations took place in April.

[See: PrepCom 2 stalls on rules of procedure; issue to
awaitU. N.General

Formal stakeholder recognition

Since April, a key unresolved issue has
been how — and even whether — local authorities and civil society would be
allowed to participate in the Habitat III negotiations around the New Urban Agenda,
the 20-year urbanization strategy that will come out of the conference. The
draft resolution has much to say this issue, according to a copy reviewed by

The draft explicitly recognizes the General Assembly of Partners (GAP),
a key umbrella group of Habitat III stakeholders. It also calls out the Second World
Assembly of Local and Regional Authorities that will immediately precede
Habitat III.
The document formally recognizes both of these groupings as representatives of
critical Habitat III stakeholders.

“I am pleased that the GAP is recognized in the resolution, because such
mention underlines the member states’ recognition of the importance of civil
society and non-member-state governmental contributions to the New Urban
Agenda,” said Eugénie Birch, chair of the World Urban Campaign and president of
the GAP.

[See: Civil society must ensure equitable inclusion in
Habitat III

The proposed rules would allow
accredited local authorities to participate in any part of the conference,
whether a plenary deliberation or a working group committee. However, they will
not have the right to vote. Civil society, meanwhile, will have observer status
for the public meetings of HabitatIIIand will be allowed to make oral statements through
designated representatives.

All civil society organizations that
were accredited to HabitatIIor have existing accreditation throughECOSOCwill be accredited to HabitatIII. Special accreditation, which was approved for several
dozen organizations at PrepCom 2
, will also be offered going
forward. The deadline to apply ahead of the final preparatory negotiations —
“PrepCom 3”, to take place in Surabaya, Indonesia, in late July — will be 1
April and ahead of Habitat III itself will be 2 May. Applications for special
accreditation can be made via the Habitat III website.

The draft resolution also calls on the Bureau, the 10-member body
of member states coordinating Habitat III
to release the “zero draft” of the New Urban Agenda no later than six months
prior to the conference. This would would establish a deadline of 17 April.

Increased negotiating days

The proposal would also expand the
number of consultations and negotiating sessions between now and HabitatIII. The document calls for open consultations over
five days in April in order to provide feedback on the conclusions of several
formal processes — expert “policy units” and the series of regional and thematic meetings currently underway.

In addition, the draft proposes three
formal intergovernmental negotiating sessions of three days each in May, June
and July, something close observers have increasingly warned was necessary. It
would also establish two-day informal hearings with local authorities and civil
society in May and June, respectively.

TheGAP’s Birch said these additional consultation and
negotiation periods “will be an important time to share ideas among the
interested parties.”

TheU. N.missions of G77 chair South Africa, negotiation
facilitator Indonesia and chief negotiator European Union all could not be
reached for comment. The Habitat III Secretariat declined to comment.