General Assembly taking up Habitat III rules; November adoption possible


Critical rules governing Habitat III, next year’s once-every-20-year summit on
urbanization, are under negotiation at the U. N.General Assembly and may be adopted as early as
late November, according to several foreign missions to the United Nations with
knowledge of the process. There is reportedly a draft circulating among member
states, although details are not yet publicly available.

The guidelines in question — formally,
the conference’s rules of procedure — govern the participation of stakeholders
such as civil society and local authorities in the negotiation of the Habitat III outcome strategy, the New Urban Agenda.

These rules were originally discussed
at preparatory negotiations in April held in Nairobi, but diplomats at that meeting
failed to reach agreement. Instead, final decision was sent to the U. N.General Assembly, which is currently in session.

[See: PrepCom 2
stalls on rules of procedure, issue to await U. N.General Assembly

The rules of procedure are a necessary
tool for the formal negotiation of the New Urban Agenda to take place next year
once the strategy’s “zero draft” is released, likely in late April.

Last week, the Habitat III Bureau — 10 countries designated by the General
Assembly to represent member states in the preparation of the conference — met
in a closed meeting at U. N.Headquarters.

On Tuesday, the General Assembly’s
Economic and Financial Committee (better known as the Second Committee) is
slated to take up UN-Habitat
as its main agenda item, which will be the next opportunity for these issues to
surface. UN-Habitat
is the lead U. N. agency
for the Habitat III process.

According to a spokesperson for the
Slovenian Mission to the United Nations, whose permanent representative Andrej
Logar is the Second Committee’s current chair, the rules of procedure will not
be adopted at Tuesday’s meeting, an annual event. Instead, the spokesperson
indicated that the meeting will focus on the General Assembly’s traditional two
broad themes when it addresses UN-Habitat:
strengthening the agency and implementing the Habitat Agenda, the strategy
agreed upon in 1996 at Habitat II.

[See: Fractured
continuity: Moving from Habitat II to Habitat III

“Debate on Tuesday will nonetheless
surely touch upon the upcoming Habitat III conference and priorities of member states in this
process,” the spokesperson said.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity,
another close observer of the process described Tuesday’s meeting as an
opportunity for member states to exchange views and hear presentations. This
implication here is that no decision will be made immediately.

Although the Slovenian mission
indicated that it was “not aware” of any proposal for draft rules of procedure
in circulation, a Czech diplomat suggested otherwise.

“They were discussed at the Bureau
meeting with a conclusion that negotiation among U. N.member states must take place with all the
procedural requirements for those rules of procedure to be adopted,” said Milan
Konrad, a Second Committee expert at the Czech Mission to theU. N., one of the Bureau members. “I believe that
someone has been working on such a proposal, but I personally have not seen

Another diplomat close to the process
indicated that such a proposal is currently under analysis by the G77 group of
developing countries. Several other members of the Habitat III Bureau and the Second Committee Bureau did not
respond to requests for comment.

‘Increasing co-operation’

Each year, theU. N.General Assembly passes a resolution onUN-Habitat, and in recent years those have laid the
groundwork for HabitatIII.

This process began with a 2009
resolution requesting that theUN-Habitat
executive director prepare a report on global urbanization as a prerequisite for hosting a third Habitat
conference. In 2011, UN-Habitat
Executive Director Joan Clos delivered that report, which led to a General Assembly resolution that same year authorizing Habitat III to take place in 2016.

The subsequent Resolution 67/216, adopted in 2012, “requests the
Secretary-General of the conference to make proposals to the Preparatory
Committee on improved participation of local authorities and other stakeholders
in the preparatory process and the conference itself, building on the positive
experience enabled by the rules and procedures of the Governing Council of UN-Habitat and the inclusive engagement modalities of
Habitat II.”

This language has formed the basis of a
widely held opinion that Habitat III must not only meet but also exceed the uniquely
inclusive standards of participation for civil society and local authorities
set at Habitat II.

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

Several foreign missions affirmed this
stance. “The Czech position is consistently in favor of substantial
participation of local authorities in the Habitat III process as part of a common position of the
European Union,” said Konrad. “All E. U.Bureau members and E. U.member states are in favor of a substantial voice
for local authorities in the process.”

In a statement, the Slovenian Mission
said: “Implementing Habitat II and working towards the elaboration of Habitat III cannot be done by national governments alone.”

Slovenia “has high expectations of the
role to be played by the local authorities as we see them as the closest
partners to citizens, historically linked with the fulfillment of their basic
needs,” the mission stated. “An increasing co-operation, based on agreed
principles, between all levels of government, civil society organizations and
the private sector, is therefore required to work effectively on urban

Distinct governmental status

In turn, local authorities have been
agitating for an enhanced role in Habitat III through the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional

According to the Taskforce’s Emilia
Saiz, the group’s demands are “improved participation of local authorities
building on the rules and procedures of the Governing Council ofUN-Habitat, acknowledgment of the distinct
governmental status of local and regional authorities, and acknowledging the
organization of the Second World Assembly of Local and Regional Authorities.”
The first such assembly took place on the sidelines of Habitat II.

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

In comments to Citiscope at the Montréal Thematic Meeting on Metropolitan Areas, held last
month, Clos, who is also Habitat III secretary-general, said that local authorities “are
a very important actor”.

“At the same time, we are a U. N.conference,” he continued. “We are going to find a
pragmatic solution that will recognize this and hope that during the conference
[Habitat III],
we will do what the General Assembly has asked me to propose.”