After Habitat III: Time to Reflect on the New Urban Agenda

©Xavier Subias / Diputació de Barcelona

After the adoption of the New Urban Agenda in Habitat III, the stage is now open to multiple interpretations of the text, in particular for what regards to its practical implementation. Whereas the New Urban Agenda is a key text that sets the general lines of the global urban development agendas for the coming decades, it does not provide with a detailed step-by-step guide on how to generate adequate policies nor concrete development strategies, for these need to be adapted to the multiple and diverse needs of the territories.

With this in mind, organized by the Province Authority of Barcelona, leading the Decentralization and Local Self-Government Committee from UCLG, on the 19 December took place at the modernist building of Sant Pau Hospital of Barcelona a morning-long conference gathering international experts, representatives of multilateral organizations such as UN Habitat, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) or United Regions Organization (ORU-Fogar) and local politicians and policy-makers, to present, discuss and reflect upon the content of the New Urban Agenda and its practical implications.

For this, the conference opened with the presentation, by the representatives of the multilateral organizations, of the key texts defining the international position of united municipalities and regions, including the New Urban Agenda. After that, a first round table of international and local experts on urban and sustainable territorial development discussed the impact of the New Urban Agenda on different territorial levels (from the municipal to the regional and global levels, passing through the metropolitan and European levels). Following this, a second round table addressed more directly the challenges of the implementation the agenda’s precepts as well as the level of compromise taken by actual policy makers and municipal representatives of the territory of Bracelona. Finally the conference concluded with the presentation of the last Global Report on Local Democracy and Decentralization, GOLD IV, which analyses and compares the current situation of local governments all over the world. Entitled “Co-creating a Urban Future”, the GOLD IV is considered a world-wide flagship publication on urban governance issues and has been used as evidence base to support the Global Agenda of Local and Regional Governments for the 21st Century.

Overall, the participants on the conference put emphasis on the need to open spaces of co-learning and constant dialogue between experts, representatives of global and multilateral organizations and politicians and policy-makers of the local and territorial levels of government. Resulting from the need to concretize and monitor the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, there is a widespread will among Barcelona’s local and regional authorities to periodically repeat events such as the one taking place last December.