Live from Surabaya: Setting the Stage for the New Urban Agenda

A Street View of Surabaya. Photo by hectorlo/Flickr

This week in Surabaya, Indonesia marks the last preparatory session (PrepCom3) before the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador in October 2016. The conference will bring together national governments, sub-national actors, decision-makers and civil society to create a vision for the next 20 years of sustainable, equitable, prosperous urban development—a document referred to as the New Urban Agenda.

Day 1

Surabaya is a fitting place for PrepCom3. As Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, referenced in his opening statement Monday, the name Surabaya comes from the words “suro” (shark) and “boyo” (crocodile), which—as legend has it—fought each other for supremacy. Eventually, the two creatures agreed to a truce and set boundaries—the shark had dominion over the sea, while the crocodile took the land. Over the years, they fought over the river, but in the end, the crocodile ruled over the estuarine area that forms the foundation of present-day Surabaya. This begs the question—can the member states at PrepCom3 come to an agreement and lay the foundation for a New Urban Agenda (NUA) for 2030 and beyond?

The Indonesian Government has shown a strong commitment to the NUA, and this spirit should help lead the way toward a declaration for inclusive, sustainable and resilient urban development. The member states’ statements have indicated general acceptance with the current text, but there are some places where there needs to be stronger language and more clarity. Delegates have until Wednesday to finalize the text of the New Urban Agenda before its release in October at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador.

As outlined in World Resources Institute’s response to the Zero Draft of the New Urban Agenda, member states should focus on several key aspects in the coming days:

    1. Create a robust process for review and reporting. The draft text of the Zero Draft calls for UN-Habitat to prepare biennial reports, consistent with the reporting on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but it is vague on the types of reporting and review by member states, as well as the roles of the private sector, civil society and other non-state actors.
    2. Strengthen linkages with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement. While the text references the SDGs many times, the final declaration should more fully commit to aligning NUA implementation, monitoring and reporting with SDG frameworks. While the draft recognizes the need to be consistent with the objectives of the Paris Agreement, including pursuing efforts to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 °C, the final declaration could emphasize the active role that cities can play in achieving the nationally determined contributions. Cities are responsible for more than 70 percent of global energy-related CO2 emissions, and many cities have proven to be leaders on climate action.
    3. The role for the urban agenda in the UN System. There is some disagreement among member states on what is the role of UN-Habitat post-Habitat III. This needs to be resolved vis-à-vis other UN organizations, as the implementation of Habitat III UN system needs to be rooted in a strong UN city agenda.

Stay tuned for daily updates from Surabaya. To read more about the New Urban Agenda and WRI’s response to the Zero Draft, click here.


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