SLoCaT Report on Habitat III Informal Hearings Highlights Transport in Discussions on the New Urban Agenda

Habitat III is the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development to take place from 17-20 October 2016. Habitat III will be the first UN global conference following the adoption of the Global Goals on Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change; thus the “New Urban Agenda” (NUA) – the Habitat III outcome document – will be a key opportunity to shape the implementation of these agreements in a number of sectors, including transport.

Between the publication of the Zero Draft of the NUA on the 6th May 2016 thirteen days of informal meetings in New York are scheduled before the 3rd Preparation Committee (PrepCom3) in Surabaya, Indonesia from the 25th-27th July 2016 and Habitat III itself in Quito, Ecuador, from the 17th to 20th October 2016.

16th May and 17th May 2016 were allocated to “Informal Hearings with Local Authorities Associations”, the agenda is available here. The meeting was mandated by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in December 2015 (A/RES/70/210).  The presentations and statements are available online.

18th May until 20th May 2016 were allocated to “Informal Intergovernmental Meetings”, the agenda is available here.  The statements are available online.

These meetings are particularly significant because:

  1. This was the first time ever that there has been a platform for mayors and local leaders to directly address Member States during the negotiation of an international agreement.
  2. This was the first time we can hear the reactions of Member States to the Zero Draft text – which gives an indication of the likely directions of the negotiations in the next weeks.

SLoCaT Partnership monitored the Informal Hearings with Local Authorities Associations on May 16th and 17th, as well as the Informal Intergovernmental Meetings on May 18th-20th which took place in New York. Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) launched a report on the two meetings: SLoCaT Report on the Habitat III – “New Urban Agenda”– informal meetings and negotiations.

According to the report, the current text is long, complex, lacks a certain coherence and uses a number of terms on which there is no agreed definition (and which are likely to be hard to agree on – especially by Member States that would be happy to use up the valuable negotiating time on non-key issues).

Given these issues and the limited amount of negotiation time (officially only 7 days) before the close of Habitat III on the 20th October, and the combined interests of the Habitat III Secretariat, host country Ecuador and UN Member States to have unanimous agreement,  we can expect a “rush to compromise” in the next months. Unfortunately, this may well mean that some of the important and meaningful elements of the current text will be deleted. To maximise the value of the NUA for sustainable urban mobility and supporting issues, it will be important for civil society and other observers to pay close attention to the evolution of the text and to hold Member States accountable for changes they insist upon.

Read the full report here.