Habitat III official negotiating process expanded significantly

New dates include weeklong sessions devoted to local authorities and civil society.

Spring will be in the air when the first draft of the New Urban Agenda, the United Nations’ 20-year urbanization strategy, is shared with the world.

That release, slated for early May, will start a ticking clock until October, when upwards of 40,000 world leaders, mayors, academics, urbanists and activists converge in Quito for the U. N. Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III). For four days in the Ecuadorian capital, they will seek to agree on the terms of the New Urban Agenda. But much of the groundwork to prepare for that moment will take place in the spring and summer at U. N. Headquarters in New York.

On Friday, the U. N. organizers behind Habitat III released the calendar of events that will take place just before and for two months after the “zero draft” of the New Urban Agenda is circulated.

[See: Quito Questions: How long will the New Urban Agenda ‘zero draft’ be?]

Three full weeks and one three-day session are now planned. These will give opportunities for the public — or at least those with accredited U. N. status — to make their case for various issues to find their way into (or out of) the document. With special sessions set aside for local authorities and civil society, the hearings in New York are structured to provide focused forums for comment.

As currently set, the negotiating schedule stands as follows:

25-29 April 2016: Open-ended Informal Consultative Meetings: Intended for the 200 “policy unit” experts drafted by the United Nations to prepare the groundwork of the New Urban Agenda to present their findings in a public forum before the zero draft is released.

16-17 May 2016: Local Authorities Informal Hearings: With the largest-ever gathering of mayors and local officials, the Second World Assembly of Local Authorities, planned for the days leading up to Habitat III in Quito, the collective voice of those governing the world’s cities and towns is a powerful constituency.

18-20 May 2016: Informal Intergovernmental Negotiations: The first of three sessions where diplomats from the 193 U. N. member states will negotiate the words of the zero draft and subsequent iterations of the New Urban Agenda — arguing and agreeing over what’s in, what’s out, what goes where and in what order.

6-7 June 2016: Civil Society Informal Hearings: The Habitat process has historically been one of the most open to the participation of civil society — activists, NGOs, academics and the like. Ahead of Habitat III, many members of civil society have been organizing into a body called the General Assembly of Partners that, like local authorities, is proving a force to be reckoned with when it comes to Habitat III.

8-10 June 2016: Informal Intergovernmental Negotiations: The second round of these talks. See above.

29 June — 1 July 2016: Informal Intergovernmental Negotiations: The third round of these talks. See above.

[See: U. N. General Assembly approves Habitat III rules, ending 8 months of limbo]

At some point during this spring negotiation season, it is likely that the collective input on the zero draft will result in a new iteration of the New Urban Agenda. This will probably happen in June before the third and final intergovernmental negotiation, say close observers of the process.

There could then be other drafts in July ahead of the third and final round of formal preparations for Habitat III — what’s known as PrepCom 3, taking place 25-27 July in Surabaya, Indonesia. This will be a key negotiating venue outside of the U. N. Headquarters halls of power.

Don’t be surprised to see other impromptu negotiations called in July, experts say, especially if there are significant issues still to resolve after the third round of informal intergovernmental negotiations.

[See here for Citiscope’s calendar of the Habitat III process]

For those eager to get in on the action but currently lack U. N. accreditation, there is also news on this front. Conference organizers at the Habitat III Secretariat announced on Friday that applications for “special accreditation” will go live soon on the Habitat III website.

The deadlines for this process are 1 April to receive accreditation in time for PrepCom 3 and 2 May to receive accreditation in time for Habitat III itself. If an organization is accredited for PrepCom 3, there is no need to reapply for Habitat III, as accreditation will automatically carry over.

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