Habitat III expert groups deliver final technical reports

10 ‘policy unit’ papers, expected to form basis of the New Urban Agenda, now open for public comment for one month.

Two hundred global urban experts and practitioners have finalized a series of major technical briefings offering a suite of recommendations on the drafting and eventual implementation of the New Urban Agenda, the 20-year strategy on sustainable urbanization expected to come out of this year’s Habitat III conference.

The experts, drawn from the ranks of global housing, planning, architecture, design and urban development sectors, were split between 10 thematic groups known as policy units. Since October, each unit has worked to bring together three bodies of work: a series of 22 thematic “issue papers” created by various multilateral agencies; multiple rounds of public and civil-society input that has been gathered since last summer; and their own expertise and analysis on coming urbanization trends.

[See: Nearing a text: March to see release of key documents informing the New Urban Agenda]

The extensive process means that the new policy papers, available here, could cumulatively provide a leading edge in global thought on urbanization and sustainability. The papers provide policy options for harnessing that process’s opportunities and for mitigating its pitfalls, as well as recommendations on how to create the environments in which those policies have the best possibility of success.

The papers — some of which run to nearly 100 pages — go well beyond scene-setting to include extensive discussion of implementation. The experts have worked to create theoretical frameworks on how to think about the issues and priorities under their purview, but the heart of their discussions are focused on models from around the world that have proven successful, at least under certain situations.

The papers also include a key focus on monitoring. Although the New Urban Agenda will be nonbinding, options for multiple monitoring regimes are currently under discussion, both in and out of the official Habitat III process.

While none of the policy units or the rest of the official Habitat III process is focused exclusively on this issue, the first draft of the New Urban Agenda is expected to include a framework on how to keep track of city and national progress on implementing the various components of the new strategy.

[See: How will we keep track of city actions under the New Urban Agenda?]

Thus, these new policy papers offer a first distinct view on the various pieces of an eventual monitoring regime. Many of the reports provide a global snapshot on existing monitoring frameworks that could overlap with the needs of the New Urban Agenda, while also providing additional options to cover specific needs. These sectoral recommendations remain disjointed, however, and it will be up to those charged with putting together the agenda’s first draft to bring them together into a cohesive framework.

Of course, advocates and experts outside of the formal process will find much to pick through and hold up for critical scrutiny in these papers. Initial such comments have already been offered in recent weeks from activists, civil society and national governments, in reaction to draft papers that each policy unit released at the end of December. Those comments are available here.

[See: Tension points emerging on details of the New Urban Agenda]

Either way, the substance of these new expert papers should now provide a robust metric by which to measure the first draft of the New Urban Agenda, to be released in early May. Much of the recommendations made by the policy units will undoubtedly be incorporated into the draft strategy, but it is equally certain that much also will not be.

The reports will now go to the Habitat III Secretariat and the Habitat III Bureau, the latter a body of 10 member states that are shepherding the process on behalf of the full U. N. membership. The drafting of the New Urban Agenda draft will fall to these groups, and their members will need to synthesize not only the new papers from the policy units but also 11 regional and thematic meeting reports and stakeholder input that is currently being finalized.

[See: The drafters: Meet the two women leading the Habitat III Bureau]

The final papers from the policy units are as follows; they are to be translated into several other languages by the end of April. Public comments on the papers are now open for public comment for a month. Check back with Citiscope in coming days to find more details analysis and reaction to these reports!

1.     The Right to the City and Cities for All

2.     Socio-Cultural Urban Framework

3.     National Urban Policies

4.     Urban Governance, Capacity and Institutional Development

5.     Municipal Finance and Local Fiscal Systems

6.     Urban Spatial Strategies: Land Market and Segregation

7.     Urban Economic Development Strategies

8.     Urban Ecology and Resilience

9.     Urban Services and Technology

10.      Housing Policies

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