Private sector participation to strengthen urbanization goals

Multicolored houses in Quito, Ecuador, where the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development will take place. Photo by: opalpeterliu / CC BY-NC-ND

Preparations for Habitat III — a major global summit, formally known as the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, taking place in October in Quito, Ecuador — are moving fast, both in terms of the summit’s expected results and the mobilization of all actors.

The preparatory committee, representing the U.N. member states, that I co-chair together with Maria Duarte, Ecuador’s minister of housing and sustainable urban development, carries the responsibility for the conference’s organization. With informal negotiations taking place in New York, the third and final preparatory committee, in Surabaya, Indonesia, in July will build on the most recent version of the draft to lead the formal negotiations and propose a declaration for the Quito summit.

The stakeholders forum, commitments to Quito

Maryse Gautier on Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda

The New Urban Agenda reflects the commitment of the national governments, keeping in mind that the Quito declaration is not binding. It also strongly affirms that the local governments are in the driving seat, with the necessary support from central governments for creating an enabling environment and all stakeholders, civil society and private sector for an active contribution to city management.  

Habitat III is organized after a series of major U.N. decisions in 2015. In chronological order, the Sendai conference on disaster prevention, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development, the Sustainable Development Goals, and finally the Paris climate change agreement. Habitat III is expected to propose concrete and operational solutions for implementing these decisions at the city level.

We have proposed a New Urban Agenda built around the principle that the cities and urban areas should ensure equity and eradicate poverty in all its forms and dimensions, promote sustainable and inclusive urban prosperity and opportunity for all, and achieve resilient development, preserving and protecting public goods, and reducing the impact of and adapting to climate change.

The New Urban Agenda has also the ambition of setting the ground for the future phases of implementation. Hence the document is also prepared in a way that emphasizes the means, conditions and tools necessary for the cities to develop in a sustainable way and to adapt and adjust built areas toward sustainable management.

While national governments are central to the success of Habitat III, they cannot achieve good results if they act alone. During the 2015 U.N. commitments such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate change agreement, cities through their networks, and stakeholder organizations have joined forces to contribute to the success of each of these landmark developments. Habitat III will build on these results and provide all necessary space for local government associations and stakeholders to participate and demonstrate that their initiatives and actions will contribute to the objectives of the NUA.

During the Quito summit, a specific stakeholders’ forum will offer the opportunity for organizations, institutions and companies to present their contribution to NUA implementation. This forum will select the initiatives and operations that address the objectives as described in the NUA. They should also favor multiple partnerships, cover activities in more than one country, be implementable in the short term, and replicable.

Among the many stakeholders involved in city development, the private sector plays a specific role. Indeed, cities and the private sector need each other. Cities need the private sector to develop their attractiveness, create wealth and employment, and increase municipal finance resources through transparent and accountable taxation.

The private sector also needs cities to ensure all requirements are met for its development, starting from the relevant enabling business climate, to roads and basic services, communication networks, a relevant education system providing the skilled workers they need, and health and school services to attract future employees by offering a good service system for them and their families.

Additionally, the private sector is a key player in strengthening city governance. It is clear that cities strongly rely on private sector innovation potential to develop solutions that fit to the new urban challenges, while the NUA focuses mainly on the need for participative governance at local level, looking for partnerships at all stages of the development process, from planning and budgeting to implementation and monitoring.

The private sector has an added value in contributing to city development strategies and implementing the development plans, in close coordination with other stakeholders. Such a participative approach benefit all actors, local institutions, business, and citizens, including the urban poor.

The sectors of investment and production to achieve inclusive, attractive and resilient cities are many. Among others, we can mention the housing and construction sector, with green, low-energy and carbon-free buildings; the water sector, promoting low consumption and 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle) systems; the mobility sector, helping reshape the city; and the ICT and big data management sector, helping to move toward smart cities.

Finally, the green and social economy, or the circular economy, can help reach the objective of inclusiveness and resilience while creating employment.

The strong and successful involvement of the private sector in the Lima-Paris action agenda, launched during the COP21, also created an incentive to provide space and opportunities for all stakeholders in Quito. We strongly believe that Habitat III success needs to build on similar dynamics of commitments from stakeholders.

The involvement of the private sector in the whole Habitat III process — especially in the regional and thematic meetings — has been key to developing a strong zero draft. Now we need to gather companies from every sector (including construction, water, energy, ICTs and waste) in Quito to ensure the ideas and solutions present in NUA will be shared by all when it comes to the implementation.

What do you want to see on the #NewUrbanAgenda? Over six months, Habitat for Humanity, Cities Alliance and Devex have joined forces to explore the future of our increasingly urbanized world in the run up to Habitat III in October. Spread the word, share your views below or tag @devex and #NewUrbanAgenda.

The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the author

  • Maryse Gautier

    Maryse Gautier currently serves as co­-chair of the Preparatory Committee of the U.N. conference for housing and sustainable urban development, Habitat III, to be carried out in Quito in October 2016. She is general inspector at the General Council of Environment and Sustainable development at the Ministry of Ecology in France. She previously worked for the French Caisse des Dépôts. Previously she spent 17 years at the World Bank where she has worked as urban expert in the MENA region, specifically Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Yemen, and Latin America, with a special focus in Colombia and Argentina. She also managed the World Bank portfolio for the Philippines for four years during which she focused on governance and anti­-corruption issues.