An independent panel reviewing the effectiveness of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) has proposed the programme be recast as the Organization’s ‘urban champion,’ including through the establishment of a coordinating mechanism to complement its work and convene all UN agencies and partners on urban sustainability.
The panel, appointed by Secretary-General António Guterres, recommends that ‘UN Urban’ be established as a coordinating mechanism similar to UN-Water or UN-Energy, as part of system-wide UN reform, with a small secretariat based in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) in New York.
In its just-released report, the Panel acknowledges the challenges which have compromised the ability of the UN-Habitat and the wider UN system to respond nimbly and effectively to rapid global change, and draws attention to the failure within the UN system to adequately acknowledge the pace, scale and implications of urbanization and the dependence of sustainable development on the direction of urban development.
The Panel agrees that UN-Habitat has limitations in accountability, transparency and efficiency, that its resources have been inadequate, insecure and unpredictable, and that the need to chase funds has caused it to stray from its normative mandate.
‘Save, stabilize and rapidly strengthen’ UN-Habitat; focus on 2030 Agenda
In the Panel’s assessment, the first priority is to save, stabilize and then rapidly strengthen UN-Habitat to equip it for a renewed role based on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted at the UN General Assembly in 2015, as well as the New Urban Agenda, adopted at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) held in October 2016.
The Panel makes a set of recommendations on UN-Habitat’s mandate, governance structure, partnerships and financial capacity.
The Secretary-General has found the proposed establishment of ‘UN Urban’ in line with his own proposals for the reform of the Organization’s development system, his Spokesman said.
“The Secretary-General welcomes the report of the High-Level Independent Panel to Assess and Enhance the Effectiveness of UN-Habitat,” said Stéphane Dujarric in a statement.
“The Secretary-General considers rapid urbanization and its links with poverty, inequality, public health, migration, climate change and natural disasters to be one of the most pressing concerns of the United Nations,” Mr. Dujarric said. “He therefore appreciates the strong relationship between the assessment of UN-Habitat and the overall reform of the UN development system.”
As a follow-up to Habitat III, the General Assembly mandated the Secretary-General to submit an evidence-based and independent assessment of UN-Habitat during the current session.
“The Secretary-General appreciates the recommendations put forth by the Panel on better ways to address urbanization, a global mega-trend that is putting pressure on communities, infrastructure and the environment, and on how UN-Habitat and the UN system can reform to become fit for purpose in cities,” the Spokesman said.
“The Secretary-General finds many of the recommendations in line with his own proposals for the reform of the UN development system, particularly the establishment of ‘UN Urban,’” Mr. Dujarric said, noting that the objective is to foster more collaborative work by UN agencies in the revamped UN country teams, and align UN-Habitat’s regional offices with the new policy integration functions of the Regional Economic Commissions.
General Assembly High-Level meeting on New Urban Agenda
Mr. Dujarric added that the Secretary-General also acknowledged the recommendations for changes to UN-Habitat’s governance, and agreed that the agency must be equipped with a flexible, efficient structure that delivers for the most vulnerable residents of the world’s cities.
The General Assembly will convene a High-Level Meeting on New Urban Agenda and UN-Habitat on 5-6 September 2017.
The meeting will discuss best practices in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda as well as the recommendations put forth by the Panel. The outcome will serve as an input to the General Assembly’s main body dealing with economic and financial issues (Second Committee), which will consider action to be taken in the light of these recommendations during the forthcoming session this fall.
The Secretary-General “looks forward to further discussions with Member States on ambitious reforms that will help the human family to meet the urban tests of our time,” Mr. Dujarric said.
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