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UNECE and Regional Commissions stress upscaling new multilateralism for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda


New multilateralism, focused on creating synergies between local, national, regional and global efforts, combined with practical, forward-looking solutions are needed to address the pressing challenges facing cities across the globe, including the coronavirus pandemic, rapid urbanization, and natural and man-made disasters. This was the key message emphasized today during the regional panel discussion Bolstering the roles of urban professionals, local and national authorities in localizing and implementing the New Urban Agenda, that was held as part of the President of the General Assembly High Level Meeting on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda (NUA), that took place in at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. 

UNECE Executive Secretary Ms. Olga Algayerova, who is leading the coordination of Regional Commissions this year, opened the panel discussion by highlighting the contribution of the Commissions in the implementation of the NUA. She noted that this reflected in the progress made in the contextualisation of the NUA within regionally specific agreements, priorities and realities. She emphasized the importance of engaging practitioners in the implementation of the NUA, noting UNECE’s close collaboration with Architect Lord Norman Foster, who has been championing new multilateralism, acting as an ambassador of urban development.

Lord Foster said that in his UN role, he was approached by the mayor of Kharkiv, the second largest city of Ukraine, to help reconstruct the city. He highlighted his commitment to   bring together the best talents in the globe to prepare a forward-looking master plan for the city. A master plan must, by design, address social, economic, environmental challenges such as housing and biodiversity; all the issues that form the focus of the NUA.  He noted that the experience of the city of London, that commissioned a master plan in 1943 before the end of the second world war, as well as one for the next twenty-five years during the COVID-19 pandemic provides inspiring example. With such examples, “I believe we can look to the future with optimism.”

Mr. Sami Kanaan, deputy mayor of Geneva, said that he is participating as a witness and promoter of a renewed multilateralism that took root in Geneva with the UNECE Forum of Mayors on 4-5 April 2022. This Forum is unique because it allows the voice of local authorities to be heard within a multilateral UN framework. More than 40 local elected officials took part in the 2nd  edition of the Forum to discuss the progress needed to achieve the SDGs in a world shaken by Covid-19. The Forum witnessed the exchange of experiences on good urban practices, demonstrated how to learn lessons from the pandemic to develop more sustainable, more inclusive and more innovative cities and renewed commitment to the Declaration of Mayors adopted during the 1st Forum in 2020. He also stressed Geneva’s role in the development of the Forum, opening it up to other regions, and offering joint avenues of reflection for its future.

Mr. Lefu Manyakole, Principal Secretary of Local Government and Chieftainship, Kingdom of Lesotho, shared his country’s experience in developing a multi sectoral action plan for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. The Action plan aligns the NUA with the country’s Second National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP II). It will serve as an important tool for promoting sustainable urban development for poverty reduction given its focus on creating jobs in the urban sector.  It identifies the potential of the manufacturing sector as a key lever in creating urban jobs and emphasizes on expanding multipliers and supply chains to broaden the benefits of the sector.           

Mr. Fernando Gray, Mayor of Esteban Echevarria, Argentina and Head of Mercociudades (Association of the local governments of South America), proposed three considerations. First, to foster citizen involvement related to the human rights agenda. Second, to increase the bonds between local governments, funding and international cooperation agencies, and finally, to embrace the NUA in view of Latin America’s social and environmental context, in order to reduce inequality.

Mr. Mahadi bin Che Ngah, Mayor of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, demonstrated how his city is harnessing digital innovation for transformative urban development, through the Kuala Lumpur SDG Centre. The centre showcases their SDG and NUA localisation efforts, but also provides a platform for the public to access the information through a digital platform, called KL SDG Centre Digital Twin.

Mr. Yahya Musa Kisbi,  Minister of Public Works and Housing of Jordan, noted that the Greater Amman municipality is preparing a Voluntary Local Review (VLR) in cooperation with ESCWA, UN-Habitat and UCLG-MEWA following an inclusive multi-stakeholder process and a rigorous methodology. . The aim of the VLR, which is the first in the Arab region, is to enable the municipality to bolster synergies with national authorities, improve its performance and raise the level of its services by linking its strategic plans with the sustainable development goals and the new urban plan. sustainable and flexible. The VLR will inform strategies and plans, including: the Amman prevention strategy, the Amman plan for climate change, the Amman plan for a green city, and the road map towards Amman a smart city.

The five Regional Commissions shared their ongoing work, including research, best practice experience and capacity building and facilitating direct engagement with local and national governments, UN Country Teams and Resident Coordinators.  Ms. Paola Deda, Director of UNECE’s Forests, Housing and Land Management Division, highlighted the  Forum of Mayors as a key instrument to promote a new multilateralism with all RCs. UNECE’s contribution to the NUA is also provided through the Centres of Excellence, the city profiles, guidelines on, among others, VLRs and capacity building projects. She added that UNECE is currently supporting the reconstruction of the city of Kharkiv in collaboration with Lord Foster.

From ECA, Ms. Edlam Yemeru, Officer in Charge, Gender Poverty and Social Policy Division, Urbanization Section, shared that ECA is supporting member States to leverage urbanization as an opportunity for economic growth, industrialization, job creation and revenue mobilization. This is being done through the prioritisation of urbanization at the core of national economic policy making and the strengthening of urban economic and financial data and statistics.

Mr. Diego Aulestia, Head, RC for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Human Settlement, highlighted work underway to support the development of local level action plans for economic recovery from COVID-19, capacity building and policy advice for integrated urban and land policy making, supporting urban mobility, the formulation and implementation of local level climate action plans, and updating of the Urban and Cities Platform of Latin America and the Caribbean ( 

Mr. Curt Garrigan, Chief, Sustainable Urban Development , EC for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP),  highlighted that cities across the regiona are currently applying the Asia Pacific Regional Guidelines on Voluntary Local Reviews developed in 2020 by ESCAP and the Penang Platform for Sustainable Urbanization. He noted that The Future of Asian & Pacific Cities report, developed in 2019 with UN Habitat and partners clearly identified policy pathways on Urban Planning, Resilience, Smart & Inclusive Cities and Urban Finance that now also forms the curriculum for the Asia Pacific Mayors Academy, a platform supporting new mayors in the region. 

Ms. Sukaina Al-Nasrawi, Lead of Sustainable Urban Development at  (ESCWA) noted the centrality of the strengthened capacity of local governments to achieve the New Urban Agenda. She shared ESCWA’s work on guiding the region on transformation processes towards smart, sustainable, inclusive and resilient Arab cities. She highlighted ESCWA’s commitment to elevate urban development through various channels including national urban forums and the Arab Forum for Sustainable Development. ESCWA focused on its role as a regional convenor aiming at enhancing multi-stakeholder development dialogue noting that this effort led to enhancing the regional momentum to localize the SDGs and develop Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs). ESCWA, in partnership with UN-Habitat and UCLG-MEWA, is currently leading the development of the first two VLRs in the Arab region, namely for Amman (Jordan) and Agadir (Morocco).

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