Habitat 3 National Reporting Processes: Locating the Right to the City and the Role of Civil Society
30 July 2015
In collaboration with Habitat International Coalition Habitat III Working Group
In October 2016 Habitat III will bring together global actors in Quito, Ecuador, to build on the work of Habitat II in Istanbul in 1996 and Habitat I in Vancouver in 1976. The stated aim of Habitat III is to adopt a “New Urban Agenda”, meant to guide the actions of national governments in pursuit of more sustainable urbanisation (UN-Habitat-a). The new agenda is meant to draw from reports prepared at national and regional levels that outline the major urban challenges for those countries and regions, along with visions to be incorporated into said agenda. UN-Habitat has laid out guidelines for these preparations, recommending the participation of diverse stakeholders, suggesting but not requiring the inclusion of civil society (UN-Habitat-c).
A key challenge that emerges is how Habitat III may build upon Habitat II commitments--namely, the Habitat II Agenda and corresponding Global Plan of Action--in an accountable and inclusive manner. Civil society groups represented by Habitat International Coalition (HIC) are eager to see Habitat III remain accountable to Habitat II and for civil society to be fairly and democratically represented in the process. They also have a number of values they hope to be represented, such as a recognition of the rural-urban continuum and the Right to the City (see “Summary of HIC Key Proposals for the Preparatory Process of Habitat III”). They thus formed a working group1 to further interrogate the Habitat III process and to explore how it might be useful for civil society to further engage in the process.
This research conducted by The Bartlett Development Planning Unit of University College London and in collaboration with Habitat International Coalition emerges from these discussions, and aims to provide an examination of some key national reporting processes in advance of the second Preparatory Committee. The focus is on the preparation of national reports, as this is the main channel through which Habitat III preparations are currently taking place. This report outlines criteria for meaningful participation in national reporting processes, and then assesses the production of reports taking place in eight different countries. It then uses a framework based on the Right to the City2 to analyse the content of four draft national reports. Ultimately it is concluded that Habitat III reporting processes have been limited, not least because of a lack of robust guidelines coming from UN-Habitat. Still, civil society groups have initiated some mechanisms that may prove to expand the space for meaningful participation of social actors.
It should be noted that the national reports are only one element of the Habitat III process, and it is unknown how much national reports will ultimately influence the Habitat III Agenda. Still, national reports may represent the greatest opportunity for civil society engagement (as it is unknown how much regional reports and the Habitat III conference itself will be open to such engagement). It should also be noted that this report is a work in progress, that has examined select case studies based on information available through HIC networks. It is intended to serve as a basis for discussion and to initiate further investigations into Habitat III procedures.