Habitat III Conference: Taking action for innovative, socially minded, green cities (17-20 October 2016)


From 17 to 20 October 2016, the United Nations is holding the Habitat III Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development in Quito, Ecuador.

Forty years after the Habitat I Conference in 1976 highlighting the importance of cities and urbanization and twenty years after Habitat II in 1996 focusing on sustainable development, this new conference aims to implement a "New Urban Agenda" and to reinvigorate political commitment of member countries regarding the issue of development.

Identifying new challenges ahead for big cities

Focusing on the theme “Sustainable urban development: the future of urbanization?”, Habitat III aims to provide ways to tackle poverty and inequalities and at the same time identify new challenges big cities should expect to face over the next twenty years.

Non-governmental participants are also in Quito as is the United Cities and Local Governments World Congress, which is commonly called the World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders, held from 12 to 15 October in Bogota, and have committed to this New Urban Agenda.

The Preparatory Committee, made up of Chad, Chile, the Czech Republic, Germany, Indonesia, Senegal, Slovakia and the United Arab Emirates, met in Surabaya in July 2016 to ensure the coordination and preparation of the conference while France and Ecuador are chairing it. A non-binding declaration is also being adopted by Member States so that a plan of action can be drawn up on which each country’s national policies can be based.

Establishing three implementing agreements for the New Urban Agenda

France would like to establish three agreements to provide guidelines for implementing the New Urban Agenda.

  • Taking action to reduce urban exclusion

Cities should be built for everyone. Therefore, reducing urban inequalities, whether social, economic or environmental, must be a priority.

  • Taking action for the green energy transition

Sustainable cities must be low-carbon cities and compatible with a planet with limited resources. Habitat III must focus on resources and regions, and promote green and innovative growth, placing life cycle issues at the core of the planning, building and management of cities.

  • Taking action to build cities together

Inhabitants must play a responsible part in creating and running cities. The expertise of all inhabitants must be recognized as a driver of improvement and production.

Decentralized cooperation: investing in sustainable development

Habitat III is also an opportunity to stress the importance of decentralized cooperation in the sustainable urban development process. That is why the Ile-de-France region and the city of Antananarivo have already started to develop an urban farming project with this in mind. The cities of Suresnes and Cap-Haïtien have been cooperating since 2003 on an urban waste management project and are thus helping to improve sanitation for the people living in Haiti’s second largest city. Toulouse and Hanoi are also examples in terms of cooperation addressing urban problems. Several projects to implement public mobility policies were launched in Hanoi to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible and improve inhabitants’ quality of life.

According to the 2013 Laignel report, French local authorities invest €230 million in their action abroad every year in all geographic areas combined. An increasingly large part of this investment is used to implement sustainable urban development projects in order to meet the challenges of a rapidly growing and unbridled urbanisation, which will impact 70% of the population by 2050.

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