The World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders of 2019, convened by the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) in collaboration with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and eThekwini Municipality brings together mayors, presidents of associations, councillors and local and regional practitioners from around the world. From Sunday November 10 to Friday November 15, the summit convened influential local and regional leaders, partners and actors involved in the decision-making of city and community life.
The UCLG promotes the voice of local and regional governments on the global stage. The platform and summit helps to link local and global agendas by implementing the global agenda at local level, and enabling local government bodies to influence global policy decision-making.
Local governance participants cannot represent and protect the interest of the communities they represent by only acting locally; since local and regional governments “are the sentinels of the dreams of citizens” it is important that they have representative bodies at international negotiating tables. UCLG believes that it is important to provide a space for dialogue between the different spheres of government as well as between governments and communities.
The 2019 UCLG Congress brings together key players in the municipal movement under one roof and facilitates links between communities, civil society, national governments, local and regional governments and the international community.
The summit intends to create decision-making spaces and platforms to debate the commitment of local and regional governments to ensure a better future for all through action at the various levels of governance and collaborative building. The summit builds on the new international agenda for cities and regions to head inclusive and sustainable development.
The UCLG membership represents more than 250 cities, regions, and metropolises; 175 local and regional governments and associations; 140 of the 193 member states of the United Nations; and about two-thirds of the world’s population.
The African Forum for Urban Safety-African Women Assembly was the Summit’s first global conversation and took place on November 10, with UCLG Africa, eThekwini Municipality, the department of human settlements, SALGA, the South African Cities Network and the UN-Habitat as conversation participants.
The president of UCLG, Parks Tau; accompanied by the mayor of eThekwini, Mxolisi Kaunda; the UCLG secretary-general; Emilia Sáiz; and the deputy-president of SALGA, Zandile Gumede kicked off proceedings on Monday. Tau briefly addressing the challenges and progress of UCLG during his term and highlighted the key aims of the 2019 UCLG Congress gathering.
The Local 4 Action Hub inaugural celebration began on Monday, chaired by Tau and Sáiz. During the celebration Tau iterated that the Local 4 Action Hub is a platform for “interacting and interfacing with debates of Global Sustainability Goals and local governance”, bearing in mind the maturity of the financing and funding mechanism of local governments.
He highlighted the ways in which the hub will interface with various community and international stakeholders, and how these stakeholders can engage with local governance structures to enable them to respond to critical issues. His statement mentioned how African cities and local governance structures facing environmental risks (such as droughts and resource limitations) could learn from the EuroAsia region in creating resilient cities, considering their experience with natural disaster management and response. Sáiz highlighted the multicultural and diverse nature of the UCLG Congress and Local 4 Action Hub, and how it is “not just a conference but [also] a policy-making mechanism”.
Demonstrating the diverse and multicultural nature of the Congress, panel discussions on November 11 included thought discussions on local governance methods, collaboration within and across the various levels of government, shaping resilient cities, localising the transformative agenda, strategic planning for spatial transformation, the challenges facing young African local governance officials, the community of practice on local finance, as well as how the “State of Cities” reports influence urban policy and governance.
The various approaches to local governance were demonstrated in the “Mayors of the Future” panel discussion, which was chaired by Sáiz. The panel included the first elected female mayor of Banjul (Gambia), Rohey Malick Lowe; Bristol’s (England) first mayor of African descent, Marvin Rees; Kaunda; and Tau. Questions raised included what networks do to achieve transformation, as well as a discussion of what it takes to be a mayor in the current municipal government climate, the priorities of the mayoral candidates, and the changes necessary within local governance structures to successfully implement the New Sustainable Development Goals and address climate change issues.
Some of these issues were discussed during the panel discussion on shaping resilient cities. The session highlighted how rapid urbanisation increases the risk of disasters that affect cities, as well as the tools that can be developed to mitigate the effects of environmental change. The session highlighted the intimate role that local government plays as first responders to environmental disasters.