Day three of the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) Congress commenced with large gathering of the local leaders, whose addresses pertained not only to the direct dealings and responsibilities of local government, but also their role in global governance and its relation to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It included discussions on the issues of community practice, migration, meetings of the metropolis executive committee, and pilots for democracy.
UCLG’s Durban Political Declaration recognises that the goals of 2030 are paving the way towards a new social contract, and that local ownership will be at the forefront in humanity’s future. With the bottom-up approach comes the call for a bottom-up engagement on policy-making, as well as follow-ups that should happen at local government level but also at national, regional, and international levels.
This declaration was supported by discussions on how to work on Agenda 2030 locally and globally, led by the UCLG’s capacity and institution working group Platforma, and the region of Catalonia. The discussion explored SDGs and decentralised co-operation, and supporting discussions delved into the potential of public spaces for advancing nature-based solutions in resilient and socially inclusive cities.
The role of local government in migration policy
Any conversation on resilient and socially inclusive cities would be incomplete without including migration and refugee policies of metropolises. International stakeholders of migration and migration policies shared their experiences on driving local inclusion for migrants in local economies and governance. Participants on the panel in this discussion included representatives from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Council of Europe’s Intercultural Cities, the Migration Policy Group (MPG), UN-Habitat, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Peter Kurz, the mayor of (German city) Mannheim, shared the need for comprehensive inclusion policies that support those areas where migrants move into cities — migrants generally don’t populate an entire city, only specific areas — and how this needs to be supported by the national migration framework. He also identified the need to bridge the gap between incoming migrants and naturalised migrants, as this can help solve some of the language challenges that arise when implementing migration policies and strategies. The solutions can inform the various global migration policies and strategies, such as the Global Compact for Migration and the Migration Policy Framework for Africa.
Housing as a human right
Realising the SDGs requires local government action on inclusive migration, but also actionable policies on housing and recognition that housing is a fundamental human right. Leilani Farha, the UN special rapporteur on housing, led an interactive session and encouraged UCLG constituents to contribute towards the draft guidelines on adequate housing. Points that were raised included: the challenge of access to land; gender discrimination as it relates to land access; governments that do not recognise housing as a human right; how to address homelessness that results from evictions; the over-commodification of land; and several contradictions concerning rights to property and land were also brought to light.
Further contributions from all members of society, no matter how big or small, were encouraged; the full guidelines can be found online, and contributions can also be made on the same platform. The window for contributions closes on November 18.
Decentralising fiscal policy
The issues of migration, the right to housing, climate change and other issues in discussion cannot be addressed by local structures without a fiscal budget; and local and regional governments face many challenges with regard to fiscal structures and frameworks. Representatives from UCLG, the OECD and the United Nations Capital Development Fund discussed these issues in a session titled The World Observatory on Subnational Government Finance and Investment: Making Fiscal Decentralization Work.
The UCLG Congress convened on November 14 and 15 to further discuss implementation plans, the role of the youth and the role of local government in protecting children and a range of other topics that influence local policy and action plans. For more information visit dbn2019.uclg.org or www.salga.org.za