The Second International Conference on National Urban Policy took place from 15-18 May at 0ECD Headquarters, Paris, France. The Deputy Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), honourable Andries Nel was personally invited to this policy conference by the Secretary General of the OECD, Mr Angel Gurria, and by Mr Joan Clos, the Executive Director of the United Nations Settlements Programme (UN- Habitat).
The DM was invited to participate in the Ministers and Mayors Dialogue Session, which took place following the opening plenary on Monday 15 May. The purpose of the urban policy conference (Conclave) was to ’consider in a global forum the role of national urban policies in the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda (NUA).
Through the course of the two days of debates and panel sessions, the Conclave therefore focused on to what extent progress was being made in developing and implementing National Urban Policies, and to correspondingly, support the implementation of:
- the New Urban Agenda
- the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
- the Paris Agreement
- and other global agreements
In alignment with the UN’s policy and monitoring axis of the NUA, SDGs, and national urban policies, the implementation and monitoring approaches for the IUDF can now begin to more clearly define its interface with these agreements. Of particular importance will be exploring how to drive a collaborative multi-level national effort towards the high level coordinating and monitoring of urban policy implementation, which also aligns with global indicators.
The UN Habitat actively supports the development and implementation of urban policy, stating that, ‘In the spirit of collaboration and sharing of experiences and knowledge, the NUP Platform brings together a diverse group of international organizations (such as UN Habitat, OECD, Cities Alliance, UNCRD, UNECA, UNECE) that bring along their respective networks, actors, approaches with various access points and value addition to the NUP process’.
‘The Platform fosters partnership for learning at the global, regional and country levels and is comprised of a diverse group of organizations who are willing to share their knowledge, studies and expertise with other members. In doing so the Platform creates a space for accessing information and experiences regarding NUP. UN Habitat is also working with regional offices and on field projects to support NUP processes based on demand.
The UN Habitat’s Guiding Framework for National Urban Policy is an excellent lever to apply for not only development purposes, but also for policy review and guidance for implementation. The guiding document for NUPs states that the new generation of urban policy now requires an approach that reaches beyond the limited approach to spatial planning that has traditionally been considered as adequate in defining “urban” policy areas.
It is suggested that complex social problems that manifest in urban areas require a broader approach to urban policy and a higher level of vertical and horizontal coordination, as well as creative partnerships outside of the public sector. For coordination to work, common understanding of both the problems and opportunities and sharing of goals, is necessary.
“The 2-day OECD conference thus reflected on these important perspectives, and offered a platform for shared experience and shared learning between countries”, said DM Nel. The preliminary talks, led by the Deputy Minister, with members of OECD Directorates that focus on urban development and the urban economy also took place during the Conclave, thus initiating, going forward, further conversations on South African and OECD knowledge exchange and cooperation.
The conference begun with the opening plenary and that positioned the context for managing global urbanization. The scene was therefore set for the two days of sharing and learning as debates ensued with the Mayors and Ministers Dialogue. DM Nel was part of a panel for this dialogue, comprising ministers from Cameroon, Chile, the Czech Republic, and Guinea, amongst others. The moderator, Mr Markku Markkula, is President of the European Committee of the Regions. This session thus brought together ministers and mayors to share their experiences on implementation of both Agenda 2030, the New Urban Agenda, among other global agreements, and the formulation of their country specific NUPs.
The Mayors and Ministers also discussed value, processes and features of a NUP for strengthening the role of cities in sustainable development’. This session enabled delegates to identify common issues and good practices in these policy areas, with a global linking thread being the focus on the urban challenge to combat rising inequality, and the platforms to be utilized to forge an inclusive city.
To this effect, DM Nel outlined for the session, the key objective of south Africa’s urban policy, the IUDF. He highlighted the specificities of the legacy of apartheid spatial planning and how South Africa urgently needs to transform its national space economy to bring about spatial justice and inclusivity. This primary objective, resonating from the country’s national development plan (NDP), informs the vision of the IUDF, for ‘Liveable, safe, integrated, economically inclusive and globally competitive, where residents actively participate in urban life’.
Having described the key elements of the IUDF in respect to its objectives and levers, DM Nel emphasized the importance of integrated spatial planning between all spheres and sectors, and how these plans must guide investments, and build stakeholder support and participation in the implementation of the national urban agenda by multiple role-players.
With the focus of NUP / NUA / SDG implementation being on localization, dialogue then focused on how to make urban funding more democratic – i.e. re-framing redistribution policies and incentives between levels of government, with a second key question being raised of how national government can encourage more ‘ownership by mayors of the urban agenda’.
The environmental and vulnerability risks posed by unmanaged urbanisation was a theme raised by Chile. The conference agreed that knowledge and well-planned mitigation strategies are vital for effective planning for disaster risk reduction and managing the impact of climate change, and must feature in country urban policies. This topic was echoed by Niger state from Nigeria, in respect to both security and environmental threats posed by the movement of people that is not monitored or well-understood.
As observed by Columbia, environmental policy is developed at national or regional level, but the impact on sustainability of poorly managed environmental impacts of social and economic change have to be managed at local level and by cities. This means, as DM Nel pointed out, that there needs to be far greater collaboration and cooperation within the state on measures to strengthen sustainability initiatives.
“Cities and National Government Working Together is Key”, added DM Nel. From the discussions, it was clear that cities need specific areas of national support for managing urbanization; they also need decision-making powers; further assessing the extent of their powers and their funding sources must also be informed by their national and international obligations. Crafting a national-city vision, and forging shared objectives can mitigate the ‘silos’ of government planning, and thus matters such as ‘City Deals’ or Spatial Contracts’ negotiated between role-players can go a long way towards ensuring integrated and coordinated infrastructure and investment outcomes.
The dialogue closed with country’s urged to ‘Tell Own Stories’ on urbanisation. Deputy Minister Nel presented South Africa’s ‘own story’, at the conference. This story will continue as urban management and urban development become a ‘tour de force’ across the country.
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