ADDRESS BY THE FORMER UCLG PRESIDENT, MR PARKS TAU, AT THE CLOSING CEREMONY OF THE UCLG WORLD CONGRESS, ETHEKWINI
15 November 2019
Members of the Executive Bureau
Premier of Gauteng
Our host Executive Mayor of eThekwini
Leadership of the South African Parliament
President of SALGA
International and Local government association
Allow me to draw from an African proverb that expresses the highest level of gratitude, when working within a collective:
“ Montsamaisa bosigo ke mo leboga Bosele”
“The one who walks me in darkness of the night, I will say thanks to him/her in the dawn of the morning.”
It’s been an insightful and inspiration journey for us. The international municipal movement is still and will continue to its desired state.
Once again, I would like to express our collective appreciation to our hosts, eThekwini Municipality and SALGA, for courteously hosting this sixth (6th) World Congress of the UCLG. Surely, under this difficult weather condition you have represented South Africa well.
Allow me also to extend my very warmest congratulations, and good wishes, to the newly elected members of the Presidency of UCLG. I am certain I speak for everyone when I say, the UCLG is in capable and good hands.
Equally, I wish to send special praise to all the delegates who participated at this Congress and everyone who was part of this World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders.
I would be amiss if I do not take this moment to thank most sincerely, my former colleagues in the UCLG Presidency, who have made it a privilege to be President of the UCLG these past three (3) years.
To the Secretary-General, Ms Emilia Saiz, and the operational staff at the Head Office in Spain, your diligent support and strategic encouragement is testament to your unswerving dedication and commitment to the UCLG. Thank you.
We have, indeed, come far since Bogota 2016!
It has been a privilege to represent you, coming from the global South, and to witness this World Organisation rise to reach its stated mandate, to implement its vision, and to establish and secure spaces for dialogue with national governments and multilateral institutions like the United Nations (UN).
Ladies and gentlemen,
I have been privileged to work with my Presidency colleagues, to seek to help grow the UCLG into a Learning Network, to undertake the task of localising the SDGs, to seek to source alternative financial architectures, and to develop its own policy making spaces.
The legacy of these three years is, I humbly submit, a strengthened World Organisation, that has become more visible in the international scene, that has localisation at the core of its efforts, and that has endeavoured to ensure that the international decision-making forums, like the UN, listens to cities and to local government.
At the same time, it is a legacy that acknowledges that, it is also cities that are listening to the pleas, the demands, and the voices of our citizens and communities and all of our stakeholders.
Distinguished guests and friends,
As we approach the decade leading to 2030, there is now urgency to achieve the realization of the SDGs. It is a period that represents both a challenge and an opportunity to renew the social contract with our various stakeholders to promote and support further the New Urban Agenda, The Paris Climate Accord, and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.
It is also a moment in history when providing everyone with equal access to the urban resources they so desperately need, guarantees their human dignity and inalienable right to access a better life. More than this, our cities must and should provide spaces that inspire and empower. Spaces where public life and the beauty of togetherness in diversity unfold, places that elevates citizens sense of belonging and humanity. Only cities can do this, and therefore more than ever we need to promote both sustainability and livability.
Cities after all are not only places that provide services but are an embodiment of how we choose to live in the world. Great cities offer this choice by putting citizens at the centre of urban development. This is our reason for our being as an organization, I am inspired, for as always, these auspicious gatherings do much to bolster our commitment to building citizen centric cities.
While we look towards a renewed social contract that will give us room to innovate in response to megatrends of, for example; super-urbanisation, accelerating technological changes, growing and aging populations, inter and intra-migration, aging infrastructures, and demographic shifts in many urban regions, we must not become overwhelmed at the task at hand.
As mega-city regions emerge, we must remember that ‘small is beautiful’ that no matter what, the goal is to continually work towards building a great city. Great cities are dependent on a foundation of great neighbourhoods.
This is where true city life ebbs and flows, where community is forged, where we go to church or mosque, were we meet neighbours and where we fix meaning and identity to place. In the words of the author Suketu Mehta:
“In the looking, I found the cities within me.”
As such, the international municipal movement has an immense task in its hands. But I believe, it is a task that we will, and can, overcome if we remain committed to our core objectives, namely:
- Increase the role and influence of local government and its representative organisations in global governance;
- Become the main source of support for democratic, effective, innovative local government close to the citizen; and
- Ensure an effective and democratic global organisation.
These objectives are an important organisational compass along with values and principles of decentralization, subsidiarity and accountability. It is a movement that at its core recognizes that cities only exist because of people, that citizens matter and that local government must always promote servant leadership as we strive towards the progressive realization of the SDG’s.
We value the protection of living beings, the defense of equal access to basic services and public space, and the strengthening of gender equality to provide a space for all voices and contributions.
Colleagues and friends,
We are confident that our movement, in the coming years, will continue to defend the values that are at the heart of our citizens and communities, such as the right to housing and a rights-based approach to migration. But equally, to foster active citizenry through a focussed programme of public participation. We have learnt from the past that when people are included in the decisions of the city, that great things happen.
We are confident in the knowledge that the next frontier of the municipal movement, will take to heart the outcomes of this sixth (6th) Summit, will work to develop intergenerational dialogues to build a true ecological transition by shifting our patterns of production and consumption. At this juncture, we face the frightening reality of climate change, how we mitigate and adapt as cities will come from a process of deep dialogue, experimentation and trust.
We are also confident that our next frontier will endeavour to build resilient communities by promoting our role in managing natural resources, setting more stringent policies for a reduction in carbon emissions and creating a shared platform for knowledge exchange around building adaptive resilience in communities.
We are convinced that our movement will continue to endeavour to ensure that the voices of women and girl-children are heard in the creation of the localisation process and put gender equality at the heart of development processes.
Dear members of the newly elected UCLG Presidency, your task, our task, of defending our international movement agenda, builds on a century of collaborations. You are, as they say, walking on the shoulders of giants. The future of our movement could not be in better hands.
I wish you the best of luck in this quest for a hopeful future for humanity.
In the words of that most illustrious urban thinker Professor David Harvey:
“The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change we by changing the city.”
Before I conclude, I would like to refer back to the African proverb state earlier:
“ Montsamaisa bosigo ke mo leboga Bosele”
To my wife and family, thank you for walking with me though this journey of UCLG Presidency.
I thank you.