Habitat International Coalition has issued an open letter to UN Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohammed Sharif, calling for clarity in the intended—and indispensable—cooperation of civil society and other stakeholders with the reforming agency.
Since the UN Members States’ adoption of the “New Urban Agenda” as UN Habitat’s normative framework in 2016 and the appointment of new leadership in 2017, the UN General Assembly has called for a new system of governance for the relatively small and shrinking agency. This included a promise of a new Stakeholder Engagement Policy (SEP) to be delivered by February 2019, in order to allow for its review and consideration in advance of the first convening of the new, all-state UN Habitat Assembly in 27–31 May 2019, where the policy is to be adopted.
However, UN Habitat has produced no such policy document to date.
The HIC open letter to UN Habitat urges clarity from the Executive Director toward a rational and consultative approach to stakeholder engagement. A more-specific HIC proposal calls for a civil society mechanism that is distinct from the diluted and now-dissolved platforms of the past, allowing each constituency group to organize itself to have more-representative and substantive input into the partnership. That proposal draws on more-successful models already operating within the UN system, but not yet tried in the UN Habitat sphere.
That is not to say that UN Habitat and the Habitat Agenda processes have not been innovative and progressive in the past. The agency used to claim UN leadership in organizing civic engagement in the processes toward Habitat II (1996). HIC also acknowledges that history in a graphic and narrative, presenting milestones of civic participation in cooperation with UN Habitat. They reveal notable ups and downs, but none like the present ambiguity and effective exclusion.
HIC Members, officers, Board representatives and Wisdom Keepers will take these reflections and proposals the first UNHA at Nairobi in May. There, HIC will participate in the “Global Stakeholder Forum” and organize a special event to gather further inputs from the pool of UN Habitat and NUA stakeholders.