2018 reporting period will prove critical for New Urban Agenda, advocates say


NAIROBI—Although 2017 is not yet halfway over, advocates for the New Urban Agenda on sustainable cities already are looking to next year as critical for embedding the agreement aims among national governments.

That’s because the recent Habitat III conference set up a timeline for how countries will report on their progress toward the global, non-binding agreement. But the summit, held in October in Ecuador’s capital city, was light on specifics.

Instead, next year’s biannual United Nations-sponsored urbanism conference, the World Urban Forum, will serve as the first chance to lay the groundwork for tracking countries’ progress toward the New Urban Agenda. The forum, to be held from 7-13 February in Kuala Lumpur, will come early enough in the year to influence the first of what will be quadrennial reports on the New Urban Agenda, to be delivered in July.

“World Urban Forum 9 will be the place to craft this whole reporting process,” said Shipra Narang Suri, vice-president of the General Assembly of Partners, a stakeholder umbrella group that advocates on behalf of the New Urban Agenda. “WUF9 will be the biggest stakeholder engagement milestone after Quito.”

The 2018 report will come less than two years after the adoption of the New Urban Agenda, but the timing is intentional: It lines up with the U. N.’s annual review of progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals, which in 2018 will look at Goal 11, the so-called “urban SDG.” The hope, then, is that the New Urban Agenda will receive greater attention by being linked directly to Goal 11, as national governments are heavily invested in the SDGs.

While the SDGs already have a standard set of indicators for measuring progress, the ones for Goal 11 remain under debate. Meanwhile, advocates believe that the New Urban Agenda, which was created through a process that incorporated significant input from groups working outside government channels, will allow them to weigh in and counterbalance self-reporting from national governments.

“National governments will report on indicators agreed in the U. N., which are a standardized, lowest-common-denominator set of indicators,” said Suri. In order to capture the real dynamics of contemporary urbanization, she continued, “We have a role to play in reporting qualitative narratives to confirm or contradict the numbers that are coming in.”

Pivotal WUF

The General Assembly of Partners hopes to play this role through a process known as multi-stakeholder reporting. Under this approach, civil society groups and research institutions would offer independent and arguably more objective information compared to what governments provide. For example, government census data typically

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