Paris Expert Meeting on Engendering National Urban Policies
PHOTO CREDIT UN-Habitat
National Urban Policies have become something of a hot topic in urban development: they are identified in the New Urban Agenda (NUA) as “drivers of change,” and are highlighted in the recent Action Framework for the Implementation of the New Urban Agenda (AFINUA) as one of five essential elements to propel NUA implementation at the country level; the other four are: urban legislation, rules and regulations; urban planning and design; urban economy and municipal finance; and local implementation.
At the most basic level, a National Urban Policy (NUP) offers “a unifying vision for urban development within a country” (Citiscope). That becomes more complex when moving from paper to practice. Sharing experiences from three dozen countries, over 350 stakeholders convened in Paris for the Second International Conference on National Urban Policy (15-18 May 2017), hosted and organized jointly by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Cities Alliance, and UN-Habitat.
To complement the Paris discussions, the Huairou Commission and UN-Habitat co-hosted an Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on May 16th, entitled “Engendering National Urban Policies for Successful Implementation of the New Urban Agenda.” Experts convened to analyze the role of national urban policies as a tool for improving the lives of women and girls in cities, and to develop a framework to support the integration of gender equality perspectives and the development of gender-responsive national urban policies.
In her welcoming remarks, Ms. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director, emphasized that women need to take leadership in formulating and implementing NUPs. Cities around the world face greater challenges to gender equality today, and so it is important that policy be created to reinforce women and men’s equal rights and equal access to services in urban areas. As she expressed, “the beauty of national urban policy is about coordination both vertically and horizontally.”
The subsequent discussion focused on four main themes:
• Women’s leadership and participatory decision-making
• Access to and control over assets (e.g. land, affordable housing, economic empowerment, care economy, services)
• Planning and resilience (e.g. in crisis and disaster, climate change and post-conflict situations)
• Safety, freedom from violence, and access to public space
Participants agreed on the importance of including gender as a crucial part of National Urban Policy from the very beginning, and that it is essential to have a gender lens in NUP capacity training. Gender should not be inserted as a stand-alone section but should rather be combined into each chapter of the country’s urban policy, with implementable recommendations. For example, it was highlighted that there is a need for NUPs to specify how funds flow into those services and infrastructure which support women, such as childcare, public safety, housing, and livelihood development. In summary, participants reiterated that NUPs must be gender-responsive, and reflect the needs of the women and men who live in cities.
The meeting participants established an action plan for moving forward, including:
1. Establish core principles for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the NUP framework.
2. Review all training materials on national urban policy to ensure that gender-responsive elements are incorporated.
3. Complete a ‘gender-scan’ of the work of the 28 countries supported by UN-Habitat to develop a national urban policy, and identify the effectiveness and impact of gender initiatives;good examples should be highlighted and used to inform further practices.
4. Recommend that the NUP section of the AFINUA incorporate guidance for decision-makers to ensure gender-responsive policies and programs.
5. Recommend the creation of a gender and women’s empowerment taskforce for reviewing NUPs