Habitat III Europe and North America Regional Meeting: Speaking as One to Engender the New Urban Agenda
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC. Shortly after the Habitat III Africa Regional Meeting, the Habitat III Europe and North America Regional Meeting was held in Prague from 16 to 18 March 2016. Members states, stakeholders and partners worked together at the meeting to produce the outcome Prague Declaration. The regional gathering was preceded by the 14th meeting of the World Urban Campaign (WUC) Steering Committee on the 15th and 16th where WUC’s The City We Need 2.0 draft document was adopted. The City We Need 2.0 will inform the General Assembly of Partners’ input to the zero draft of the New Urban Agenda and details 10 principles of the city the New Urban Agenda should follow. The principles were developed using the results of the 26 Urban Thinkers Campuses throughout the world, of which Huairou Commission co-organised the only four Campuses examining gender and women’s empowerment.
Rut Kolínská, founder of the Czech Network of Mother Centres, hosted the Daily Women Caucus where women and men passionate about engendering the New Urban Agenda welcomed honored guests like Czech Republic’s Minister of Regional Development and Coordinator of the Regional Meeting Karla Slechtová. Following the Daily Women’s Caucus, members of the Huairou Commission and it’s partners spoke on panels at Side Events and during high-level Plenaries that addressed the Meeting’s daily themes.
Beginning on Day 1, our host Ms. Kolínská spoke on the first Plenary and High-level Discussion regarding Urban Governance. Participants described what kind of role they believed urban governance should play in the New Urban Agenda. Ms. Kolinská emphasized the need for governments to work hand in hand with their citizens. She explained how there must be a system in place for local governments to include the people.
Later that day, Katia Araujo, Huairou Commission’s Director of Programs and current Chair of the Women’s Partners Constituent Group (WPCG) of the General Assembly of Partners (GAP), spoke to a crowded main hall on Urban Economy and Development, and Creation of Jobs. She emphasized that achieving gender equality, empowering all women and girls, and the full realization of their human rights is essential to achieving sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth and sustainable urban development.
“Economic development and land use departments should formally assist women to scale up and diversify their urban agricultural production in order to improve and stabilize the supply of affordable and nutritious food and women’s earning.” – Katia Araujo, Huairou Commission and Women’s Partner Constituent Group
Ms. Araujo recommended participatory budget platforms be established to ensure economic development for women, since these platforms can allocate a percentage of revenue for stakeholders, especially women, for their community priorities. Women’s groups must be empowered to understand and support local revenue collection procedures and to ensure such funds are collected and properly used to improve basic services and community infrastructure. Gender budgeting should be introduced at all decision-making levels and programs must be funded that facilitate women’s groups to understand and participate in budget planning and monitoring.
With regards to women and jobs, she asserted that the pay gap between men and women be closed and affordable, and culturally inclusive childcare be made available. The unpaid “volunteer” work women perform must be recognized and underwritten through community grants or other financial mechanisms.
For urban environments to succeed, Ms. Araujo explained how public, private and people partnerships should be promoted to fund capacity building programs based on the knowledge, skills and local expertise of grassroots women’s organizations and communities and facilitate the transfer of community women’s effective sustainable development practices across neighborhoods, cities, and regions.
Among the Plenaries and High-Level Discussions, the Huairou Commission and its partners SDI, WIEGO and others organised and spoke on panels in various Side Events. These Events inspired discussion around decentralization and the New Urban Agenda, global grassroots lessons for Europe, free and active citizenship, engendering ‘The City We Need’ and gender and climate change and the New Urban Agenda. The well-attended events jumpstarted conversations among participants and institutional partners around women’s key role in urbanization.
Ellen Woodsworth, Chair of Women Transforming Cities, spoke about the importance of bolstering inclusion efforts by encouraging and supporting governments to gather disaggregated data and put an intersectional lens on policy, programmes, budgets, funding and staffing on the . Ms. Woodsworth later delivered the Women’s and Grassroots Partner Constituent Group (WPCG) Statement at the Meeting where the GAP members called for a multidimensional approach to addressing urban development. Such an approach shall also recognize the contributions of women to cities, as “the role women already play… [gives them the] potential to contribute meaningfully in decision-making processes.” Finally, the Groups made clear that inclusive cities and the reduction of urban poverty will only be possible with:
“Full and equal participation and leadership of women integrated in multilevel governance. This means the role and views of women and grassroots in all dimensions are recognized and recommendations are integrated. This integration can only take place through development of policies that are gender-responsive in particular on essential elements of sustainable urban development.” – Ellen Woodsworth, Women Transforming Cities, on behalf of the Women’s and Grassroots Partner Constituent Groups
Mildred Crawford, co-chair of the Farmer’s Partner Constituent Group, delivered her statement on behalf of the Farmer’s Group. Ms. Crawford reminded all that the linkages between urban and rural settlements must not be forgotten since the Urban – Rural Nexus is the main thoroughfare by which urban employees and food grown in rural areas travel. Ms. Crawford additionally called for a multidemsional, multi-stakeholder approach to urban development, ensuring that rural farmers “at risk of losing arable agricultural land in exchange for residential expansion,” and urban sprawl are protected.
Finally, HC host Rut Kolínská delivered a statement on behalf of the Czech Network of Mother Centres sharing the words of her favorite thinker, renowned Monrovian philosopher John Amos Komensky, to describe the need to place people at the center of urbanization. A key Komensky thought she highlighted was, “To be successful, however, the remedy must be comprehensive and holistic, to simultaneously improve everything that is related to one another, otherwise, we will never get ahead.” Ms. Kolínská set the stage for beginning that holistic, comprehensive transformation by shoring up equal partnerships and cooperation between all stakeholders and organisations: public, non-governmental and private.