Huairou Commission, Leadership

Countdown to Quito: Huairou Celebrates 20 Years of Raising Women’s Voices in Urban Development

The highly anticipated Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador is fast approaching, and as Huairou’s delegation prepares for this momentous and historic event, we think back on the many achievements that have paved our way to this moment. Over 50 years ago, urban planners were first introduced to the notion of city living through a woman’s perspective in Jane Jacobs’ “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” Jacobs’ case for bottom-up development lives at the heart of Huairou’s vision for inclusive, equitable development that has guided our human settlements work for the past 20 years, and guides our mission at Habitat III and beyond.

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Huairou’s Long History of Championing Equitable and Inclusive Human Settlements


1995: The Huairou Commission is Founded at the 4th World Conference for Women

In the Grassroots Tent, a Super Coalition of women’s organizations was named the “Huairou Commission” by Wally N’Dow, then Executive Director of the UN Commission on Human Settlements. He charged the Commission to come together at the Habitat II conference and inject women’s priorities into the center of the Habitat II Agenda.


1996: Huairou Profoundly Influences the Habitat II Agenda

With 55 workshops dedicated to women, the first-ever childcare center at a UN conference, and 122 references to women in the outcome document, Huairou’s mission at the Habitat II conference was successfully met. Huairou began building a global profile, with roots in local action and community-led programs focused on creating inclusive human settlements in the years to come.


2004: Huairou Brings a Strong Presence to Inaugural World Urban Forum

Huairou participated in the first World Urban Forum in Nairobi through side events, networking events, and by hosting the women’s caucus. Huairou has since participated in subsequent Forums, often using our award-winning Grassroots Academies to prepare grassroots women for the events.


2009: Huairou’s Leadership is Recognized for Outstanding Work in Human Settlements

Our Chair, Jan Peterson, was awarded the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour for her global commitment to improving grassroots women’s lives. The Scroll of Honour is the highest award for work in human settlements development and improving living conditions in urban centers around the world.


2012: The UN-Habitat Advisory Group on Gender Issues(AGGI) is Founded

Huairou played a significant role in establishing the UN-Habitat Advisory Group on Gender Issues(AGGI), an independent advisory group to the Executive Director of UN-Habitat on gender issues. Experts on gender and habitat from GROOTS International and Huairou, including our Chair Jan Peterson, were appointed as members.


2014: Huairou Champions Civil Society Participation in Habitat III

Huairou forged the way for civil society participation in the Habitat III process by leading the World Urban Campaign (WUC) Standing Committee on Women, co-chairing the General Assembly of Partners Women’s Partner Constituent Group, and founding the NY Civil Society Working Group on Habitat III. We also supported 5 Urban Thinkers Campuses with a specific focus on gender, whose outcomes influenced WUC’s The City We Need 2.0. Building off the pioneering research on gender and community development by Jackie Leavitt, the Huairou Commission additionally played an active role in the Global Platform for the Right to the City (GPR2C).


This Year: Huairou’s Delegation Heads to Habitat III to Engender the New Urban Agenda

Huairou and our partner Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI) were invited to participate in the Habitat III Grassroots Legacy initiative. Huairou’s delegation of over 115 professional and grassroots women and men will participate in the conference, bringing women’s voices to the forefront of the human settlements conversation and engendering the New Urban Agenda.

“The New Urban Agenda [must be] based on the centrality of gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment for sustainable, resilient, and safe cities and human settlements.” – Katia Araujo, Huairou Commission