On Wednesday, 29 November 2023, the third session of the Executive Board of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) for the year 2023 resumed in Nairobi, Kenya.

Agenda item 7: Report of the Executive Director on the analysis of the principal obstacles to the implementation of the New Urban Agenda by Member States

The Executive Director opened the meeting by presenting the Report of the Executive Director on the analysis of the principal obstacles to the implementation of the New Urban Agenda by Member States.

Member States broadly commended UN-Habitat on the preparation of the report and specifically appreciated the holistic, three-fold approach to implementing the New Urban Agenda including mainstreaming of the New Urban Agenda, achieving the New Urban Agenda’s principles on the ground, and reporting.

Interventions by Member States

USA, MALAWI, and ARGENTINA appreciated the focus on harmonizing various reporting processes across the United Nations system, including between reporting on the New Urban Agenda and reporting through the Voluntary Local Reviews.

Several Member States expressed support for additional technical support for implementation of the New Urban Agenda, particularly in the Global South. UN-Habitat agreed and highlighted the work to this end in updating and revising national report guidelines and other technical support tools.

To help with accessibility of this technical support, FRANCE and COLOMBIA stressed the importance of having guides and tools available in different languages to encourage implementation of the New Urban Agenda at the local level. UN-Habitat agreed and highlighted existing translations of key implementation tools such as the New Urban Agenda Illustrated Handbook in UN official languages as well as other languages.

MALAYSIA reiterated its willingness to support the Urban Agenda Platform (the global platform for sharing progress, action, and knowledge on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda) and implementation of the New Urban Agenda more broadly in the context of capacity-building discussions.

NIGERIA and CAMEROON requested clarification on the status of the four posts that had been discussed at the second session of the 2023 Executive Board to support the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. UN-Habitat clarified that the recruitment of two positions to support the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, namely, one at the P-3 level and another at the G-7 level, will be completed by the end of the year. Other positions will have a broader work mandate, given resource limitations for New Urban Agenda implementation.

The Chair indicated to the meeting that it was crucial that expectations align with the budget of the Programme and with the contributions that Member States can provide in support of this budget. The Chair and UN-Habitat also clarified that additional details about staffing and other plans for implementation of the New Urban Agenda could be found in previous presentations made during the second United Nations Habitat Assembly.

The Chair closed the agenda item, and the report was adopted without further comment or reservation.

Agenda item 8: Road map towards the preparation of the Strategic Plan of UN-Habitat for the period 2026–2029

The Chair recalled that the United Nations Habitat Assembly, at its second session held in June 2023, requested in decision 2/1 that the Executive Director, in consultation with the Executive Board, start preparations for the development of the Strategic Plan for the period 2026–2029.

The Chair noted that the Executive Director had developed a proposed road map for preparing the next Strategic Plan which will need to be ready in time for the resumed second session of the United Nations Habitat Assembly, in May 2025, for its possible approval by the United Nations Habitat Assembly.

The proposed road map by the Executive Director is contained in document HSP/EB.2023/15.

The Executive Director noted that during the last session of the United Nations Habitat Assembly, it was decided that the Strategic plan for the period 2020-2023 would be extended until 2025 to align the planning cycle of UN-Habitat with that of the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR).

Interventions by Member States

COLOMBIA indicated that the report outlines a clear and well-structured road map for the development of the strategic plan and recognized the importance of evidence-based decision-making, including from data sourced from the New Urban Agenda reports and the Global Urban Monitoring Framework.

USA requested UN-Habitat to elaborate on how the knowledge-based and Results-based management (RBM) approaches will be implemented in the new strategic plan; requested UN-Habitat to present approaches, estimated costs, and reports for each of the resolutions adopted at the second United Nations Habitat Assembly as well as relevant General Assembly resolutions; indicated that they will actively participate in the Multilateral Organisation Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN) assessment of UN-Habitat and encouraged other Member States to do the same.

ETHIOPIA and ARGENTINA enquired about how UN-Habitat intends to facilitate active participation of the Executive Board and all Member States during the development process of the strategic plan.

ARGENTINA recognized that it is essential to have a financial plan with regards to the strategic plan and further supported a multilateral agreed language in the development of the strategic plan.

GERMANY highlighted the importance of critically looking at lessons learned from the past, which includes mid-term reviews; highlighted the imminent departure of the Executive Director and onboarding of a new one and the effect it will have on timing and structure of the strategic plan; emphasized the urgency of having consistent and predictable Chair for the ad hoc working group on Administrative, Budgetary and Programmatic matters.

FRANCE noted the importance of using lessons learnt in implementing previous strategic plans, including in-depth consultations with Member States and MOPAN and OIOS assessments.

SAUDIA ARABIA highlighted the importance of working with all Member States and the need for strengthened relationships with UN-Habitat, notably on technical support for spatial planning and housing.

The Chair closed the agenda item without further comment or reservation.

Agenda item 9: Draft terms of reference of the Urban Action Funding Window to support the implementation of United Nations Habitat Assembly resolutions in a balanced manner

The Chair recalled the adoption of 10 resolutions during the second UN Habitat Assembly, in particular Resolution 2/10 which tasked UN-Habitat to establish an Urban Action Funding Window to ensure the balanced implementation of the resolutions. The Executive Director was tasked to develop the Terms of Reference for the funding window.

The draft Terms of Reference resulting from consultations within the working group were shared with Member States and, once endorsed by the Executive Board, they will come into force and any revisions will be made in consultation with the Executive Board.

The Executive Director emphasized the lack of financing for successful implementation of the resolutions and highlighted the reliance of the Urban Action Funding Window on mobilizing non-earmarked funds.

UN-Habitat proposed, subject to donor approval, to redirect unspent project balances towards implementation of the resolutions. UN-Habitat outlined the location of the Urban Action Funding Window within the Foundation non-earmarked, aimed at funding resolutions lacking adequate financial support.

UN-Habitat indicated that it will revise contribution agreements, enabling such redirection, and develop a marketing strategy for the funding window. Reporting will align with the Foundation non-earmarked reporting, but the Urban Action Funding Window will still be subject to distinct reporting to the Executive Board.

Interventions by Member States

SOUTH AFRICA expressed its gratitude for UN Habitat's efforts; acknowledged the Executive Director’s positive impact; and supported the establishment of the Urban Action Funding Window.

USA welcomed the innovative approach; emphasized oversight by the Executive Board; and urged all Member States to contribute.

GERMANY acknowledged the importance of balanced funding in the implementation of all the resolutions adopted at the second UN Habitat Assembly; supported a governance framework for the Urban Action Funding Window that builds on already established practices rather new ones; requested more details on the funding window's functioning, envisioned expenses, and proposed alignment within UN-Habitat's annual budget.

ARGENTINA emphasized the importance of a balanced implementation of all UN Habitat Assembly resolutions; supported the establishment of the funding window; and urged developed countries and other countries to lead resource mobilization efforts.

UN-Habitat addressed the questions raised, notably indicating that the budget of the Urban Action Funding Window will be presented alongside the budget of the Foundation non-earmarked, using the same format.

The Chair closed the agenda item, and the report was adopted without further comment or reservation.

Agenda item 10: Road map for preparations for the development of international guidelines on people-centred smart cities as a non-binding framework for developing national and local smart city regulations, plans and strategies

UN-Habitat presented a roadmap towards the development of international guidelines on people-centred smart cities. UN-Habitat highlighted the main work streams for this process, including a global assessment on the state of smart cities today and a global consultation of experts, both of which will continue throughout the drafting of the guidelines from the middle of 2024 until targeted finalization and endorsement in 2025.

UN-Habitat expressed its appreciation for the USD 300,000 contribution made by FRANCE towards this initiative, while acknowledging an outstanding USD 870,000 budget shortfall for UN-Habitat.

Interventions by Member States

Member States broadly appreciated the efforts by UN-Habitat and expressed various modes of support for future phases.

FRANCE expressed its gratitude to UN-Habitat for its work so far on the initiative, specifically with regards to its selection of 31 global experts who will participate in the development of the guidelines; recalled its financial contribution to the initiative; and called on other Member States to provide financial support to ensure that digital technologies can better support inclusivity, human rights and quality of life in urban areas.

JAPAN indicated both its interest in smart cities and willingness to share its expertise in support of the initiative and highlighted its nomination of a national expert to the Expert Work Group, who will contribute to the development of the guidelines with support from the Japanese Ministry of Infrastructure.

USA welcomed the development of the guidelines and emphasized the importance of both incorporating lessons and practices from its assessment on existing smart cities, and ensuring a globally inclusive consultation process; agreed with other Member States on the importance of funding for the success and adoption of the guidelines; and welcomed additional budgetary information from UN-Habitat in the coming months.

KENYA echoed the views of other Member States in their commitment to supporting the initiative and noted its nomination of an expert who will support in the development of the guidelines.

ARGENTINA and MOROCCO both expressed support for the initiative and requested additional information from UN-Habitat on the strategies to overcome the current budget gap, particularly with regard to ensuring a globally inclusive consultation process.

UN-Habitat assured Member States that the virtual meetings and conferences that will be implemented should the budget not suffice will be planned in equal consideration of global participants.

With reference to points raised about incorporating best practices into the development of the guidelines, the Chair mentioned the award presented to the Brazilian city of Curitiba for its exemplary people-centred smart city practices, which could serve as a model for the development of the guidelines.

Following this discussion, the Chair closed the agenda item.

Agenda item 11: Normative and operational activities of UN-Habitat, including reporting on the programmatic activities of UN-Habitat and the implementation of subprogrammes, flagship programmes and technical cooperation activities and the engagement of UN-Habitat in countries, territories and areas affected by conflict and disaster.

UN-Habitat gave a presentation on the SDG Cities flagship programme and on the Sustainable Urban Resilience for the next Generation (SURGe) initiative, included under UN-Habitat’s sub-programmes two and three, respectively. The presentation included a video address by the Secretary General of ICLEI, who spoke on the organization’s partnership with UN-Habitat on the SURGe initiative.

Interventions by Member States

EGPYT began the interventions from Member States with a statement and update on its efforts under the SURGe initiative; highlighted efforts to accelerate climate financing and achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement as part of the initiative; and encouraged greater participation from Member States in the initiative on the margin of COP28.

COLOMBIA, MALAWI, BRAZIL, BURKINA FASO, GERMANY, and KENYA appreciated specific examples of UN-Habitat programmatic work, including enhanced urban climate-resilience in Southeastern Africa under the RISE-UP initiative, digital infrastructure upgrades in Namibia and Ukraine, and improvements in quality of life for urban slum dwellers in Africa’s Sahel region.

BRAZIL highlighted the work completed under UN-Habitat’s Women-Led Cities initiative and, through the Chair, recognized the key involvement of prominent Brazilian business-woman Ms. Luiz Trajano for her support and leadership in the programme. UN-Habitat confirmed the instrumental role of Ms. Trajano and her ongoing engagement with the initiative into 2024.

USA, GERMANY, ARGENTINA, and FRANCE offered recommendations for improving the operations of the SDG Cities and SURGe initiatives. USA specifically emphasized the importance of adapting these initiatives to unique local and national contexts and requested close monitoring of the SDG Cities cost structure to ensure that cities are fully benefiting from the programme.

GERMANY suggested greater linkages between the SURGe initiative and other cross-cutting topics such as urban governance and financing.

In response to requests from ARGENTINA and FRANCE for additional information on programmatic work and resolutions, UN-Habitat highlighted ongoing work by the Local 2030 coalition and the recently-established Housing Working Group, among others.

PALESTINE appreciated the work by and presence of UN-Habitat in Gaza and emphasized that the Programme’s work will be increasingly critical to rebuilding Gaza’s cities and settlements.

Following interventions by USA, ISRAEL, and SAUDI ARABIA, the Chair thanked all Member States for their civil and productive participation in the discussion and proceeded to close the agenda item.

Agenda item 12: Preparations for the twelfth session of the World Urban Forum

UN-Habitat presented an update on the preparatory work underway towards the twelfth session of the World Urban Forum (WUF12).

UN-Habitat noted that WUF12 will be held in the City of Cairo, Egypt, from 4 to 8 November 2024, at the Cairo International Exhibition Centre.

UN-Habitat further noted that WUF11 marked the end of a 3-WUF cycle (WUF9, WUF10, and WUF11). In line with the requirements of the Strategic Plan 2020-2025, UN-Habitat is developing the project document for the new cycle.

UN-Habitat indicated that it has made progress on the WUF12 programme, involving a diverse range of subject matter experts from all over the world. An initial think piece developed by UN-Habitat was presented to the WUF12 host country. Feedback will be integrated in a WUF12 Background Paper, to be made available on the WUF website. UN-Habitat indicated that it will share the draft with Member States in the following weeks for inputs.

UN-Habitat further indicated that the theme proposed by the Government of Egypt and UN-Habitat for WUF12 is: “It all starts at home: Local actions for sustainable Cities and Communities”. This will also benefit from the views of Member States in light of the consultations required by Member States.

UN-Habitat encouraged Member States to express interest in hosting an urban forum in preparation for WUF. UN-Habitat in that respect has also proposed seven partner events, which are being curated for WUF12. The opening for participant registration and call for partner-led events is expected to take place in the first quarter of 2024.

UN-Habitat thanked the commitments made by the Government of Egypt during the United Nations Habitat Assembly that WUF12 will maintain excellent levels of universal accessibility.

Interventions by Member States

EGYPT assured Member States that they will hold all-inclusive consultations prior to and during the session at WUF12 and indicated that they will work with UN-Habitat and Member States to provide all necessary details.

GERMANY thanked UN-Habitat and the Government of Egypt for the preparations thus far and requested timely information sharing with Member States and stakeholders for planning.

USA supported the revised WUF objectives and reiterated its request for timely sharing of the WUF12 Background Paper.

NIGERIA recalled their participation at WUF11 and recommended the inclusion of Nairobi-based missions in developing recommendations for WUF12.

KENYA identified WUF as a key platform for advancing sustainable urban development; thanked the Government of Egypt for hosting; and welcomed reporting on the declared actions of WUF11.

Following this presentation and discussion, the Chair closed the agenda item.