Local government at the crossroads: approaching the Millennium Development Goals through practical innovation and local action
Organized in cooperation with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), and their networks
The round-table discussions were chaired by Mayor Gérald Tremblay, Mayor of the City of Montréal, Canada, Vice-President, Association Internationale des Maires Francophones and Vice‑President, UCLG; and Mayor Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, Councillor of Tshwane, South Africa, Co‑President, UCLG. Ms. Dominique Dennery, President, Dennery Resources, Canada, served as moderator.
The mayors’ round table brought together local government elected officials, members of the UN-Habitat Governing Council representing national governments, and representatives of donor countries. Local governments stressed their increased roles as key participants in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals: they were not only responsible for the provision of services directly linked with targets of the Millennium Development Goals, but also for strengthening governance through the engagement of civil society and partnership with the private sector. During the discussion, they focused on actions and solutions required to address the challenges facing local governments in achieving the Goals.
Mayor Mkhatshwa reminded participants of the challenges of urbanization, particularly in Africa, and said that the Millennium Development Goals might not be achieved unless local democracy was in place. A radical change of paradigm was necessary in order to move away from aid to integrated economic development in urban areas.
Mayor Tremblay highlighted the latest steps taken by networks of local authorities regarding the Millennium Development Goals. Given the urbanization challenges, cities needed technologies, financial resources and expertise. Cities needed to take full responsibility and gain credibility before their partners, showing them that they could actually deliver. The current development of information technology should provide a great opportunity to engage in new, innovative partnerships, particularly with the private sector. He informed participants that consultations had been carried out with financial institutions that might lead to the establishment of a World Bank of Cities jointly with the cities themselves.
Ms. Björk-Klevby, Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat, said that achieving the Millennium Development Goals was linked to the promotion of decentralization and good local urban governance. In partnership with UCLG and the United Nations Advisory Committee of Local Authorities (UNACLA), UN-Habitat was developing guidelines on decentralization which would be adopted at the twenty-first session of the Governing Council, in 2007. That framework would assist countries in their efforts to devolve power to their local governments.
Mayors and other participants exchanged views on achieving the Millennium Development Goals in cities, emphasizing the need to adopt rights-based approaches and the importance of city‑to‑city cooperation. Some best practices were highlighted, including projects on renewable energy and improvement of urban infrastructure.
Participants stressed the essential role of leadership and vision to prepare the city for the future. Without the participation of the citizens, that could not be achieved. It was therefore crucial to strengthen solidarity and build capacity among communities. Some participants expressed the view that decentralization constituted the first step towards creating jobs, attracting investors and alleviating poverty. In order to sustain that process, the principles of decentralization should be entrenched in national constitutions.
Mayor Sullivan of Vancouver also reminded participants that, given the way Vancouver was functioning at that time, if all cities of the world followed the same path, it would take four planets to sustain the present urban population. That fact had made his proposal to enhance Vancouver’s density and reduce its ecological footprint a necessary one.
Representatives of local authorities urged mayors to focus more clearly on the Millennium Development Goals’ target 10, related to water and sanitation, and target 11, to improve the lives of slum dwellers.
The Chair stressed the importance of measuring progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and to developing and using appropriate indicators at the city level. He also expressed the hope that the World Bank could start a policy of sub-sovereign loans. He urged local authorities to take an active part in the twenty-first session of the Governing Council of UN-Habitat to facilitate the adoption of decentralization guidelines.