UN-Habitat has the specific mandate within the United Nation System to act as a focal point for local governments, including regional, provincial, federal and other territorial governments.
The role of local governments as an essential actor of development is widely recognized. They are instrumental in delivering basic urban services such as water, sanitation, transport, employment opportunities, protection of the environment, access to public space and its linkage to urban safety.
Local governments have the legitimacy, in most cases, of being elected by the citizens and are the closest sphere of government to attend to people’s primary needs.
UN-Habitat action supports local government and their associations, working closed with both central and territorial governments to establish mechanisms of dialogue, to exchange of best practices and to support projects for the empowerment of local and regional governments through a fair distribution of responsibilities and resources.
One of our main lines of action is the support to Metropolitan Governance, though the development of projects and strategies for common service provision to different municipalities that share citizens moving across their boundaries and who could benefit from a shared responsibility over transportation, access to water, energy and a sustainable environment.
Another of our lines of work is the fundamental role that local governments play to address urban safety particularly through proper urban planning and genuine human rights and local democracy. The Global Network on Safer Cities (GNSC) is today the foremost international forum for cities and urban stakeholders on urban security, stimulating the exchange between policymakers and practitioners, facilitating the standardization of principles on prevention at the local level, and supporting the application of proven and promising approaches.
The Local Government and Decentralization Unit pays special interest in linking local governance to youth and gender, promoting and supporting the participation of women and young people in the transformative leadership of cities.
For further information, the Local Government and Decentralization Unit can be contacted at: joe.hooper @ unhabitat.org
“We recognise local authorities as our closest partners, and as essential, in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda, we must, within the legal framework of each country, promote decentralisation through democratic local authorities and work to strengthen their financial and institutional capacities in accordance with the conditions of countries, while ensuring transparency, accountability and responsiveness to the needs of people, which are key requirements for Government at all levels”.
Habitat Agenda, Istanbul, 1996.