The President of France, Jacques Chirac, the President of Portugal, Jorge Sampaio, the Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, and over 2000 delegates including mayors and councilors from around the world witnessed the launch of the Founding Congress of the United Cities and Local Governments today.
Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, the organization that is the focal point within the UN for local authorities, delivered a message from Mr. Kofi Annan at the glittering event. The Secretary-General of the UN congratulated the mayors on this important new initiative that had started at Habitat II, the UN conference on Human Settlements in Istanbul in 1996. The new organization, based on the three founding organizations the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA), La Fédération mondiale des cités unies (FMCU) and Metropolis, had the potential of significantly strengthening the role of local authorities at the international level.
“It is in our cities and towns where most of the problems and issues facing the United Nations come together. And it will be in our cities and towns where the solutions lie.” He went on to state that UCLG help the world to achieve the Millennium Development Goals including those concerned with the reduction of poverty and an improvement in the lives of slum dwellers.
In her statement, Mrs. Tibaijuka welcomed the founding of the United Cities and Local Government, stating that the recent decision by the UN General Assembly requesting local authorities to participate in the Governing Council of UN-HABITAT was a real breakthrough. UN-HABITAT has already established the Advisory Committee of Local Authorities, under the chairmanship of Mayor Joan Clos of Barcelona, UNACLA, which had a side meeting during the Congress in Paris. UN-HABITAT has also established the Advisory Group of Experts on Decentralization (AGRED) which recently held its inaugural meeting at Gatineau, Canada.