Mayors and local authority representatives from around the world embarked on a new era of international cooperation with the launching in Paris 2-5 May, 2004 of a new body called United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG).
Managing our towns and cities has never been an easy matter. And as they grow at unprecedented rates, transforming our planet in this new Millennium from a largely rural to an urban world, the role of local authorities becomes ever more important. More than ever before, local authorities need the support of central governments, and more than ever before they need to speak with one voice from a united platform to ensure that their urgent concerns are heeded.
UN-HABITAT welcomes the creation of UCLG and has strongly supported this process since 1994. There is no doubt that the leadership of this new world organization of local authorities will work closely with UN-HABITAT to strengthen the role of local authorities both at the national and international levels. As focal point for local authorities within the United system, UN-HABITAT urges mayors and local leaders from across the world to intensify collaboration with the agency, so that together, we can take determined concerted action to address the needs of the urban poor and articulate local concerns with one voice on the international stage.
The urban challenge we face confronts millions of our fellow citizens living on the fringes and in the poorer neighbourhoods of towns and cities across Africa, the Arab States, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. In the developed world and the transition countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the challenge is no less daunting as city grows into city and large tracts of rural land get gobbled up.
We need to ensure better access to urban services so that everyone has adequate shelter, clean water and sanitation. Those are basic needs and human rights. It can no longer escape the world’s attention that local authorities must deal with these problems on the ground. Mayors, councillors, city managers and local public servants of all kinds are on the front line in the war against urban poverty.
Without strong capabilities and financial resources at the local level, many of the problems that are assigned highest priority at the national and international levels, will not be solved. If well managed by their mayors and councillors, cities can be true engines of growth for the social, cultural and economic advancement of the world.
Recently, local authorities in Africa elected Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, Mayor of the South African capital, Tshwane (Pretoria), President of a new umbrella organisation of local governments in Africa to lead the continent at the UCLG Founding Congress. Mayors from America, Asia, Europe are also represented by their regional associations in the UCLG.
During the last decade, many of UN-HABITAT’s various programmes have developed substantive initiatives to support local authorities in many parts of the world. UN-HABITAT will continue to offer its cooperation to local authorities in the United Nations system and on the broader world stage right down to street level.
The advent of the UCLG is indeed an historic political development. It is a crucial new organization for promoting local action to achieve global goals — and for coordinating local authorities internationally to improve the lives of urban residents. HIGHLIGHTS