Presenting the Voluntary Commitments of the EU to meet the New Urban Agenda’s objectives

As Head of the EU delegation to the United Nations Conference-Habitat III which took place in Quito, Ecuador, I had the honour to take part in the adoption of the global ‘New Urban Agenda’.

I strongly believe that the just agreed New Urban Agenda reflects the EU’s vision for sustainable urban development, by calling for an integrated and place-based approach, which takes into account the diversity of cities and their wider territorial context, while building on urban-rural linkages. The main objectives of the Conference were to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable urban development and to focus on the next steps of the New Urban Agenda which is about its implementation.

Last May, in Europe, there was a landmark agreement with the adoption of the the Pact of Amsterdam or Urban Agenda for the EU. The singularity of the Urban Agenda for the EU lies in the way it works as it is built on a range of strong partnerships, which put all relevant partners around the same table: the cities, the regions, Member States, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Committee of regions; and stakeholders such as NGOs, businesses, the civil society, etc. The Urban Agenda for the EU has now moved to the implementation phase. The first concrete results are expected in the coming months with first actions plans to be proposed. In addition within EU’s regional policy it is planned that more than EUR 100 billion of ERDF will be spent directly or indirectly in cities, while EUR 15 billions will be directly managed by urban authorities. I believe that the available financial support for the cities through the ERDF will help them to achieve the objectives ahead in terms of urbanisation.

In the context of the U.N. Habitat III conference I presented three voluntary commitments of the European  Union to  meet the New Urban Agenda’s global objectives.

The first commitment implies delivering the New Urban Agenda in Europe through the Urban Agenda for the EU. The European Union aims in particular to better include the urban dimension in policies, involving cities in the design and mobilising them in the delivery of these policies.

The second commitment that I presented refers to a global and harmonised definition of cities which should be used by cities to compare data, to benchmark and to ensure better monitoring.

Last but not least, the third commitment focuses on fostering cooperation between cities in the field of sustainable urban development by encouraging the European cities to link up with one or more partner cities to develop and implement local action plans and projects on common priorities – such as on mobility, climate change, health or housing.

The New Urban Agenda was the main topic for the meetings I had in Quito with some of the most important leaders whom I had the honour to meet: Mr. Ban Ki-moon, the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Angel Gurria, the secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Mr. Kimmo Tiilikainen, Finnish Minister of Agriculture and Environment, and Mr. Kim Kyung-Hwan, the Vice Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport of the Republic of Korea.

I also had a fruitful meeting with Ms. Helen Clark, the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), an excellent occasion to focus on the integrated sustainable urban development, with the key goal of developing inclusive cities and balanced territorial development. Moreover, I was also glad to have met in Quito with Mr. Joan Clos, the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). We had a very productive discussion focused on the importance of a good cooperation between the EU and UN Habitat for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

In this context, I was very pleased to see the eagerness of the U.N. Habitat partners, including the EU and its Member States attending this Conference, in order to get involved in the successful implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

I look forward to the results of the New Urban Agenda as I strongly believe it is a once in a generation opportunity to shape our collective future in cities for the better!

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