by Judith Hitchman

Habitat lll, formerly known as the UN Conference on Sustainable Habitat and Cities, has been a bi-decennial global process, taking place in 1976, 1996 and now in 2016. Like all major UN processes today, it is consultative, and civil society organisations are able to play a major role in setting the agenda. Various thematic consultations were held around the world in the course of this year. The text and its implementation is widely linked to the SDGs, thus further connecting it to the wider UN process, as it id not linked to any specific UN Agency, but rather implies the involvement of many different agencies by its cross-cutting nature. More about the preparatory process can be found here:

Solidarity economy is highly relevant in the context of mega cities, and can play a vital role in terms of social inclusion, self-governance and empowerment of civil society as well as clearly changing the dominant neoliberal economic paradigm.

RIPESS has been involved in dual level input process throughout the last 9 months. The first, through the UN Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy, where we have observer status, and where we initiated the input of a text on SSE. This text was submitted to the Hlll Secretariat, signed jointly by the UNTFSSE, the Rencontres Mont Blanc, Habitat International Coalition and the Global Platform for the Right to the City (GPR2C), that has been coordinating and leading much of the civil society input and negotiation on behalf of the civil society organisation working in the GPR2C. The second level of input has been through in-depth input to the Hlll New Urban Agenda text itself at various stages of the process, working within the GPR2C. This detailed input to the text has concerned both solidarity economy approaches and food sovereignty issues. It is relevant to note that HIC, the GPR2C, RIPESS and Urgenci are all supported by the FPH (Foundation Leopold Meyer).

The initial input was supported by the FMDV (Fond Mondial pour le Développement), who invited and financially enabled RIPESS to participate in one of the first consultations – specifically on finance – in Mexico City in March 2016. This is very significant, as CLTs can be used in both urban and rural areas: in an urban context they help to secure co-operative housing and avoid property speculation. In a wider territorial context, the also help avoid speculation on agricultural land, thus helping to secure local food sovereignty and food security. Community Land Trusts were mentioned in the Final Declaration in Mexico.

Food was originally a largely neglected question in the Hlll draft texts. And given that feeding cities is now a major concern in terms of SDGs as well as managing climate change, it was highly important for Urgenci to contribute through our specific knowledge and further link the work we have been doing on the SDGs within the Civil Society Mechanism of the Committee on Food Security and Nutrition, as well as ensuring food is linked to both food sovereignty and solidarity economy issues. In the FAO consultation with Civil Society for Europe and Central Asia, SDG 12 and 13 on responsible production and consumption as well as mitigating climate change respectively were put forward by civil society as being key to achieving SDG2, end hunger. In the case of the New Urban Agenda, it is also relevant to add SDG 11.

The next contribution to the process was in Barcelona, where the thematic topic of the consultation was public spaces. The GPR2C platform held a preliminary meeting, where RIPESS was invited to participate. We had several RIPESS Europe members who joined this consultation from Urgenci, DESC (a member of XES) and HIC, again focusing on solidarity economy and food-related questions. RIPESS Intercontinental’s newly recruited Operations manager, Laure Jongejans also took part. And because it was close enough to home, Judith had the flexibility of being able to stay on in Barcelona for the actual Hlll consultation, and even participate in the editorial committee of the Final Declaration. The Barcelona meeting was very important to RIPESS, as it was here that the alliance with R2C was consolidated and the in-depth contribution to the actual New Urban Agenda text began.

There have been several versions of the actual text. At each stage after the March meeting in Barcelona, RIPESS has submitted modifications and additions to the proposed draft, mainly on food related issues, but also on questions such as solidarity public procurement, working collectively through the shared R2C platform. It has been a back-and-forth negotiation process between States and civil society, with very hard and successful work done by the GPR2C platform, particularly the highly talented negotiation skills of Nelson Saule and Lorena Zarate. The second last version was largely based on concepts of the right to speculation and a very neo-liberal agenda. Fortunately it was possible to turn much of this language around, and make the finalised NUA document reflect the collective positions of civil society. It can be downloaded at the following link:

The NUA will be voted on and come into effect at the Hlll meeting in Quito Several members of RIPESS LAC will be present, and will carry our collective message forward in various side events. What then remains is to disseminate the contents of the New Urban Agenda, join in the implementation process, and ensure that all cities and other human settlements fully implement the contents to our satisfaction. It will provide much relevant leverage for civil society to ensure that both solidarity economy and food sovereignty are squarely put on the agenda.