More than 13,000 participants took part in the tenth edition of the World Urban Forum (#WUF10) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, from 8-13 February 2020. The meeting, organized by UN-Habitat, ended with a call for united action to ensure a better future for cities and towns (The Abu Dhabi Declared Actions). UCLG Africa was in action during the six days of this meeting held under the theme: “Cities of opportunity: Connecting culture and innovation.” Below are the key moments that marked the participation of African local governments.
Day 1: World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments
On 8 February, the first day of WUF10, local and regional governments held the world assembly under the aegis of the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments (GTF). The work was facilitated by the world organization, UCLG.
African local and regional governments were present at this session with a round table on “The role of urban and territorial policies in the preservation of cultural heritage,” which was moderated by UCLG Africa. Speaking on this Panel, Ms Rohey Malick Lowe, Mayor of Banjul (Gambia), recommended that, “Cities should carry out cultural mapping. This process can help cities move forward in planning by identifying community assets to promote creativity and development.”
The various exchanges and sharing of experiences from the round tables led to the adoption of the declaration of the World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments. This declaration calls on national governments and the international system to join the collective of local and regional governments and to guarantee the place of culture in sustainable development, placing people at the centre. The declaration reiterates the commitment to further consolidate the World Assembly as the mechanism representing the collective of local and regional governments and providing its contributions to global development agendas. Read the declaration here .
Among the African mayors present at the World Assembly were: Mrs. Thembi Nkadimeng, President of SALGA, Mr. Mpho Moruakgomo, President of BALA, General Khalel Abdel-Aal, Governor of Cairo, Mr. Uwimana Innocent, President of RALGA, Mrs. Souad Abderrahim, Mayor of Tunis, Mrs. Fatna El Khiel, Mayor of Arbaoua and President of the Network of Locally Elected Women of Morocco (REFELA Morocco).
“The work of Local and Regional governments is central to the New Urban Agenda and SDG targets and I am glad and grateful that this constituency is well represented at #WUF10,” Ms Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat.
More info on the World Assembly here.
Day 2: Heritage Preservation
Sunday 9 February was marked by the opening ceremony of the forum and the participation of UCLG Africa in two major sessions.
The first session, “City Habitat: between development imperatives and heritage preservation,” was organized by the Ministry of National Planning, Urbanism, Habitat and Urban Policy of Morocco.
Moderated by the Secretary General of UCLG Africa, Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi in the presence of Mrs. Nouzha BOUCHAREB, Minister of National Territorial Planning, the session highlighted three main lessons from the Moroccan experience.
For For Mr. Yves Laurent Sapoval, co-president of the Global Alliance for Building and Construction (GABC), “Morocco’s medinas meet environmental objectives and climate standards.” In his speech, he highlighted how heritage technologies reconcile us with high technology.
Mr. Ernesto Ottone Ramírez, Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO, stressed that, “In the Arab world, the medina is an urban model which, given its density, can be a source of inspiration for new models beyond the region. The same is true of other modes of occupation of traditional territories such as oasis systems, which are threatened with extinction. A major mobilization has taken place in several countries, including Morocco. These systems are living heritages.”
“The preservation of heritage is a know-how that must be preserved with all the means at our disposal. We must make the medinas a place of decentralization of populations,” added the minister. Ultimately, the Moroccan experience is a model that presents an excellent place where tradition and modernity are combined.
The second session was held under the theme: “If you want to go far, go with many: strengthening the local voice at the international level.” Organized by DeLoG, the objective of the session was to bring about a structured dialogue to discuss the role of local government networks for the future of cities and their efforts to implement global agendas, in particular the New Urban Agenda and Agenda 2030. Speaking as a panelist, Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi raised the fact that for the implementation of Agenda 2030, local governments must be put at the heart of the process.
How can we ensure that small towns and regions are not left behind?
“For Africa, by 2050 the population is expected to double, with two-thirds in urban areas and the majority in intermediate cities. In order to not to leave anyone on the sidelines, it is imperative that no intermediate city be left on the sidelines,” said Mr. Mbassi. “Many of our partners and governments are working in a sector-wide approach (education, sanitation, infrastructure, agriculture, health, etc.), we are calling for a paradigm shift towards a territorial approach because the territorial approach means that it is possible to coordinate the sector-wide approach. The sectoral approach is like topography and the territorial approach is like topology.”
Day 3: Culture, Heritage and Local Finance
On Monday, 10 February, UCLG Africa organized two sessions and participated in four partner sessions.
The session, “Creating an enabling environment and support framework at the local level in Africa to protect, promote and enhance heritage and culture,” organized by the African Local Government Academy (ALGA) of UCLG Africa, had as panelists: Ms. Fatna EL Khiel, Vice-President of REFELA, President of REFELA-Morocco, President of the Commune of Arbaoua, Morocco; Mr. Qasim Mohammed Al Manea, Mayor of the city of Ghadames, Libya, by video message; Mr. Karim Hendili, Culture Program Officer, UNESCO Multi-Country Office for Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and Tunisia; Dr. Ali Rahhal, Expert, ISESCO Regional Office, Al Charika, United Arab Emirates and Ms. Doris Ombara, Director of the City of Kisumu, Kenya.
Read the report of the session which was moderated by Dr. Najat Zarrouk, Director of ALGA.here.
The second session of UCLG Africa focused on, “Local strategies for financing local actions,” and was moderated by Mr. François Paul Yatta, Program Director at UCLG Africa.
Studies indicate that 2/3 of the SDGs can only be achieved if local and regional authorities are fully involved in the implementation of these SDGs. Mr. Serge Allou of UCLG introduced his intervention by recalling these statistics. “The contribution of local and regional authorities to public expenditure is 25% worldwide and 15% in Africa. The investment capacity of local and regional authorities is around 45% and in Africa it is less than 20%. These are considerable gaps and they cannot be bridged,” he explained. “What can be done?”
One of the alternatives is to ensure that cities are, “able to go to the financial market to borrow money and manage their own funds,” says Stephan Atchia, Manager of the AfDB’s Urban Division. “We know that UCLG Africa is advocating for this approach (through the Africa Territorial Agency: https://www.uclga.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/3-volets-Anglais3.pdf ). Thus, we need to assist cities in terms of public and commercial taxes and auditing of accounts. This is how they will be credible and able to borrow.”
The Secretary General of UCLG Africa took part in the UNACLA (United Nations Advisory Committee of Local Authorities to the United Nations) meeting on the committee’s 2020 roadmap, the session on, “the link between culture and local economic development,” organized by CEMR and Platforma and the session on, “Partnerships between cities for the promotion of culture and innovation in Africa,” organized by MAJAL (Federation of Urban Agencies of Morocco).
Video Message of UCLG Africa SG at UNACLA
The session, “Campaigns#Culture2030goal,” organized by UCLG, aimed to identify and discuss the implementation of SDG 4 of the 2030 agenda and aspiration 5 of the African Union’s 2063 agenda on culture. Four presentations were therefore made: the presentation of UCLG Africa made by Mr. Thierry Sanzhie Bokally, Knowledge Management Officer. From March 2020, UCLG Africa will launch the flagship event of its program, “African Capitals of Culture,” with aims to structure, empower and network cultural and creative actors on the continent, developing public and private ecosystems that will make them culturally independent, economically autonomous and sustainable. The African Capitals of Culture are in line with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030.
Hearing with the Minister of Local Development of Egypt
On the sidelines of the World Urban Forum, the Secretary General, Mr Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi was received in audience on 10 February 2020, by General Mahmoud Shaarawy, Minister of Local Development of Egypt. At the centre of the exchanges was the forthcoming inauguration of UCLG Africa’s North Africa regional office in Cairo and the advocacy for the ratification of the African Charter on the values and principles of decentralization, local governance and local development by Egypt.
Day 4: Meeting with the AfDB and REFELA
On Tuesday, February 11, a working session was held between the President of UCLG Africa, Mr. Léandre Nzué, the Secretary General, Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, and Mr. Amadou Oumarou, AfDB Transport and ICT Director. The meeting took place in the presence of Mr. Stephan Atchia of AfDB and Mr. François Paul Yatta, Director of Programs of UCLG Africa. Discussions focused on avenues of collaboration between the AfDB and UCLG Africa in the implementation of the Africa Territorial Agency (ATA). This financial vehicle of UCLG Africa aims to enable cities and local authorities of all sizes to have access to the financial market.
The Network of Locally Elected Women in Africa (REFELA) organized a session with the theme, “Role of REFELA-UCLG Africa in the successful implementation of sustainable development goals (SDGs).” The session, chaired by Ms. Fatna El Khiel, President of REFELA Morocco, provided a framework for sharing good practices with the contribution of the Mayor of Tunis, Ms. Souad Ben Abderrahim. She emphasized that women are increasingly present in Tunisian local governance. Tunisian legislation is now in favor of women’s candidacies. “I take to heart the issues related to the protection of children and women, which are addressed by the three REFELA campaigns for the implementation of the SDGs.”
The three campaigns are as follows: “African Cities without Children on the Street,” sponsored by Princess Lalla Meryem of Morocco; “African Cities with Zero Tolerance for Violence against Women and Girls” and the “African Cities for Women’s Economic Empowerment and Women’s Leadership” campaign. Ms. El Khiel insisted on the prominent place that the three REFELA campaigns should occupy in the heart of African municipalities. For his part, Mr. Mbassi stressed the importance of having more cities adhering to these different campaigns. He also announced that the “African Cities without Children on the Street” campaign had received the agreement of Princess Lalla Meryem, President of the National Observatory for the Rights of the Child (ONDE) to organize a meeting of all African mayors who signed in favor of the campaign on 4th and 5th of March 2020. The meeting will be attended by the Executive Director of UNICEF, Ms. Henrietta Fore.
On 11 February, Mr. Mbassi attended as a speaker at the sessions: “Lagos: Citizen Participation in a Multicultural City,” organized by the State of Lagos and the session, “Local Government and Decentralization – A Commitment to Leveraging Citizen Culture for Transformative Change: Sharing Knowledge and Best Practices,” organized by the National Association of Local Governments of Ghana (NALAG). Her Excellency Hajia Alima Maham, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development of Ghana was also a panelist at this session.
Video session NALAG here
Finally, the Secretary General of UCLG Africa sat on the steering committee of the Cities Alliance on Migration.
Day 5: Consultative Meeting of African Ministers of Housing and Urban Development for the preparation of the Africa-France Summit, African Capitals of Culture
On the morning of 12 February, UCLG Africa contributed to the consultative meeting of African ministers of housing and urban development for the preparation of the Africa-France summit. UCLG Africa pleaded for African governments to highlight during the negotiations the fact that from now on public power will have two sides: national and local, (see the video here). The French side should be invited to take into account African realities in the proposals for solutions of the summit whose theme is, “sustainable cities and territories.” The aim of the meeting was to lay the foundations for a common African position towards the Africa-France summit in June 2020. To this end, the participants agreed to hold a second preparatory meeting in March.
The Governor of Kisumu, Kenya, took the opportunity of his address at the consultative meeting to announce the holding of the Africities 9 Summit in 2021 in his city. For the first time, the flagship event of UCLG Africa, which takes place every 3 years, will be held in an intermediate city.
Video Governor of Kisumu
The last session organized by UCLG Africa at the WUF was that of the African Capitals of Culture. The objective was to identify possible partnerships for the implementation of the African Capitals of Culture, aspiration 5 of the 2063 agenda, SDG 4 of the 2030 agenda and the new urban agenda. The panel was composed as follows: Introduction and moderation: Mr Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General, UCLG Africa; Mr. Ndiaga Dieng, City of Dakar; Mr. Jordi Pascual, Agenda Culture 21, UCLG; Mr. Fouad Oki, African Sister City Organization and Mr. Jewel Adjei, ICT Specialist.
The presentation of the African Capitals of Culture program was delivered by Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, who recalled that cities, through Agenda 21, recognize culture as the fourth pillar of development alongside the economic, social and environmental pillars. He presented the objectives of the African Capitals of Culture program and invited speakers to present their experiences.
The presentation from the city of Dakar focused on culture as defined and implemented in the social and environmental economic development plan. Several results were visible: the urban culture house, the cinema pole, the rehabilitation of sites such as City Hall, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with others under consideration, such as the arts house. These projects are financed by a support fund for cultural activities. Mr. Dieng reiterated the willingness and interest of the city of Dakar to participate in the program of African Capitals of Culture.
Jordi Pascual, coordinator of UCLG’s Agenda 21 program, gave an overview of the work carried out by UCLG and its regional sections. He stated that culture is a human right, hence the need to place the citizen at the heart of cultural strategies and policies. He also highlighted the originality of the African Capitals of Culture program by African cities, unlike the similar event taking place in Europe and the United States. The choice to have a host city, working with partner cities in the regions, is an accelerator for the implementation of the program, an important point in the cooperation and diplomacy of African cities.
For Mr. Fouad Oki: “Culture is diverse and the ambitious program presented by UCLG Africa is a great opportunity for Africa to show its know-how to the world.”
How to visit a city and enjoy the existing heritage?
The answer to this question was provided by Mr. Adjei with a presentation of a mobile application that identifies, presents and highlights existing tangible and intangible sites. This application will be used by Rabat’s, African Capitals of Culture program 2020. Resolutions were made for the attention of ministers, mayors and development partners.
Mr. Mbassi also participated in the session, “Land use and regeneration policies,” organized by Climate Chance.
Day 6: Closing Ceremony