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Local and Regional Governments role in the Rio Outcome Document : a UCLG analysis

posted Jun 27, 2012, 4:15 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jun 29, 2012, 8:13 AM ]

The local and sub-national* lights and shadows of Rio+20

*sub-national is the term utilized in UN documents for regional governments, in order to differentiate this level of government from continental mechanisms.

The process

The Rio+20 processes started in May 2010 with the convergence of several UN ongoing processes related mainly to climate change, biodiversity and meetings of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

The organizations and networks representing local and regional authorities have actively participated in the process and where formally acknowledged as a Major Group which provides feedback to the formal negotiations lead by states. ICLEI, as thematic network and UCLG as generalist political organization were recognized as focal points before the UN a status that was later joint by NRG4sd. These organizations have ensured consultation and coordination with other existing networks such as ORU-FOGAR.

The level of collaboration and consensus building among all networks is commendable.

The messages

With the negotiations heading towards an environmentally driven agenda in 2011, UCLG and its members started campaigning for a more human-centered discussion where governance, cohesion among territories, inclusion, service provision and the fourth cultural pillar would be put on the agenda that would recognize the new urban reality.

The UCLG position paper adopted by the Florence World Council but also the 8 recommendations of the Joint Local and Regional Governments Messages presented to the UN Secretary General in New York in April 2012 were all geared in this direction.

UCLG and its members in close coordination with ORU-FOGAR have further stressed the need to acknowledge the role of the Habitat Agenda on our way towards the Habitat III.

The collaboration of the two political generalist organizations UCLG with the wide representation through Metropolis, ASPAC, CEMR, FLACMA, MEWA, UCLGA, UCLG Noram, UCLG Eurasia) and ORU-FOGAR; the close partnership with UN-Habitat and the support of Cities Alliance and the states members of the Group of Friends of Sustainable Cities have marked the work during this process and will hopefully find continuation in the coming years.

The results

Despite the discouraging results of the Rio+20 Summit in terms of lacking multilateral agreements and commitments, there is a bright side to the Outcome Document when it comes to the acknowledgement of the role that local and regional governments play and need to play in the sustainable development agenda. The document also addresses most of the issues that have been identified as a priority by the positions mentioned above.

Seldom before, has there been an international policy document which is as far-reaching in both the recognition of the role of local and sub-national governance and as comprehensive in the thematic areas described of influence for these spheres of governments. The explicit recognition of the Habitat Agenda is also a important achievement

On the shortcomings it is worth mentioning the very few references to culture as crucial pillar for development and the lack of clear inclusive governance mechanisms for future policy development. 

Summary of key issues:

1.    Acknowledgment of the work done paying tribute to progress achieved at sub-national and local levels.

2.    Acknowledgement of the role to play in the implementation of policies and the engagement of stakeholders. Article 45 recognizes critical role of governance at local and sub-national level Local and sub-national governments are explicitly mentioned in the thematic areas and cross-sectoral issues.

3.    Specific sub-heading on sustainable cities and human settlements

States acknowledge the importance of cross-sectoral planning and commit to increasing capacity and supporting municipal governments, metropolitan areas and towns to develop sustainability policies.  The text further recognizes the role of local and sub-national authorities in public service delivery, poverty alleviation and risk management. Integral approaches are supported. Partnership among cities and communities encouraged

4.    Habitat Agenda and resourceful UN Habitat identified as explicit aim.

5. Call to strengthening financial mechanisms accessible to sub-national and local authorities

6.    Regulatory frameworks to stimulate public-private partnerships to be promoted

Follow up mechanisms where local and sub-national authorities should ensure inclusion:

1.    The Administrative Council of UNEP will have universal access and greater participation of Major Groups.

2.    A High Level Political Forum will be put in place replacing the Commission on Sustainable Development, the format will be defined by the General Assembly.

3.    An Open Working Group to define process on Sustainable Development Goals at the opening of the 67th session of the General Assembly.

4.    An Intergovernmental Committee, comprising thirty experts to assess financial needs for Sustainable Development Financing.


The outcomes of Rio will be an important milestone in the UN agenda of UCLG.  The World Secretariat and UCLG members will need to continue working in ensuring political representation in the above mentioned processes and towards Habitat III.

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