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Eugene Birch, Town Hall on Trust and Government (Interview)

Eugenie Birch: Chair, General Assembly of Partners

Eugenie L. Birch is the President of the General Assembly of Partners, the engagement platform for the implementation of the United Nations’s New Urban Agenda, and Lawrence C. Nussdorf chair of Urban Research and Education at the University of Pennsylvania. She also serves as chair of the Graduate Group in City and Regional Planning, codirector for the Penn Institute for Urban Research, and co-editor of City in the 21st Century Series, University of Penn Press and the SSRN Urban Research e-journal.

What is your view on the Town Hall process and its progress so far?

I’m very enthusiastic about the Town Hall process because this is the second time that I have been involved in it through my role in the General Assembly of Partners. We applied the lessons we learned in Durban in 2019: firstly, involving many more partners in the creation of the policy brief and secondly, reviewing the policy brief with the UCLG policy committee before the Town Hall. This meeting before the Congress was very helpful because we got comments that helped us finish the policy brief. Thirdly, this time the people who are managing the process at UCLG were able to bring more mayors to the discussion at the Town Hall itself. That made it very exciting. And lastly, the location of the Town Hall activities at the conference was very good. They were centrally located: When you walked in, you were right there with the Town Hall facility in front of you.

How do you see the Pact for the Future?

It’s looking positively. The Pact is very good, it outlines how subregional governments and cities can work, and it opens areas where we as civil society can have collaboration with local leaders as they go forward. It has a lot of foresight in terms of what’s necessary to do for the future as we try to fulfil the responsibilities and opportunities of creating sustainable urban places.

What are your main conclusions of the UCLG Congress?

The content of the meetings was excellent. I’d like to add a moment of praise for the leadership of Emilia Saiz, UCLG Secretary-General, because she has brought UCLG to new levels in these difficult times with COVID-19 and conflicts and trying to address climate change. But she and the UCLG executive board have successfully defined burning issues of the day and are working to address them.

What are the next steps for the General Assembly of Partners?

We are all looking to a couple of things, the two big megatrends: rapid urbanization and addressing climate change in ways that address issues of population in cities and in general. We are looking forward to the Summit for the Future, where we will lay the foundation for a post2030 agenda. We know we have a lot of work to do to perfect our work on SDG11 as well as related goals.

“Time for a New Social Contract: Rebuilding Trust in Local Government” is the Policy Paper which resulted from the Town Hall process, a space for dialogue between internationally organized civil society and the political leadership of the local and regional governments constituency. The General Assembly of Partners is one of the leading organizations which presented the conclusions at the UCLG World Congress and Summit of World Leaders. The Town Hall process was also supported by the Open Government Partnership, Fixed Africa, International IDEA, UN-Habitat and the Youth, Feminist and Accessibility Caucuses. The final document is available here.