Through social movements and civil society, citizens are increasingly calling for governing systems to be more inclusive and to implement the global development agendas. Another challenge includes growing lack of trust between citizens and institutions that should be guaranteeing their rights.
Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of the UCLG, noted that in its pillar on government and democracy, the Pact for the Future of Humanity calls for redefining partnerships in governing systems. It seeks to promote universal quality of life as the essential metric to replace GDP, building peace and prosperity in a world of well-informed and empowered citizens that are treated equally and fairly in their diversity. Beyond jurisdictions, this vision seeks to build a new notion of citizenship which is the foundation of a life with dignity and rights for all. The Pact calls for a renewed democracy that delivers on the needs and rights of citizens. The Pact further calls for a renewed movement towards well-resourced decentralization and subsidiarity and for the cultivation of an active and informed civic participation.
Lucy Slack, Secretary General of the Commonwealth Local Governments Forum, says that local and regional governments are still recovering from the pandemic while other urgencies such as conflict remain real challenges. “All of that brings less trust in the government by the citizens,” she stressed, and continued on to say that “placing people in the center of action will restore the trust in the government.”
Florencio Vente, representing Local Governments at United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth, said that “Mi casa es su casa [my house if your house]” is a proverb that correlates to how youth see urban areas, and he stressed the importance of peace for creating a future for youth.
Oleksandr Sienkevych, the Mayor of Mykolayiv, addressed the audience via video link from the Ukrainian city to share the challenges facing citizens and the need for a continuous support for recovery and reconstruction.
Genie Birch, President of the General Assembly of Partners, stressed that ideas need to be turned into actions and noted that stakeholders made recommendation to UCLG on steps to rebuild trust in the government. Marina Ponti, Director of the SDG Action Campaign, stressed that the public sector is important for local public action – which was especially seen during the COVID-19 pandemic – and that the SDGs are the best guidance we have to lead our actions.
During the consultation session, Mayor of Dakar Barthélémy Dias reminded the audience of the rapid population growth and urbanization that is taking place in Africa, requiring appropriate actions by local and regional governments. He questioned the financing of infrastructure for rapidly growing settlements during in times of uncertainties. Mayor of Tunis, Souad Abderrahim stressed the importance of collaboration between different levels of the government, which would encourage citizen participation in decision-making.
“I am encouraging more women to seek office and participate, to run, win and lead local and regional governments,” says Taneen Rudyk, President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Councilor of Vegreville. She concluded that trustworthy governance is possible, and that we should not wait to achieve it.
“If women leads community, participation in the community is better,” said María Mercedes Ortiz Diloné of Union de Mujeres Municipalistas Dominicana. She continued by saying that differences are less important, as problems seems to be common in many cities and that we can only solve them by working together. “We, local and regional governments, are closest to the people as their lives are directly influenced by our decisions,” stated Carola Gunnarsson, Mayor of Sala. She continued by declaring that “peace, democracy, gender equality and inclusion is an imperative.”
José Manuel Ribeiro, Mayor of Valongo says that he is a citizen that is temporarily elected, and addressed the issue of participation and democracy saying, that “democracy is not a result, it is a process, we have to strengthen the process.” Emilio Jaton, Mayor of Santa Fe says that Pact for the Future of Humanity is crucial, as today more than ever there is a critical need to center people, which is what the Pact does. He stressed, “more than ever we have to be absolutely responsible for every action we take.”
“Local and regional governments are the main partners for implementing global development agendas such as, for example, New Urban Agenda,” stressed Cemal Bas, Municipal Councilor of Koceioren. Cllr Bheke Stofile, President of SALGA says that decentralizing governance is key, and should take a central stage in changing the realities of our communities.
At the end of the session, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, President of the 73th General Assembly, summarized the discussions of the day by noting that the Pact for the Future of Humanity is a compendium of collective intelligence. She pointed out that “placing care at the center” also means creating a true governance transformation, a systemic shift. She continued that placing UCLG’s longstanding experience seeking for peace, reconciliation, feminism, and justice should be at the heart of its policies.