NAIROBI, Kenya, May 28 – Leaders of sub-national governments have called for the reorganisation of fiscal policies to strengthen the participation of municipalities, counties, and local governments in the sustainable urbanisation agenda.
City managers and local government ministers who spoke on Tuesday during debate on the New Urban Agenda which seeks to speed up realisation of Sustainable Development Goal 11 on sustainable cities and community said funding hitches continued to impede development at the sub-national level.
Rohey Malick Lowe, the Mayor of Gambia’s capital Banjul said municipalities and local governments needed to be given more autonomy to deal more proactively with challenges facing urban centres key among them inadequate housing and the rapid growth of informal settlements.
“Municipalities are directly under purview of the National Executive meaning there is a line ministry that we’re answerable to and there’s less autonomy which makes it difficult for us to excel in things we ought to do for our people,” she remarked during the debate held on the margins of the ongoing UN-Habitat Assembly in Gigiri, Nairobi.
In Kenya for instance, counties have often raised concern over the division and distribution of national revenues with county governors calling for the amendment of Article 203 (3) of the Constitution to facilitate timely approval of audited accounts on whose basis shareable revenues due to the devolved units are calculated allocated.
The constitutional provision whose amendment only requires parliamentary input has been at the centre of a battle between the national and county governments, the law stipulating that the equitable share of revenue generated nationally shall be calculated on the basis of the most recent audited accounts.
“For every financial year, the equitable share of the revenue raised nationally that is allocated to county governments shall be not less than fifteen per cent of all revenue collected by the national government. The amount referred to in Clause (2) shall be calculated on the basis of the most recent audited accounts of revenue received, as approved by the National Assembly,” Articles 203 (2) and (3) provide.
The County Allocation Revenue Bill (2019) for instance proposed a Sh371 billion allocation to counties, this equivalent to 36 per cent of Sh1 trillion 2014/15 Financial Year audited revenues, being the most recent accounts approved by the National Assembly.
Participants at Tuesday’s ministers and mayors’ forum also proposed the harmonisation of policies to address factors impeding the realisation of the New Urban Agenda.
Zuraida binits Kamaruddin, Malaysia’s Minister for Housing and Local Government said the harmonisation of national and sub-national policies will promote sustainable urbanization.
“Municipalities formulate policies; there are other set of policies at the State level and the Federal level as well which are not in line. So what we’re doing is we’re trying to standardize these policies and we’re encouraging local and State Governments to follow the Federal Government policies and implement them at their levels,” Kamaruddin said.
She further called for the review of the governance structure of local governments to include regular elections for administration officials; something she said would strengthen the mandate of sub-national authorities.
“Sometimes these policies need adjustments at the local government level so I really hope we can have local government elections so that the local governments are more empowered and they can choose what agenda they want to implement,” the Malaysian Minister told the forum.
The New Urban Agenda was adopted in 2016 under the Quito Declaration with an aim to forestall a rapid growth of informal settlements in urban areas where projections indicate two thirds of the world’s populations will have migrated to by 2050, 70 per cent of whom will be living in informal settlements according to UN-Habitat projections.
The population in urban areas is predicted to be twice the present size by 2050 further straining essential services and existing infrastructure.
World leaders at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) undertook to progressively realise the right to adequate housing and improved living standards for all with emphasis on equal access to food security, and nutrition, health, education, infrastructure, mobility, and energy.
Leaders attending the 2016 conference had also committed to promote public participation on the creation and protection of inclusive and accessible green public spaces.
Other key delivery points are restoration and protection of eco systems, water, natural habitats, and investments in safe and accessible urban mobility systems with focus on resource-efficient transportation.
The UN Secretary-General is expected to report in the quadrennial report of 2026 the progress made towards the realization of commitments outlined under the Quito Declaration (2016).
The General Assembly is expected to review the need to convene another United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat VI) in 2036 to rally new commitments for the New Urban Agenda.
Also held on the margins of the inaugural UN-Habitat assembly officially opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday was a dialogue session for low-carbon and resilient infrastructure hosted by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The Mayor of Dortmund Municipality, Ullrich Sierau, and UN-Habitat’s Coordinator for Urban Planning Shipra Narang pitched strongly for frameworks that would promote the realization of low-carbon infrastructure in line with Paris Climate Accord of 2016.
Climate-friendly urban development has been cited as the key to attaining sustainable Development Goal 11 on sustainable cities and community.
The UN-Habitat has been pushing for investment in efficient public transport, and creation of green spaces within cities to enhance living standards in urban areas.