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News & Events Four Key Messages for the New Urban Agenda
Four Key Messages for the New Urban Agenda
Four Key Messages for the New Urban Agenda

By Oumar Sylla, Director of the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN)

On behalf of UN-Habitat, particularly the Land and the Global Land Tool Network Unit, which also serves as the GLTN Secretariat, I was pleased to present some key messages at the third Preparatory Committee Meeting of Habitat III.

Together with our colleagues in the Huairou Commission, Habitat for Humanity and the Habitat International Coalition, we have been working collectively and collaboratively for more than a year now in articulating the fundamental nature of land in the New Urban Agenda. Our participation in this endeavor cuts across global, regional, country and even grassroots level engagement. We have had more than 12 years of collective experience as a network of land practitioners from where to draw our policy recommendations based on actual lessons learned from the field.

As a result of our collective learning, we proposed four core messages to be included in the New Urban Agenda. The New Urban Agenda is about people. People need a place to live in dignity. Place means land; land for housing, working, education, commercial activities, leisure, transport among other needs. Today’s high population growth rate puts increasing pressure on land, which becomes increasingly scarce and a source of violent conflicts and social unrest.

We are at a turning point! The use of and access to land needs to be handled with care and responsibility in order to harness the transformative potential within the New Urban Agenda, in particular in situations when cities need to expand.

We call on United Nations Member States to make the following four key commitments to achieve the goals of the New Urban Agenda:

  1. Ensure tenure security for all: The New Urban Agenda should stress that no one should be left behind when it comes to land rights. The New Urban Agenda needs to confirm the duty of states to recognize, respect and safeguard all legitimate land tenure rights along the continuum of rights, including informal and customary tenure, and it needs promote and facilitate the enjoyment of them. The New Urban Agenda should confirm that businesses are responsible for respecting human rights and legitimate land tenure rights. The New Urban Agenda should also promote lasting solutions for displaced people. 

    Tenure security matters because it is the basis for adequate housing, responsible private investment and the overall prosperity of an inclusive and safe city.

  2. Ensure sustainable land use: The New Urban Agenda should a) stress the importance of responsible public regulation of land use, determined by the long-term interests of the public, in particular the affected communities, including the poor and the marginalized; b) prioritize minimizing land consumption while planning at scale for the expected population growth in order to reduce the ecological footprint of settlements, to protect nature and to conserve cultural landscapes; c) promote respect for the social function of land and promote the provision of safe public space responding to the needs of all, including women, children, youth and LGTB; d) promote land management tools such as spatial planning, land readjustment and land sharing that provide important opportunities for sustainable urban development; and e) highlight the importance of balanced territorial development.  

    Sustainable land use matters because it allows for a balance between the different needs and interests of all urban inhabitants, which makes cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

  3. Generate land-based revenues for the benefit of all: The New Urban Agenda should stress the high potential of a) establishing transparent, fair and effective land value sharing mechanisms, e.g. land value capture, betterment levies and sale of development rights; b) selecting one or several types of land taxation adjusted to local conditions, e.g. land acquisition, land holding, land sales and land value increment tax; and c) developing and implementing a strategy on land banking and generating income from public land.  

    Land-based revenues are fair and socially sustainable because those who benefit more from urbanization contribute more to its costs; they matter because they expand the revenue base of local governments and enable them to finance inclusive and sustainable urban development.

  4. Enable responsible land governance through a) the elimination of administrative and political corruption, fraud and clientelism in land administration and management, b) the accountability, transparency and participation of all when managing land; c) the establishment and implementation of national land policies, laws and standards in accordance with international law; d) the creation of short, simple, affordable procedures and standards adjusted to local requirements; e) customer-friendly delivery systems that are effective and efficient, accessible and affordable, accountable and transparent, and that exploit digital and communication technologies as well as the wide range of data and information, including geospatial information; f) transparent and responsible public land management; and e) monitoring the application of global and national frameworks. 

    Responsible land governance matters because it protects cities from land-based corruption and can solve and prevent conflicts and social unrest that lead to more inclusive and sustainable cities.

These four core messages are well-embedded in the current draft of the New Urban Agenda, which was deliberated in Surabaya. The GLTN is ready to assist member states and stakeholders, should there be any further technical assistance or strategic advice needed, so as to ensure that land is at the core of our outcome document. We welcome discussions, dialogues and debates as we journey on from here to Quito, Ecuador in October and as we make the New Urban Agenda a reality for the people on the ground – where it matters most.