In October 2016, the world came together in Quito, Ecuador, for Habitat III.  Habitat III is the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development.

Member States of the General Assembly, in Resolution 67/216, decided that the objectives of the Conference were to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable urban development, assess accomplishments to date, address poverty and identify and address new and emerging challenges.

This conference has now set the global urban agenda for the next 20 years and produced a framework for action in The New Urban Agenda.

Save the Children makes its mark at Habitat III

Though the world has made remarkable progress over the past two decades, particularly in terms of health and education, persistent inequities remain, nowhere are these disparities more visible than in cities. Lifesaving health care or high quality schools may be only a stone’s throw away, but the poorest mothers, newborns, and children often cannot get what they need to survive and thrive.

54% of the world’s population lives in urban areas and in cities around the world, the poorest urban children are at least twice as likely to die as the richest urban children. Save the Children’s ‘Every Last Child’ campaign places strong emphasis on the need to ensure no child is left behind, including the most excluded children who are living in informal urban settlements and street children.

Habitat III was an important global advocacy opportunity to influence key national and municipal government delegations and decision makers, along with civil society partners, to further our campaign breakthroughs and ensure every last child has an equal opportunity to survive, learn and be protected.

How did Save the Children get involved?

Our four main objectives for engaging in Habitat III were to:

1) Influence the New Urban Agenda outcome document – to ensure it includes language that reflects our ELC priorities and messaging. 

2) Gain the support of priority Member States and local governments to commit to implementing policies and measures that will benefit the urban poor and most excluded urban children.

3) Position Save the Children as a globally recognized organization in the area of tackling urban child poverty and exclusion, providing implementable solutions and direct support to the most marginalized families living in urban settlements and slums.  

4) Monitor and track Habitat III issues that are of priority to Save the Children, including health, education, child protection and governance, and cross-cutting issues such as disaster risk reduction and climate change.

We developed a key messaging advocacy brief that was shared with more than 25 government delegations ahead of the final preparatory meeting in Indonesia to negotiate The New Urban Agenda text in July 2016.

Over the last six months we also inputted our key messages and priorities to the UN Children and Youth Constituency Group position statements and messaging advocacy briefs, and shared our messages with key partners, including Every Woman Every Child, ICLEI, UN Habitat and others during the negotiating process.

At the Habitat III conference itself, we hosted a high-level side event ‘Urban Agents of Change: Ensuring the health and wellbeing of adolescents in cities’, in partnership with Every Woman Every Child and the UN Secretary General’s Youth Envoy. This discussion highlighted some of the key challenges and important solutions that are included in the New Urban Agenda for improving the health and wellbeing of adolescents living in cities. The moderated discussion further demonstrated how adolescents are themselves critical ‘agents of change’ to build a more sustainable future in cities around the world. Speakers who joined Thomas Chandy, CEO of Save the Children India on the panel included, Ms. Jovana Rios Cisnero , member of the High-level Advisory Group for Every Woman Every Child, Ms. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira Deputy Executive Director, Assistant Secretary-General for UN-Habitat, Mr. Garry Conille. Under Secretary General, Programmes and Operations, IFRC, and a Save the Children youth representative from Ecuador, Fransheska.

Thomas also moderated a Live Video Chat with Ms. Cisnero, Ms. Nana Kuo, Senior Manager, Every Woman Every Child Team and a youth representative from India, to discuss why this Agenda matters for young people living in cities. Save the Children was invited to speak at several other events during the conference, including a World Vision networking event where Lani Crane discussed the health issues children face in cities and Justin Mortensen participated in an event hosted by the FIA Foundation to discuss road safety, one of the leading killers on young people living in urban settlements.

Take a look at the short video we made below where Thomas explains Save the Children expectations from New Urban Agenda:

What did we actually influence?

We influenced the language in The New Urban Agenda text, in particular we secured wording in paragraph 55 to make reference to ‘reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality’. There is also increased emphasis and strengthened language across most of our priority issues and recommendations on health, nutrition, education and violence against children/child protection in The New Urban Agenda.

Our joint high-level side event raised the profile of the health agenda for young people in cities, with more than 100 participants in the audience and senior decision makers and influencers on the panel.

Our active engagement in different side events, as both panelists and participants, further ensured the profile of Save the Children as an organization working to address urban challenges face by children was elevated.

What's next?

Save the Children is now going to spend time reviewing in detail the final text of The New Urban Agenda and analyzing government statements made during Habitat III to identify how we can leverage these outcomes as part of our urban campaigning work.