The General Assembly of Partners (GAP) convenes more than 1,100 unique organizations with over 58,000 networks working on sustainable urban development. It played a vital role in the Habitat III process as an independent multi-stakeholder partnership platform facilitating the highest and widest participation possible of civil society, stakeholders, major groups, and subnational and local governments. Read more about GAP’s current work at www.generalassemblyofpartners.org
GAP was originally envisioned at a meeting during the first Urban Thinkers Campus in Caserta, Italy, in October 2014 by partners of the World Urban Campaign, who recognized the need for an inclusive platform that would enable many new actors to bring their urban expertise and to engage in the Habitat III process.
Innovative structure to increase participation of stakeholders
GAP is structured to mirror the United Nations General Assembly and to bring relevant constituencies and stakeholders together through a democratic and efficient platform. It has a President and a Vice President – as in the United Nations General Assembly – as well as two co-chairs per Partner Constituent Group who together make up the Executive Committee. The President and Vice President coordinate the group and advocate its consensus messages, as well as promoting the inclusion of GAP and stakeholders generally. The co-chairs of each PCG communicate the viewpoints and inputs of their constituencies, and organize each PCG and its own strategic work plan.
GAP is unique from other coordination mechanisms in its focus on the commonalities and abilities of groups to work together and to build consensus on issues, in addition to emboldening each PCG’s ability to collaborate with governments, the United Nations, and other key groups.
In order to capture the expertise and contributions of individual experts and practitioners in the field of sustainable urban development, GAP allows individuals to join the PCGs, creating a structure of productive collaboration. New members are asked to pick the PCG that most corresponds to their field of expertise or the group that they represent, and no member can belong to more than one PCG.
GAP welcomed the Habitat II partners (Habitat Agenda partners), individual urban experts, and many groups traditionally not involved in United Nations processes, and it served to bridge a divide between those organizations which were involved in the Habitat II Conference and the nine major groups that are involved in other United Nations processes. It also has added new specifically relevant groups, bringing in all interested actors, and focused on urban partnerships relevant for housing and sustainable urban development issues. GAP played a key role to unify stakeholders and to ensure that their mobilization will continue towards the realization of the vision of the New Urban Agenda.
Partnerships for the New Urban Agenda
After an extensive consultation process, GAP published its consensus outcome document, “Partnerships for the New Urban Agenda”, in May 2016. The document was conceived at an Executive Committee meeting in Berlin in February 2016, and then crafted over weeks of consultations, and outlines proposals that emphasize multi-stakeholder engagement in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
The consensus document is the result of an intensive and extensive consultation process among many stakeholders, including individuals, organizations, and networks, that came together under the umbrella of GAP. The members of GAP decided to focus their attention on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, the role of multi-stakeholder partnerships in that process, and the mechanisms of these partnerships. The principles, enabling factors, and post-Habitat III architecture described in the Partnerships document are geared towards this. The document notes that the challenges of urbanization are too large and too complex to be addressed by one actor alone, and national governments will need the support of local authorities, civil society, and the private sector, in implementing the New Urban Agenda. It further urges Member States to consider these proposals to ensure that the initiatives to implement the New Urban Agenda emphasize multi-stakeholder engagement, inclusion, and collaborative action to achieve sustainable urbanization.
The GAP shared this consensus document with Member States and promoted it and its suggestions, in particular the knowledge platform, throughout the Habitat III process.
16 seats for stakeholders’ partners groups at Habitat III
Prior to the Habitat III Conference, the GAP wrote a letter to the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly as well as the Department of General Assembly Conference Management requesting that 16 seats be allocated in the Habitat III plenary to enable equal representation of each of the PCGs, building on the standard 9 seats for “Major Groups” of Agenda 21 and 3 seats for “Other Stakeholders,” for a total of 12 seats. The 16 seats were granted.
In addition to responding to the letter from GAP, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon held a meeting with the GAP Executive Committee to understand this new system of collaborative stakeholder engagement.
The Partner Constituent Groups
The GAP structure was made up of 16 Partner Constituent Groups (PCGs). The original 13 groups were formed out of merging the Habitat II Partners (Local Authorities; NGOs and CBOs; Trade Unions; Professionals; Academics and Researchers; Human Solidarity Groups; Indigenous People; Parliamentarians; Private Sector; Foundations; Financial Institutions; Youth; and Women) and the Agenda 21 Major Groups (Children & Youth; Business & Industry; Farmers; Indigenous Peoples; Local Authorities; Non-Governmental Organizations; Scientific & Technological Community; Women; and Workers & Trade Unions). Thereafter, three new groups applied to join the GAP and were approved by the Executive Committee: Media, Older Persons, and Persons with Disabilities.
The Media was recognized as a constituency that could contribute a unique and informed voice to issues of urban sustainability and was recognized as a PCG as an outcome of the Urban Thinkers Campus held in Caserta, Italy in October 2014. After finding that their unique experience of cities and the needs of certain citizens were not fully incorporated under any existing PCGs, the Older Persons PCG was approved at the GAP Plenary meeting in Prague, Czech Republic in March 2016, and the Persons with Disabilities PCG was approved in Surabaya, Indonesia in July 2016.
- The Business and Industries PCG represents private sector companies and organizations and aims to stimulate the global business community through individual and shared approaches to support sustainable urbanization. It promotes responsible corporate citizenship, adopts progressive environmental practices, and creates partnerships with civil society actors.
- The Children and Youth PCG represents agencies and groups that bring the voices of children and youth, especially the most vulnerable, to national and global processes. It is a shared platform for the future leaders and citizens of our cities to advocate for their genuine inclusion in addressing urban vulnerabilities and contributing to key decision making mechanisms that shape the cities of tomorrow.
- The Civil Society Organizations PCG represents non-governmental organizations and institutions that manifest the interests and will of citizens and include the family and the private sphere, referred to as the third sector of society.
- The Farmers PCG represents peasants, farmers, pastoralists and fishermen who have an interest in rural- urban synergies. This particularly includes women, the youth, and those who have been historically subjected to racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination.
- The Foundations and Philanthropies PCG represents non-governmental entities established as independent, separately constituted non-profit bodies with their own established and reliable sources of income. They are usually but not exclusively funded by an endowment, and have their own governing boards. They have been given goods, rights, and resources to perform work and provide support for public benefit purposes, either by supporting organizations or individuals or by operating their own programs. They do not have members, but associate private resources for public interest purposes.
- The Grassroots PCG represents networks and organizations of women, men, and youth living in informal settlements and /or working in informal economies of the Global South. Members of the group seek to raise the visibility and voice of grassroots organizations of the poor to enable them to co-produce participatory and inclusive development solutions with the state and other stakeholders.
- The Indigenous People PCG represents approximately 370 million indigenous peoples in the world, belonging to 5,000 different groups, in 90 countries worldwide. Indigenous peoples constitute about 5 per cent of the world’s population, yet account for about 15 per cent of the world’s poor.
- The Local and Subnational Authorities PCG represents local and regional governments, its associations and networks, which are gathered within the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments, and involved in building sustainable and resilient, inclusive and well-governed cities, cohesive territories that can foster universal access to basic services, empower citizens, promote urban-rural linkages, protect cultural diversity, and eradicate poverty.
- The Media PCG represents those who are involved in the broad dissemination of information and data on sustainable urbanization through various forms of communication including radio, television, newspaper, magazine, and all forms of social media.
- The Older Persons PCG is an outgrowth of the work of the of the Stakeholder Group on Ageing that is part of the United Nation’s Non-Governmental Liaison Service and was very active in advocating on behalf of the more than 800 million persons over the age of 60 during the negotiations for the Sustainable Development Goals and in many other policy arenas globally. The Older Person PCG emphasizes ensuring the growth, development, and management of cities reflect the demographic reality, and believes that it is vital that any efforts to deliver inclusive cities explicitly articulates the specific ways in which we can face inequality and exclusion based on our older age.
- The Parliamentarians PCG represents members of national, sub-regional, regional, and global legislative bodies. They facilitate legislation that supports sustainable urbanization and human settlements development.
- The Persons with Disabilities PCG builds on the commitment of the international community to the advancement of the rights of persons with disabilities. The inclusion of this group in society and development is deeply rooted in the goals of the United Nations, as enshrined in the preamble of the Charter of the United Nations, which refers to fundamental human rights, the dignity and worth of the human person and the promotion of better standards of life in larger freedom. It was not, however, until the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol in 2006 that the specific barriers facing persons with disabilities in realizing their human rights were directly addressed through an international legal instrument. With the adoption of the Convention and its rapid ratification by many Member States, the international community now has in place a strong international normative framework on disability.
- The Professionals PCG represents architects, surveyors, urban planners, geographers and lawyers, economists, statisticians, sociologists, engineers, and other professions that can practically contribute to sustainable urbanization and human settlements development.
- The Trade Unions and Workers PCG represents organizations that advocate for the rights of workers, from national and regional trade union organizations, global union federations and trade union solidarity support organizations. The group aims to ensure that urban development policies include principles of decent work and to defend the rights of all workers, regardless of whether they are trade union members, have formal employment, or work in the informal economy.
- The Research and Academia PCG represents universities, research and scientific institutions, professional societies, academics and various institutes concerned with the advancement of new concepts, ideas, and methodologies in the field of sustainable urbanization and human settlement development.
- The Women’s PCG brings together a collective women’s voice, policy recommendations, and the concerns and priorities of women and women’s organizations, along the entire spectrum of diversity and the life cycle, regarding urban policies and urban development.
Active participation of the stakeholders in the Habitat III Conference
The 16 PCGs of GAP collaborated on the organization of the 16 Stakeholders’ Roundtables that took place at the Habitat III Conference. This collaboration included the proposal of speakers, the agenda, content, and the room set-up. These Stakeholders Roundtables were well-received and well-attended, and focused on what each PCG would contribute and work on during the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. The relevant PCGs related to the four Assemblies which took place over the 15 and 16 of October were also invited to collaborate and frame these events. The Assemblies were extremely successful, with precise and clear outcomes, high attendance, and diverse and innovative breakout structures. This approach enabled stakeholder-managed agendas to become part of the official program, with the PCGs seeing unprecedented influence over the panelists, key note speakers, structure, and content of these official Habitat III events.
During the Habitat III Conference, the GAP also managed the Stakeholder Caucus Room,
which it invited stakeholder groups to use in order to enable meetings and caucusing throughout the Conference. It used the GAP Lounge area for a similar purpose, inviting GAP member organizations and affiliates, as well as new groups to share the spaces for side meetings to enable stakeholders to engage with colleagues, new partners, and Member States in Quito.
GAP is mentioned in paragraph 128 of the New Urban Agenda (A/RES/71/256*) as an independent entity that contributed to the process. GAP was acknowledged by then United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, many Member States, and United Nations agencies, programmes and funds as an innovative approach to bringing urban stakeholders’ views to the process, particularly in its efforts to include previously under-represented constituencies such as the grassroots, older persons, and persons with disabilities. Throughout the process, GAP was widely encouraged to continue its work toward the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
GAP 2.0: Focus on implementation
At its fifth plenary meeting held in Quito during the Habitat III Conference, GAP’s membership voted that GAP should continue its work beyond Habitat III, to build on the momentum and outreach it had generated throughout the Habitat III process to work towards implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
The GAP members agreed to revise its Constitution and By-Laws, and the Executive Committee undertook an all-members survey to reaffirm GAPs aims and objectives. GAP voted on a new Constitution and By-Laws at its sixth plenary meeting in May 2017, and at the time of writing the GAP was in the process of evaluating its structure and implementing its strategic frameworks for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
In its Post-Habitat III iteration, GAP proposes using innovation, inclusiveness, and engagement as transformative agents for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. The challenges of urbanization are too large and too complex to be addressed by one actor alone, and national governments will need the support of local and regional governments, civil society, and the private sector in implementing the New Urban Agenda. Multi-stakeholder engagement, inclusion, and collaborative action following the Habitat III legacy will be crucial to achieving sustainable urbanization. To this end, GAP’s goals in relation to the implementation phase are based on the following ideas:
- Stakeholders have the expertise and knowledge needed for implementing the New Urban Agenda.
- The stakeholders’ voices should be channeled effectively through their local and regional representatives to ensure that inputs of urban experts and key urban constituencies are captured in the implementation, reporting, and evaluation of the New Urban Agenda.
- Different constituencies are able to achieve more in collaboration with one another, and will be able to build productive partnerships, minimize competition and duplication, and reinforce the views and concerns of other PCGs through this collaborative platform. Each PCG is more effective in achieving its own goals when working together with other PCGs.
- New groups of stakeholders should be considered and supported in a flexible, open, and inclusive platform.
General Assembly of Partners (GAP) Executive Committee (as of October 2016, during the Habitat III Conference)
- Eugenie L. Birch, University of Pennsylvania (United States)
- Vice President:
- Shipra Narang Suri, ISOCARP (India)
Partner Constituent Group Chairs and Co-Chairs
- 1. Local and Subnational Authorities
Emilia Saiz, United Cities and Local Governments
(UCLG) co-organising partner of the Local Authorities Major Group (with ICLEI and nrg4SD), and facilitator of the Global Taskforce (Spain)
Yunus Arikan, ICLEI, co organizing partner of the Local Authorities Major Group and member of the Global Taskforce (Germany)
- 2. Research and Academia
Sahar Attia, University of Cairo (Egypt)
Enrique Silva, Lincoln Institute for Land Policy (United States)
- 3. Civil Society Organizations
Jane Katz, Habitat for Humanity (United States) Greg Budworth, Compass Housing (Australia)
- 4. Grassroots Organizations
Gloria Solorzana Espinosa, National Self-Employed Workers Network (Peru)
Rose Molokoane, Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI) (South Africa)
- 5. Women
Magdalena Garcia, Huairou Commission and Bufete de Estudios Interdisciplinarios A. C. (Mexico)
Theresa Boccia, Association Femmes Europe Méridionale (AFEM) (Italy)
- 6. Parliamentarians
Jerko Rosin, Chair, European Region, Habitat Agenda Partner Parliamentarians (Croatia)
Peter Goetz, Immediate Past Chair, Habitat Agenda Partner Parliamentarians (Germany)
- 7. Children and Youth
Hirotaka Koike, UN Major Group for Children and Youth (Japan)
Joyati Das, World Vision International (Australia)
- 8. Business and Industries
Bert Smolders, Arcadis (The Netherlands)
Irge Olga Aujouannet, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (Switzerland)
- 9. Foundations and Philanthropies
Oscar Fergutz, Avina Foundation (Argentina)
Ali Khan, European Foundation Centre (Belgium)
- 10. Professionals
Didier Vancutsem, International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP) (Germany)
Ishtiaque Zahir Titas, International Union of Architects (UIA) (Bangladesh)
- 11. Trade Unions and Workers
Albert Emilio (Ambet) Yuson, Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) (Switzerland)
Rosa Pavanelli, Public Service International (Italy)
- 12. Farmers
Mildred Crawford, Caribbean Network of Rural Women Producers (Jamaica)
Violet Shivutse, Home Based Care Alliance Farmers of Kenya (Kenya)
- 13. Indigenous People
Ndinini Kimesera Sikar, Masai Women Development Organization (Tanzania)
Analucy Bengochea, Garifuna Emergency Committee of Honduras (Honduras)
- 14. Media
Nicholas You, International Mayors’ Communications Center (IMCC) (Kenya)
Richard Forster, Cities Today (Great Britain)
- 15. Older Persons
Sion Eryl Jones, Help Age International (United Kingdom)
Katherine Kline, AARP (United States)
- 16. Persons with Disabilities
Victor Pineda, Pineda Foundation/World Enabled (United States)
Mohammed Ali Loutfy, International Disability Policy Program (Lebanon)