The United Nations has a contradictory relationship with cities. This became clear to me last year, when I was asked to represent Metropolis, the global association of major urban areas, at the preliminary meetings for Habitat III, next year’s major summit on urbanization.
The United Nations knows, of course, that the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be achieved without help from the world’s cities, since half of the global population now lives in urban areas.
However, subnational entities are not mentioned in the United Nations Charter, and therefore several countries are finding it difficult simply to grant observer status to the metropolises and other cities. As a result, the expertise of the cities and their mayors are being ignored. This is not good.
At the Buenos Aires meeting in May of 2015, 139 metropolises across the world formally requested that cities be included in the international negotiations for the New Urban Agenda. The declaration also appeals to the cities of the world to discuss and contribute to Habitat III and the preparations for it.