The NUA deals with the development and sustainable design of cities. The document includes almost all the topics of sustainable urban development debated in the last few years. These include the creation of inclusive and people-oriented settlements, resource and climate protection, strengthening the resilience of cities, improving living conditions for all city dwellers including those in informal settlements, and the ‘right to the city’, a controversial topic in the negotiations which refers to the discourse on the right to a collectively designed and used urban space. These important topics and positive guiding concepts were compiled for the first time in a document adopted by the international community. In addition, municipalities and cities were recognized as key actors of sustainable development, which also represented one of the key concerns of Germany’s Federal Government in the process.
However, the NUA lacks a roadmap for implementation and a related, robust monitoring mechanism. In particular, the conference did not succeed in turning urbanization into a key issue of world politics in the medium and long term, as demanded by the dynamics and importance of this change process. This is not surprising given the lack of political interest in the Habitat process and the fact that many key players have invested little or no political capital in it. Furthermore, the UN system, the global development architecture as a whole, and UN-Habitat itself – as the central actor for coordinating the implementation and review process – all lack the mandate, the necessary governance structures, and the financial resources to be able to react appropriately to the challenges of urbanization. It is now an urgent political task to make improvements here.
With the NUA, the responsibility for the UN-Habitat’s review and reform process, for shaping the followup process, and for implementing decisions was delegated to the UN Secretary General and the UN General Assembly (2017 and 2018). Together with the meetings of the UN-Habitat Governing Council (May 2017) and a two-day, high-level meeting in September 2017, these are the forums where the relevant decisions on the implementation of the NUA can be more clearly defined.