My name is Tone Vesterhus, I am the youth delegate for Norway to the 25th Governing Council. I have been following UN-Habitat and the Habitat III process since the beginning of 2014.
Unfortunately there were not many youth delegates in the official government delegations at the Governing Council this year, Brazil was the only other delegation to have a youth delegate. This comes to show that we have to stress the importance of delegations including youth delegates, as the Governing Council really only does consist of the member states of UN-Habitat, and there is not much space for civil society, at least not formally.
I will try to give a recap of the most important things that happened at the Governing Council, especially youth related issues. First, I will give an overview of the most important resolutions that were discussed.
Strategic plan for 2014–2019 and the work programme and budget of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme for the biennium 2016–2017
The work program and the attached budget is the most instrumental tool for the work of UN-Habitat, and what goes in there, goes. This, in addition to the omnibus is the most important resolution that the Governing Council discusses and adopts.
The work programme and budget resolution can be read here: https://papersmart.unon.org/habitatgc25/sites/papersmart.unon.org.habitatgc25/files/K1501210.pdf
Omnibus: Implementation of the strategic plan for 2014–2019
This resolution gives direction on how to implement the strategic plan of UN-Habitat. The initial idea for this Governing Council was to have an “omnibus” resolution, a resolution that touches upon most of the substantive issues regarding the work of UN-Habitat. This was instead of there being 20 different resolutions for the different themes. Although there was a fair few other resolutions that came up anywas, it contributed to reduce the amount substantially.
The omnibus resolution can be read here: https://papersmart.unon.org/habitatgc25/sites/papersmart.unon.org.habitatgc25/files/K1501218.pdf
In addition to these two, there was a resolution on the special theme for the Governing Council, namely UN-Habitats contribution towards the post-2015 agenda, a resolution on the Habitat III process, a resolution on strengthening the national ownership and operational capacity as well as a resolution on international guidelines on urban and territorial planning. They can all be read here: https://papersmart.unon.org/habitatgc25/?q=taxonomy/term/22
Mainstreaming of youth in UN-Habitat and the financing of it
The most important thing that the Governing Council adopted (youth related anyways), was the mainstreaming of youth in UN-Habitat. In the omnibus resolution the following paragraph was agreed upon:
The governing council requests the Executive Director to continue to pursue the mainstreaming of youth and gender equality perspectives in the normative work and operational programmes of the United Nations Human Settlements programme and to ensure that youth and gender equality and empowerment remain an important part of the preparatory process for Habitat III and of the substantive content of the New Urban Agenda;
Even more importantly, a similar paragraph was adopted in the work program and budget, with the additional wording “and that the resources be allocated accordingly”, meaning, we do not just agree upon the mainstreaming of youth, we actually request the executive director to spend the amount of resources needed in order for that to be achieved. All in all, a pretty good achievement. There was a lot of discussions on this paragraph in both resolutions, as some member states were reluctant to, quite frankly, spend money on this. Luckily it remained in there.
A strong focus on youth unemployment and job creation for youth
In the omnibus resolution there were two paragraphs that highlighted the need for a focus on youth unemployment, and that UN-Habitat needs to work on this issue.
The Governing Council Requests the Executive Director to address the high rates of youth unemployment by developing high-level programmes and policies, thereby enabling the United Nations Human Settlements Programme to work with member States and local authorities to develop and implement targeted and integrated local and national youth employment and entrepreneurship programmes and policies for inclusive, sustainable and innovative job creation;
The Governing Council invites member States to work towards the prevention of slums, the empowerment of slum communities and the strengthening of institutional mechanisms equipping slum dwellers to contribute to the improvement of the living environment, aiming at promoting social, economic and political inclusion and poverty eradication through, among other things, access to sustainable mobility, skills and capacity development, the creation of job opportunities, in particular for women and young people, public spaces and respect for cultural diversity, and by strengthening linkages to the formal settings in the rural and urban surroundings of slum settlements;
These were both paragraphs that all member states more or less agreed upon from the beginning, and there was no sign of reluctance towards mentioning youth specifically as a key actor in sustainable urbanization. This is historic. Youth has previously been a highly contested issue.
Maybe then, we have reached a point where we can all just agree upon the simple fact that youth are a driving force of positive change, and that youthless development is useless development.