Who owns the city? The new urban Agenda

Dear all,

Who owns the city – I think we all know the answer to that – the people who live there. And the people themselves must be empowered and involved in shaping their present – and future living conditions.

As the mayor in Asker municipality - sustainable urbanisation is of course very close to my heart, and I firmly believe that the slogan “think globally, act locally” is more important than ever.

  • I have had the honour of being a member of United Nation’s Advisory Committee on Local Government – UNACLA, and this experience has led me to realise that local governments despite our differences, have a lot of similar challenges across the world, and that we have a lot to learn from each other.
  • Asker is situated in a typical semi-urban area, close to one of the fastest growing capital regions in Europe. We face challenges such as maintaining a balance between urban centres with services, transport, public transport possibilities, and housing – and at the same time, conserving green recreational areas.
  • Holistic and cross-sectoral planning for land use, and how to size infrastructure for future needs, are major challenges for us, challenges we have in common with the other fast growing semi-urban areas of the world.
  • I have been asked to give the “local” point of view to: How Norway could develop a new development policy where sustainable urbanisation is integrated and mainstreamed, as well as what priorities such a policy should have. Not a small task, but building on the experience from Asker, I have some small thoughts on the subject.
  • First, I would like to emphasise the approach of “co-creation”, where public, civil and private sectors work together for common interests. A new policy for urbanisation must have clearly defined roles, and channels for participation for relevant stakeholders, such as NGOs, civil society, various sports associations, as well as private business, acadEmia and media.
  • And of course including the population in general; young people, the elderly, and a good gender balance.
  • I will in particular emphasise the importance of involving young people. They are the inhabitants of the future we plan for, and they are our future leaders! Many talented young people are also in leadership positions today. One of the most exciting results from my involvement with the UN is the follow-up in the form of an international conference for young people – The Asker-Conference on youth and governance.
  • We have hosted this conference twice, and have seen and heard brilliant young people from all over the world share experiences and discuss solutions for the future.
  • We have to make sure that young people get to voice their opinions and be part of shaping their future. To do that we need to create some relevant arenas for them to meet and be heard. Youthless governance is useless governance - I´ve heard from the horses mouth!
  • Some few comments from me as well on how local governments in Norway can be included in international urban discussions, and especially giving input to Norwegian priorities for the New Urban Agenda. And maybe more importantly, in the follow-up of the agreement.
  • I hope we can make better use of the practical experience and know-how that exist at the local level, around various municipalities in Norway. Maybe we can create a platform to share our local experience, so that it can help strengthen Norwegian international involvement in the area? Local government would also feel included that way.
  • I am sure we, in turn, will learn from such cooperation. I think we could benefit from making better connections between our local urbanisation challenges, and local work internationally.
  • Also, many local governments around the world need financial support for sustainable urbanisation projects.  Today, the process of getting international development money down to the local level is difficult. Maybe it is possible to encourage international financing models that would benefit cities and municipalities directly if they are implementing projects on sustainable urbanisation? It could be a motivating factor.
  • Finally, to be very local. This summer Asker and two of our neighbouring municipalities, Hurum and Røyken decided to merge and join our forces. In about three years Asker will go from 60 000 inhabitants to 90 000. From 101 square kilometres to 377. We will certainly need a comprehensive holistic urban policy, and we have already discussed to use the new SDGs as a framework for our common planning towards the actual merger in 2020. Maybe we will even pave the way for new SDG municipalities around the world?
  • Quito and the New Urban Agenda may also make important contributions to our work! This is very exciting, and I look forward to working on this.

Thank you for your attention!