Wishing you lots of serendicity in 2017!

Photo by Diego Noguera IISD 

A message from the UCLG Secretary General, Josep Roig

During the last five years working at United Cities, I have enjoyed extraordinary moments of serendicity. After our Congress in Bogota and our World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments in Quito I had one of those moments when I realized that United Cities (UCLG) had become one of the most powerful, most inspiring, most influential and effective global networks, and that it can really make a difference to the wellbeing of citizens.

"Serendicity means serendipity in the city: whatever you are looking for in your city or territory, I hope you find something unexpectedly better."

A wonderful thing is that this global network of networks belongs to all of you, to all the local and regional governments, to all members of UCLG.

United Cities is powerful because we have the power to dream cities together

We share dreams.

Some are global, like the universal agendas: the 2030 Development Agenda, the New Urban Agenda, the climate agenda, the resilience agenda...

Many dreams are local: local and regional governments dream, together with citizens and all stakeholders, the cities they want to have.

Besides our dreams, we share the responsibility to integrate universal values and goals into our local agendas. Universal dreams need to become local stories.

"Serendicity means serendipity in the city: whatever you are looking for in your city or territory, I hope you find something unexpectedly better."

We share the dream to "leave no one behind" (poverty) but also to "leave nowhere behind" (slums, rural areas, distressed neighborhoods,); "leave no one out" (migrants, refugees, the growing population) and “leave nowhere out” (no peripheries, no sprawl, everything is urban now).

We dream of a safe, inclusive, resilient sustainable world for 9 billion people; 3 billion citizens in rural areas and 6 billion citizens in cities. For UCLG members, all 9 billion, no matter where they live, have the same right to the city. They are the citizens of our local and regional governments, both rural and urban.

United Cities is inspiring because we are united around values

These are challenging times, when going back to basic and fundamental values becomes more relevant than ever. Our greatest strength is that we share values, and we have done for over a century. 

United Cities is the still part of the dream that local leaders started in 1913 in Gent; the dream of a global movement of local governments.

We remain relevant because we renewed our values and consolidated our movement in 2004 through the creation of UCLG.  

Allow me to highlight three values that I find particularly relevant this year:  

1.    Peace and solidarity between peoples. When we see the many Aleppo’s of the world, some on the front pages of the media but many other hidden on the back pages, United Cities has to strongly reinforce our role in city diplomacy and defend peace and solidarity in our cities.

2.    No discrimination, no exclusion. United Cities cannot remain silent in the face of the problems of migrants and refugees all over the world. United Cities is against putting walls around our cities.

3.    Local democracy. Let me quote our constitution by saying “local democracy is not just a formal value but must be continuously updated and revised, ensuring genuine equality and participation open to all, men and women”. We have seen this year that renewing local democracy is absolutely necessary in many places all over the world.

United Cities is influential because we amplify a common voice

Local and regional government organizations have joined forces and voices in a Global Taskforce, which has been instrumental in influencing the global agendas.

The World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments in Quito illustrates this influence. The World Assembly is recognized in the text of the New Urban Agenda and should become an important tool in follow up and review of all UN universal agendas. It is in our hands how far we want to take this tool.

These are not times to be silent, nor to isolate ourselves within imaginary institutional walls that will not protect us. We need to be united and represent our constituency in all global dialogues.

It is time to come together to voice our dreams, values, experiences, policies both upwards and among ourselves. UCLG represents local and regional governments, the 99.9% of all the governments of the world.

United Cities is effective because we are co-creating the city

The city is the result of the activities of all stakeholders: citizens, governments, civil society, and the private sector. Local and regional governments have the responsibility to balance the roles and influence of these different stakeholders for the common good.

Local and regional governments are action-oriented and do not only have the responsibility to contribute to achieving global agendas, but more importantly, they need to help shape the world and society based on the real needs of people, their priorities aspirations and dreams.

Local and regional governments govern at least as well as national governments do. They manage as well, if not better, than businesses and defend the rights of the city and citizens as well, if not better, than civil society organizations.

If you are not convinced, read our flagship report on Co-creating Cities, where you can find a comprehensive analysis of the current context in which we dream cities together.

United Cities has the power of networking, we are a network of networks

United Cities is a policy network, an advocacy network, and a knowledge network. But, above all, it is an action network.

We share policies, knowledge, action and experience. We seek innovative experiences at the local level, we make sense and document them, we extract policy recommendations for advocacy and we share experiences through cooperation, learning and an increasingly active communication strategy.

We need you

Cities, towns,  associations, regions, metropolises, local governments of all types and sizes gathered in our Regional Sections, Committees, networks, communities, UCLG partners, you ARE UCLG and what makes this network powerful.

UCLG needs you to share your dreams and values, to amplify your voices, to exchange actions and experiences.

If you put your energy into the network, the network will give you back the energy multiplied by all its active members. Contribute to make UCLG a place of strong serendicity, where the unexpected can lead you to the best.

UCLG wishes you a 2017 of peace and solidarity between peoples, renewed local democracy, welcome to refugees and migrants and, of course, a year full of serendicity.