The UCLG Annual Retreat - Breaking Through for Future Generations

The eighth edition of the Annual Retreat & Campus will take place both physically in Barcelona and in a hybrid format from 21 to 25 February 2022. The 2022 Retreat will kick-start  a  co-creation process e to renew our agenda and the priorities of our organization. With the UCLG World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders and World Congress in Daejeon on our horizon, the Retreat offers five  days full of energy to bring our movement together, connect, and inspire each other to transform the world.

The first part of the week, from Monday to Wednesday, is dedicated to the work of the different parts of our network.

Monday will be the day in which we meet each other, take stock of the progress made in 2021, and welcome 2022 showing our growth and presenting the power of our municipal movement. 

On Tuesday, the Assembly, driven by our Regional Sections, will bring continental and thematic priorities to the forefront. The power of our Town Hallprocess, which brings together our partners for a better world, will be showcased with an entire day of co-creation to provide inputs for a new social contract. 

On Thursday, at the Annual Meeting of the Global Taskforce,our political leadership will discuss the most important milestones in the year of the review of the New Urban Agenda, and participate in the discussions around Equality, Migration, and the New Urban Agenda. 

Finally, on Friday, the Local4Action Day will feature the meeting of the UCLG Presidency followed by a High Level Political debate on the Equality Agenda.


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Programme of the UCLG Annual Retreat and Campus

Day 1: 21.02.2022– Welcome 2022: Setting the scene

Day 2: 22.02.2022 – Assembly Day: The Agenda of the Movement

Day 3: 23.02.2022 – Town Hall Day: #CitiesAreListening

Day 4: 24.02.2022 – Global Taskforce Day: Our Common Agenda

Day 5: 25.02.2022 – #Local4Action Day: An Equality Driven Movement


Day 1: 21.02.2022– Welcome 2022: Setting the scene

On the first day of the UCLG Annual Retreat, participants were welcomed in an atmosphere charged with energy and enthusiasm.. This day allowed participants to set the groundwork for a year that is full to the brim with critical milestones for our constituency and take stock of 2021, a year in which we included care at the core of our work and began our journey to adopt a Pact for the Future. The first sessions served to defy the probabilities with optimism and we invited face-to-face participants to join in a dynamic and interactive exercise that helped us celebrate some of the milestones we have experienced together during these past months.

The "Welcome to 2022" session was an opportunity for the UCLG World Secretariat to present the power of our municipalist movement and the plans and hopes of UCLG as we work together towards the Daejeon Congress in October this year. The 2022 work plan was laid out for the year, and opened a conversation to start looking at priorities together. This meeting meant a moment of celebration of the power of we as an organization, which is what makes UCLG the global home that it truly is.

This Retreat aims at ensuring that we translate the vision of our political leadership into action. It is about defending the space of local governments as political actor and supporting our membership for whatever the future might bring. We don't know what is to come, but our power, the power of WE TOGETHER can help us face anything. .” Emilia Saiz, UCLG Secretary General

The Work Areas of UCLG laid out their priorities and work plan for the year, highlighting in turn how the pandemic had reshaped the way we work as an organization and how the mandate to pursue a Pact for the Future has led each area to include care as the red thread to guide their work.

The UCLG Learning team was represented by Sara Höflich, coordinator of the Learning Team at the World Secretariat. She argued that their methodologies had changed during the pandemic and that the decentralized work that had taken place during the past years was now being more and more recognized. The overall priority, she argued, has not changed, and Learning is still all about connecting the work of local governments and learning from each other.


The work from the Policy area was introduced with a brief summary of the achievements of the World Organization in this regard. Often, as argued by Jean Baptiste Buffet, coordinator of the Policy team, we do not take enough time to take stock of what the World Organization achieves, such as being recognized in the G20 heads-of-state declaration. The World Organization has been working to connect the narrative around care with its day-to-day work in policymaking, through establishing linkages between the local and the global sphere.

The UCLG Research team, introduced by Head of Research Edcgardo Bilsky, presented the work in collaboration with Academia and the and the Civil Society, working to answer the questions on how to drive the pathways to equality. The way we think about equality and what it means for our communities is at the heart of our research agenda, and the work will be critical to feed into and drive the universal agendas.

Connection, consolidation and transformation were the three concepts that guided the work of the Statutory area of UCLG. Carole Morillon, coordinator of the team, highlighted the importance of ensuring that the membership of UCLG felt at home even during a virtual environment, and that the statutory bodies are able to function whether we are in the same room or separated by an ocean.

Our first day also set the stage for the key milestone for the municipal movement: Our World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders and World Congress, which takes place in Daejeon in October of this year. The Congress is both an event that gathers the entire municipal world and our partners for transformation, and a political process involving four tracks (Local4Action, Statutory, Assembly, and Town Hall) and exercises in co-creation among local and regional governments and partners to renew our political priorities and our leadership.

María Alejandra Rico, from the UCLG Learning and Policy Teams, introduced the processes of the Summit and the Local4Action Hubs, which are local initiatives that aim to address global challenges. Representatives from Bilbao, Valongo, Cuenca, Xi’an, Madrid, and the Barcelona Provincial Council provided an overview of their Local4Action Hubs during the day, prior to a dedicated session that took place in the evening.

During the afternoon, there were different occasions to enjoy through interactive dynamics such as "In the Village - #LearningWithUCLG" to share resources from our Localizing the SDGs learning modules. Also, in other sessions such as the Communication Workshop: We Care, a unique occasion was created to engage part of the network to bring out their creativity and experiment together new ways of communication around the Power of We and to capture with graffiti feelings about how we feel as a Caring Organization.


The day ended with a working session on Local4Action HUBs initiatives where they exchanged experiences with each other and encouraged initiatives that are paving the way to become a Local4Action HUB to witness the process first hand and start getting involved in our community. The session was also a space to jointly reflect on the process so far, and to identify next steps to keep this global movement moving forward to promote a more sustainable, just and equitable way of living driven by the collective of local and regional governments.


Day 2: 22.02.2022 – Assembly Day: The Agenda of the Movement

The 2022 UCLG Retreat continued to bring together the views of the entire Network in a day dedicated to the Assembly: the gathering of the UCLG Regional Sections and Consultation mechanisms to bring together the political vision of the World Organization as we embark on a journey towards the UCLG World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders. Over 150 people joined the conversations physically, and more than 200 participants joined us throughout the day in the virtual space. 

Representatives from the UCLG Sections gathered to identify the critical issues that will guide the policy of their region, and how these priorities influence the overall strategy of UCLG. The Assembly session aimed to begin to answer the needs of very diverse realities: different sections from all over the world, but also of various different types of local and regional governments.

Secretaries general from Metropolis, UCLG MEWA, UCLG ASPAC, UCLG-NORAM, UCLG Eurasia, FLACMA, Mercociudades, UCLG Africa, and the Forum of Regions gathered to debate their priorities for the year, and evaluated the impact of the pandemic and how the past two years had enabled them to re-evaluate global priorities, and how they are heading to achieve the Pact for the Future. Among the priorities shared by the Secretaries General were advocating to protect the planet; reducing inequalities between men and women; addressing the challenges of the urban era; enhancing coordination among the UCLG Sections and Secretariats, and strengthening local democracy and the mechanisms needed to protect local governance.

UCLG Secretary Genera

Committees and Working Groups, which are led by local leaders with political agendas, provided their updates and milestones for the year, and examples on how they aligned with the priorities of the UCLG Sections. Among them, the UCLG Committees on Culture, Local Economic and Social Development, Urban Strategic Planning, and Social Inclusion and Participatory Democracy, as well as the Working Groups on Capacity and Institutional Building; Territorial Management and Prevention of Crisis; the International Observatory on Participatory Democracy; and the Forum on Peripheral Cities laid out their work plans and their expectations towards the Congress.

The synchronization felt during the Assembly was present throughout the rest of the day. in the Session on Local Finance, which was an occasion to show to the members local financial-related instruments and services , and to better understand the state of play around local finance worldwide. As panelists stressed the importance of data availability to have evidence-based debates, the Local Finance team at UCLG World Secretariat and FMDV presented several tools for information sharing, transparency, capacity building, and exchanging best practices.

The workshop on Voluntary Subnational Reviews allowed participants to exchange on all UCLG sections’ experiences in the mobilization and support of LGAs who have developed, or are developing VSRs and to widen the scope of the conversation on how to enhance bottom-up reporting efforts, promote ownership and local capacities, and bring the debate at the national, regional and international levels, notably in regards of the HLPF. VLR Workshop

Carla Rey,  Secretary General of AICCRE, built on the need to have a common narrative throughout the different sections of UCLG to build a stronger advocacy stance vis-à-vis the importance of VSRs, making clear how municipalities are implementing national strategies on sustainable development, and Emilia Saiz, UCLG Secretary General, highlighted the importance of VSRs as political tools that can have an impact on national and international agendas, and to making the connection between the global development agendas that can allow them to be seen as a single universal one. Members of the UCLG Regional Sections and from the World Secretariat, offered an overview of the VSRs developed so far, and laid out the calendar of their VSR preparation processes.

The “Flip the Script” working session took place at the end of the day, gathering members from UCLG, including the World Secretariat and UCLG Sections, and the UN SDG Action Campaign to present the campaign #FliptheScript, which was launched globally on that day. Through a co-creation exercise, the session allowed local and regional governments to contribute to creating some of the core messages that will nourish the FTS campaign throughout the year and identify the key milestones that will allow us to launch the campaign towards Daejeon 2022. 

The day offered an opportunity for the UCLG family to introduce their newest members. In this regard, newly appointed Secretary-General of the European section CEMR Fabrizio Rossi joined the meetings of the day, highlighting the warmth that was felt in the meetings and the need to continue strengthening the organization in the days to come.

Wednesday 23 is our #CitiesAreListening: Town Hall Day, in which we will bring representatives from all the Town Halls together to co-create another track of the UCLG World Summit, and advocate together to achieve the global goals. Don’t miss it!


Day 3: 23.02.2022 – Town Hall Day: #CitiesAreListening

The Equator of the Retreat was dedicated to exchanges with the civil society, aiming to shape the future social contractthrough the Town Hall Process, which leads our dialogue with the civil society and is one of the political processes that will guide our organization throughout the Congress. Our #CitiesAreListening Day gathered over 160 people physically and had over 300 participants online.

The Joint Plenary gathered the four Town Halls: Caring Systems, led by Cities AllianceGlobal Commons, led by the Global Platform for the Right to the CityTrust and Government, led by the General Assembly of Partners, and Climate and Culture, led by the Climate and Heritage Network to discuss on some of the topics that have appeared throughout the first phase of the Town Hall process 2022. But the exercise was to experiment beyond as Lead organizations of each Town Hall had been asked to imagine a headline from the future related to their respective Town Hall discussions. Radical, futurist, thinking invited itself into the conversation to imagine transformative ideas to bring about change.


The experience of converging all four Town Halls brought about discussions on ways of broadening the public space while asking ourselves the meaning of “public”, the threats posed by COVID-19, conflicts, climate change or inequality, and the need of building trust as a means to overcome such challenges, including by empowering and listening to citizens and mistrusting those institutions acting as gatekeepers of truth; the need to build policies and practices based on the experiences of people in an inclusive manner to redefine the new social contract; and how to bring the cultural dimension, also through heritage, in the creation of policies to tackle climate change. 

Following an introduction by the UCLG Learning team on their many ongoing projects, the Learning Forum session addressed the Learning Agenda for the year including the UCLG Learning Forum, Localization exercises through VSRs, Resilience and Module 4 on localizing the SDGs and peer Learning, he session was an interactive exercise that allowed participants to exchange how they support learning in their respective territories, from localization and MOOC development to peer-to-peer learning and learning methodologies.


Participants highlighted the need to enhance capacity building of local officers, notably by deepening exchanges between LRGs, and find new ways to create community through facilitating the availability of relevant, accessible, well designed information in training courses and materials. They further stressed the importance for local and regional governments to have access to sufficient allocation of resources through internal budgeting processes, but also through building up alliances with other entities, and the need to transform learning into policy and, ultimately, into action for the achievement of the SDGs. 

The day also brought together two agendas critical for the world organization which fall in line with the thematics of the day: Peace and Human Rights. The session on Local and Regional Governments for Human Rights, led by UCLG and the Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rights, set the stage for the milestones ahead, building on the mandate of the World Council to strengthen thehuman right cities movement in line with the UN Human Rights Council’s Resolution on “Local Governments and human rights”, set to be adopted this year.


The session, divided in two moments -a first discussion of the International campaign “10, 100, 1000 human rights cities and territories by 2030”, and a moment to take stock of the 10 years  of UCLG’s Global Charter Agenda on human rights in the citygathered the cities of Utrecht, Grigny, Vienna, and Mexico City and partners from the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and the Raoul Wallenberg Institute to develop the basis for a global discussion on the future of the movement of cities for human rights, and brought to the discussion the next steps to develop global commitments on human rights.

The session on the Peace Agenda of UCLG built on the work done on the past years to strengthen the processes of Peace of the World Organization -among them, the World Forum on Cities and Territories of Peace, the UCLG Peace Prize, and the joint work with Mayors for Peace on issues such as demilitarization- and ensure coherence among the different components of Peace, aiming to mainstream the agenda across the Organization.

Mayor of Granollers Josep Mayoral introduced four critical ideas to build the agenda on Peace: Working as a Network, bringing the constituency together to advocate for peace in critical fora, harness the potential of the Vienna Conference on Nuclear Disarmament, and develop relationships with the media. 

The Forum on Cities and Territories of Peace was represented by Bogotá, who is co-leading the fourth edition, and Mexico City who hosted the latest edition of the Forum in 2021, to explain the progression of the Forum and the innovations of the fourth edition and the trajectory of the process, which is entrenched with the UCLG agenda on urban violence. The UCLG Peace Prize was represented by VNG, which introduced the innovations of the 3rd edition and presented the deadline to present local peace initiatives to be eligible for the award. The city of Vienna and former Disarmament Department director, Austrian Foreign Affairs Ministry presented their views on the local peace agenda and the importance of cities in the nuclear disarmament process.


The fourth day of our #UCLGMeets 2022 Retreat will gather the constituency of Local and Regional Governments at our Global Taskforce Day. We are ready to synchronize our work and gear to meet the challenges and opportunities of the international agenda in the year of the review of the New Urban Agenda.

Day 4: 24.02.2022 – Global Taskforce Day: Our Common Agenda

The fourth day of our Retreat started with somber news. In these difficult times, the Mayor of The Hague reminded the local and regional governments constituency of the power of city diplomacy and the importance of dialogue to promote conflict resolution and mediation and bring about peace.

The joint plenary session was dedicated to the annual meeting of the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments, enriched by the virtual and in-site presence of representatives from UN-Habitat, UNECE, UNDESA, REGIONS4, CLGF, ORU-FOGAR, FMDV, AL-LAS, Platforma, CEMR, CUF, GCoM, C40, RCN, AIMF and ICLEI. This year's annual meeting brought a look at the different components of the GTF's joint work program and the international agenda of 2022, with a special focus on the UN Common Agenda, the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the World Urban Forum, the COP 27, and the reviewing process of the New Urban Agenda.

As the Global Taskforce works in the elaboration of the 2022 SDG Localization Report, to be presented at the HLPF, participants provided concrete examples and suggestions that should be incorporated in the collective publication. The constituency will put a special focus on SDG 5, and to the role of feminist leadership and gender equality.

The meeting was followed by a plenary session on the New Urban Agenda reviewing process. Ilsur Metshin, UCLG Governing President and Mayor of Kazan, stressed that the values and commitments of the New Urban Agenda remain as relevant as they were in 2016, and are a critical catalyzer for the SDGs as well as a prerequisite for transformation.  Carlos Martínez, Special Envoy of the UCLG Presidency on the New Urban Agenda and Mayor of Soria, highlighted the crucial moment to take stock, rethink where we are, what we need to transform society, and how to achieve the New Urban Agenda.


Following the commitment of the GTF to include migration within its thematic priorities, during the morning session, a workshop strengthened the shift towards a municipalist call for renewed governance of human mobility that protects dignity, provides opportunities and fosters a new understanding of citizenship.

The interactive exercise was held around the Lampedusa Charter expanding the conversation with our sister organizations and partners. The room became quiet with the premier of the documentary Not a Border Tale, the identity of the Lampedusa Charter, inspired by the legacy of the municipal movement. The first screening of this film that portrays the story of Lampedusa, its crucial role in the integration of migrants, its openness and its respect for the dignity of life. The session proposed an interactive workshop to spur co-creation focusing on the principles of equity, recognition, community, solidarity and resilience. 


It was followed by a working session on Municipal Feminism, which allowed to contribute to the ongoing discussions on the feminist municipal movement, including not focusing it on gender equality alone, but to work also towards defining a new type of leadership. Ana Falu, UCLG Ubuntu Advisor, highlighted to speak of feminist municipalism is to speak of a new way of doing politics. One that involves the empowerment of local leaders, grass roots, women and indigenous movements from a standpoint that values interconnectivity, multiculturalism and diversity.

Carola Gunnarsson, Mayor of Sala, Vice-President of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), Vice-President of UCLG for Europe stressed how violence against women remains one of the greatest obstacles to women’s economic, social and political rights and that is crucial to ensure that women hold more executive positions at all levels of decision-making processes.

Day 5: 25.02.2022 – #Local4Action Day: An Equality Driven Movement

The closing day of the 2022 UCLG Retreat was marked by the events in Ukraine. It gathered the UCLG Presidency and saw the adoption, by consensus, of a statement by the World Organization. The statement  condemns the military attacks and sends a message of solidarity and support to the Ukrainian and Russian citizens. It further commits to facilitate peace and democracy and to guarantee the human rights of the displaced and refugee populations. 

The Presidency recalled peacemaking and city diplomacy as pillars of the movement. Mayors of Konya Uğur Ibrahim Altay and The Hague Jan Van Zanen, UCLG Copresidents, opened the session calling on all actors to follow international agreements and for peace to find a way.

A message was delivered on behalf of Li Mingyuan, Mayor of Xi’an, who will take over together with Madeleine Y. Alfelor, Mayor of Iriga as UCLG Governing Presidents as of March 1st. The message of the Mayor of Xi’an acknowledged the complex moments that our organization and the world are going through, and highlighted the many milestones ahead for our international movement throughout the year, that can contribute to enhance the multilateral system and identified some central components of our political agenda, including the ecological transition, the equality agenda and the role of culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development. 

As part of the Presidency session, Evgenia Lodvigova, Vice-Mayor of Kazan, introduced the new “Shared City” platform, put to the service of the organization to strengthen knowledge and solutions exchange to tackle global challenges. The Mayor of Montevideo and UCLG Vice-President, Carolina Cosse, presented the priorities of the city to contribute to the Pact for the Future, namely building feminist cities that put care for all people at center, with the overall goal of fighting inequality.

The participants further highlighted the importance of the Congress as a policy making mechanism, hence the need to ensure continued joint efforts on the processes in between congresses. As the Pact for the Future was identified as the most important output of the current process, the meeting of the UCLG Presidency allowed to introduce the group of thinkers who will accompany the drafting committee for the Pact. It includes Billy Cobbett, former Director of Cities Alliance; Luca Bergamo, former Vice-Mayor of Rome; Maria Fernanda Espinosa, former President of the UN General Assembly and Foreign Affairs Minister of Ecuador, and Dr. Carlos Moreno, special advisor on Urban settlements to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. They stressed the importance of the Pact for the Future in providing hope for the coming years, and as a document that brings action and concrete engagement from all sides to contribute to a new multilateralism. 

The session was followed by the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between UCLG and the Valencia World Centre for Sustainable Urban Food (CEMAS) to further strengthen their joint work in ensuring sustainable and inclusive urban food systems that leave no one and no place behind.

The day culminated with a high-level policy debate on Equality.  In accordance with the Durban Declaration, which states that UCLG is an equality-driven movement, the World Organization has aligned its priorities to ensure that leaving no one and no place behind is at the heart of our political but also the technical agenda. 

In that light, the research work organized around our triannual GOLD report has been devoted, since the discussions at our Tangier Retreat in 2020, to analyzing the pathways for urban and territorial equality. This works is developed done through a partnership with KNOW, articulating a large-scale collaborative process. The debate aimed at sharing findings with the UCLG Leadership and partners and also contributes to the Pact for the Future, in which the World Organization will reflect its ideas on the new social contract that will shape the UN Common Agenda as well as the Summit for the Future. The Pact will further be the bases of the UCLG plurennial strategy.


Findings around communing, caring, connecting, renaturing, prospering and democratizing were presented by KNOW researchers, who noticed that the report and this captive process gathered over 90 contributions from the UCLG network civil society groups and academics that cover a variety of topics such as migration, culture, conflict, disabilities, housing, health among others. 

Mayor of Kitchener and UCLG Treasurer Berry Vrbanovic opened the meeting calling on the need to engage in wider local alliances; and mayors of Sala Carola GunnarssonEmilio Jatón from Santa Fe; Mayor of Chefchaouen Mohamed Sefiani, Mayor of Soria and Envoy of the UCLG Presidency on the New Urban Agenda Carlos Martínez provided local visions around the pathways that have been identified.

The discussions, introduced by Alexandre Frediani, lead co-investigator and Camila Cociña, from Knowledge In Action for Urban Equity (KNOW) highlighted that the spatial dimension of inequalities is central for local and regional governance to localize rights in the territories; the need for a new governance that acknowledges that local and regional government is not only a provider or an enabler, but a guarantor of rights; the need for adequate fiscal and investment architecture to strengthen and localize finance; the importance that local and regional governments engage with equality-driven pathways that go beyond electoral cycles and work with a long-term vision and radical incrementalism for sustainable future; and the importance, both technical and narrative, for local and regional government to develop creative capacity to push the boundaries of what seems to be possible, generating bold and ambitious urban and territorial developing in the pursuing of equality. 

Caren Levy, Principal investigator of KNOW, connected the discussions of the day with broader dimensions of urban and territorial equality, and summed up the debates calling for the redefinition of concepts such as what we mean when we say “community”.

The last day of our Retreat was a testimony of the diversity and inclusivity of the Organization which is committed to inclusive multilateralism to address global challenges. The unequivocal condemn of military action in Ukraine was underlined by the resolve to stick together as movement focusing on the capacity of city diplomacy and solidarity based on local democracy and respect of human rights. 

As the municipal movement heads towards the  UCLG World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders in Daejeon it calls for armed conflicts to end and to rally around the shared universal values and objectives of the 2030 Agenda!

Further information: 

Read the statement here