Monica Ramirez of Habitat for Humanity Latin America and the Caribbean and Alberto Benitez of Habitat for Humanity Honduras announcing Solid Ground as one of Habitat for Humanity's 4 organizational commitments to implement the New Urban Agenda

After more than two years of intensive advocacy, policy discussions, knowledge sharing, tense negotiations, logistical nightmares, and a push for the inclusion of multiple stakeholders, a rare moment of cooperation and collaboration must be noted.  As more than 30,000 people from all over the world, gathered together in Quito, Ecuador last month to establish a plan of action to tackle the complex housing and urbanization challenges of the 21st century, it was a monumental effort worthy of celebration. At Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development that occurs once every twenty years, the New Urban Agenda was officially adopted by 167 countries. With a prominent focus on resilient, safe, healthy, accessible and sustainable cities and human settlements for all, the New Urban Agenda will influence how countries around the world provide a decent place to live for millions of people in the years ahead.

The New Urban Agenda is a product of years of rigorous thought, hard work and collective action. Habitat for Humanity has worked tirelessly to ensure that adequate and affordable housing, secure land tenure, and community-led development remain as focal points of the agenda and has played a leading role at every juncture of the Habitat III process.

Prior to the conference, Habitat for Humanity leveraged its extensive network to provide significant official input at events around the world, from Mexico to Prague and from Manila to the UN headquarters in New York City. We participated as a co-lead for producing a housing policy paper, co-chaired the Civil Society Partner Group of the General Assembly of Partners (GAP), and participated in regional and national thematic meetings. In Quito, Habitat for Humanity was represented by close to 70 attendees throughout our network. Our CEO, Jonathan Reckford, moderated a high-level plenary session focused on affordable housing, which included housing ministers from the U.S., Kenya and the Czech Republic. Staff members from many of Habitat national organizations, including El Salvador, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Philippines and Zambia, as well as the United States, were official members of their country delegations and participated in key leadership and advisory roles, before and during the conference.

Yet, in many ways, Habitat for Humanity’s role in the Habitat III process has just begun. During the conference, Habitat for Humanity was one of only a handful of organizations afforded the opportunity to officially announce major commitments to achieving the goals for sustainable urban development laid out in the New Urban Agenda. These commitments include improving access to land for shelter for 10 million people through the Solid Ground campaign, impacting 8 million people through the newly launched Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter, implementing a new urban approach to promote sustainable cities, and overall supporting more than 40 million people through 2020. 

In addition to being one of our 4 organizational commitments, the Solid Ground campaign was shared through various different venues at Habitat III: during roundtables on women and children & youth, in a panel on urban land, through hosted dinners for the Habitat delegation and one co-hosted with the Global Land Tool Network, or the GLTN, of UN-Habitat for partner organizations, at a training on linked open data co-sponsored by Land Portal, Cadasta Foundation and the GLTN, during a Solid Ground workshop for Habitat for Humanity national organizations and at a Terwilliger Center/Solid Ground reception at Habitat’s exhibit booth.  In my own presentations, I was able to highlight our key issues of housing and secure tenure in a number of events, including making a statement directed to the Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon and Dr. Joan Clos, Habitat III Secretary-General, in a private General Assembly of Partners opportunity; as a panelist in the Special Session on Housing and as a speaker representing the civil society on a side event for the World Urban Campaign; as well as organizing and moderating the CSO stakeholder roundtable.  

Since returning from Quito to Washington, D.C., I have taken a quick breath, but there is still much more to be done to gather the learnings and begin the work on implementation and follow-up. With the New Urban Agenda finalized, I now look ahead to how Habitat and its partners can meet these ambitious commitments. I hope you will join me in thanking stakeholders – from world leaders to your local representatives –  and continue to support our efforts as we work to ensure the implementation of this historic agreement.