GOLD VI Composite vision: Five principles for pathways to equality


Cités et Gouvernements Locaux Unis - United Cities and Local Governments (CGLU - UCLG)

GOLD VI pathways invite LRGs to acknowledge that effectively addressing inequalities requires engaging with urban and territorial equality at different scales and in four different dimensions :

 the equitable distribution of material conditions for a dignified quality of life;

 reciprocal recognition of identities and claims;

 parity political participation in decision making;

 solidarity and mutual care between people, and between people and nature.

Embracing this multifaceted understanding of equality and its links to environmental challenges invites us to look at the intersections and overlaps between the main messages identified by each of the pathways. Adopting this transversal overview has led us to the conclusion that LRGs should consider five key principles for building pathways towards equality. These principles constitute what GOLD VI proposes as a composite vision of the pathways to equality. This contains five key elements for LRGs to consider when addressing local priorities and localizing the SDGs in ways that advance equality, as well as mobilizing their vision of cities and territories that care.

These five principles are the following :

1. A rights-based approach is the basis of any LRG efforts to build pathways to equality.

By adopting this approach from a local perspective, LRGs can rethink the social contract that they have with local inhabitants and promote their Right to the City. This implies recognizing local aspirations, practices and needs from an intersectional and ecological perspective. LRGs can play a crucial role in advancing equality pathways by respecting, protecting and fulfilling their obligations regarding human rights and the commitments acknowledged by the United Nations. These include the universal rights to water and sanitation, adequate housing, education, health, decent work, and participation in public life, amongst others. LRGs should also lead the process of integrating a new generation of essential rights and entitlements, which should include access to caring systems, inclusive culture, public and green spaces, a fair valuing of time, connectivity, and the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity, among others. These should be seen as fundamental rights for both the present and future generations. LRGs can also play an active role in recognizing and supporting day-to-day and collective practices that effectively expand citizens’ rights on the ground. Adopting a rightsbased approach requires cocreating pathways that recognize the different ways in which inequalities and needs are experienced differently by different people. It should also help to tackle some of the structural drivers behind interrelated processes of discrimination, violence and exclusion towards certain groups based on gender, class, age, race, ethnicity, religion, ability, migration status and sexuality, amongst others.

2. The spatial dimension of inequalities is central to promoting the advance of equality by LRGs.

Policies and planning should challenge socio-spatial fragmentation; promote proximity, accessibility and urban-rural reciprocity; and foster more equal and sustainable territorial development which is compatible with just ecological transitions.

To support the realization of rights at the local scale, LRGs need to challenge spatial inequalities. To do so, they need to promote more sustainable and fairer planning and ensure that it reduces distances between people and provides the necessary support of life. This includes tackling problems of pollution and CO2 emissions. These initiatives may also include the promotion of a mixture of social and functional activities, pluricentric cities, active mobility and connectivity, accessible local care infrastructure, and inclusive public and green space. The climate emergency also needs urgent action to decouple urban development from environmental degradation. This should involve fostering more symbiotic relations with the environment, promoting renewable energies, and renaturing urbanization through less extractive relationships between urban and rural territories. Addressing inequalities and sustainability requires taking action at different scales and applying policies and planning that address the spatial dimensions of economic, social and environmental injustices, as well as promoting cooperation and solidarity between territories and their LRGs.

3. A new subnational governance culture is crucial in the face of growing inequalities.

It is necessary to promote broad local partner ships, encourage greater participation, and adequately empower LRGs, thus making multilevel governance truly effective.

LRGs need adequate powers and capacities to be able to play an active role in building pathways to equality and reducing the impact of urbanization on the environment. This requires multilevel and collaborative governance, based on the principle of subsidiarity. This new governance culture should allow LRGs to not merely act as providers, enablers, and implementers of national policies, but also as guarantors of just, inclusive, democratic and sustainable local development processes that seek to leave no one and no place behind. This implies reinforcing forms of cross-sectoral governance that break away from institutional silos and strengthen participation and democratic mechanisms at different levels. It must therefore involve creating the institutional conditions for effective engagement with different social movements and community initiatives, and promoting alliances based on mutual recognition, respect and support. Strong local initiatives and partnerships are essential if we are to prevent the commodification of public assets and goods, protect the ecosystems that provide the basic foundations for life, and support non-speculative and sustainable forms of development.

4. An adequate fiscal and investment architecture is essential to strengthen and localize finance and propel alternative financing models that recognize and optimize the value of the many and varied existing resources.

LRGs can channel local, national and international investment to finance local sustainable and resilient development, through infrastructure, basic services, and other investments that generate large returns in equality while promoting just ecological transitions. This requires fiscal decentralization and investment mechanisms that boost endogenous territorial development, and decouple development from the extraction of natural resources. It entails acknowledging and better valuing the diversity of local resources, such as land, and natural and social resources. Intergovernmental fiscal transfers and localized financial flows must be used to support more balanced territorial development. It is also key to reframe the relationship between LRGs and the value generated by local stakeholders (which includes organized communities and both the formal and informal private sectors) and to foster greener, circular, and social and collaborative economies. This implies valuing the role of existing networks and their social capital, cultural diversity and social ties. These are key resources for cities and territories, which might need financial support.

5. LRGs can advance pathways to equality by engaging practically with time frames that look beyond electoral cycles: recognizing different and unequal historical legacies and structural constraints, addressing the issue of time poverty, supporting radical incremental practices, and working together to establish bold visions for a sustainable and equitable future.

This means developing mid- and long-term strategies that consider time in its different dimensions: past, present and future. The first involves recognizing the historical trajectories that have shaped and which explain current inequalities and environmental degradation, which include histories of oppression, exclusion and colonialism and which need active processes of reparation. The second dimension consists of recognizing inequalities in the availability and use of time, taking into account inequalities related, amongst others, to social class and gender. For instance, this highlights the double day of women who combine paid work and care work within their homes. The third involves pursuing bold and ambitious imaginaries of a more sustainable and fairer future. This entails acting in strategic ways that consolidate local alliances and are supported by a long-term vision. Structural transformations must be coupled with radical incremental interventions, by LRGs and other groups, that recognize the needs and aspirations of current and future generations. In combination with large-scale urban investment, radical incrementalism can build up momentum over time, until reaching tipping points at which it is possible to generate pathways that lead to, and can deliver, structural change. This engagement with time enables LRGs to imagine ambitious, alternative visions of urban and territorial futures which can open up possibilities for the cocreation of more equitable and sustainable development pathways.


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