PSI was invited for the first time to address the World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments that took place on 26 July 2022, prior to the beginning of the 11th Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF11) in Katowice (Poland), organised by UN Habitat every two years. Facilitated by United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), the World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments convenes the global LRG constituency gathered within the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments (GTF) and is officially recognized by the United Nations General Assembly.
PSI representative Daria Cibrario, Local and Regional Government Services Officer, joined representatives of local authorities including the Mayor of Bogotà Claudia Lopez as well as UN Habitat Officials and other UCLG partners from civil society and academia offering PSI’s review of the state of the implementation of the New Urban Agenda (NUA), adopted in 2016 in Quito, Ecuador, at the Habitat III Conference.
As local authorities stressed the frontline role that LRG services played through the Covid pandemic and continue to play facing the multiple, intersecting crises the world currently faces – climate, Covid-19 and inequalities - Cibrario reminded that a majority of PSI members are local authorities employees, and those who bring cities to life and public services to all of us.
“Hundreds of municipal professions make up the wealth and rich diversity of our local public services” she said, including firefighters, public emergency responders, water, sanitation and waste management staff; as well as those who bring care, health and education to communities; those who look after our children, provide care for older people and people with disability; those who welcome refugees. “PSI members are municipal librarians, gardeners and local police, who keep our cities green and safe, and public and social housing staff providing a shelter to the most vulnerable in our societies. They are the burial service workers, who bury our loved ones with dignity and have sadly had way too much work over these last couple of years” she added.
Local public service workers are those who implement global, national and local policy frameworks on the ground, including the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals with their hard labour. “Yet they often work in very difficult conditions: understaffed, lacking the working tools and the training to deliver quality service to all, the personal protective equipment or access to Covid vaccines, with precarious working conditions, with poor and erratic pay” pointed out the PSI representative. “This especially happens where public services are outsourced or privatised and workers’ wages and conditions become the factor of adjustment to extract shareholder dividends out of life-saving public services that have been commercialised”.
For PSI, decent working conditions in local public service workplaces as defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) are not only a fundamental human right requirement and a transformative commitment of the NUA, but also a pre-requisite to ensure equitable access to quality local public services to everyone, anywhere. “UN Habitat needs to prioritise the ILO Decent Work Agenda among its tools for the implementation of the NUA and to systematically include workers and trade unions in the dialogue and policy choices over global urban policies”.
Daria Cibrario, PSI Local and Regional Government Officer, addresses the World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments in Katowice, Poland on 26 June 2022 #WUF11 #listen2cities
PSI at World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments #WUF11 #listen2cities
Referring to the WUF11 background policy paper that says that the multiple urban crises the world faces require “a radical shift away from unsustainable practices” and a need to “look back to correct the mistakes of the past”, the PSI representative said:
“When we join forces, local government leaders and local public service employers and workers representatives, when we engage in constructive tripartite dialogue in cities, local communities and in local public service workplaces as social partners we are much stronger and fast forward progressive change. We can reclaim a public good approach to local public services, protecting them from sale and commercialisation through in-sourcing and remunicipalisation and by accessing the adequate public resources we need not only to fund public service infrastructure but also staffing those services appropriately”. Public banks, de-privatisation and tax justice offer viable avenues to explore together to make this a reality.