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Traditional Authorities Roundtable (Part 2) - WUF10 (8-13 February 2020, Abu Dhabi, UAE)
12 Feb 2020 -  Traditional authority is a leadership form in which the authority of an organization, regime or individual is tied to tradition or custom.

Traditional leaders including headmen, chiefs, indunas and kings in many communal areas are fully involved in planning, allocation of land use rights, dispute resolution, provision of public services, and many other aspects related to urban sustainable development through supportive traditional structures such as tribunals or village councils.

While a considerable amount of research has been done on the socio-political role of traditional authorities in rural areas, not much research has been done on their impact in urban settings. However, their role in sustainable urban development is increasingly being recognized as frontiers between rural areas and expanding urban centers become more and more blurred. There is also growing recognition and integration of the positive social and environmental impact of traditional governance systems and structures.

Traditional authorities are legitimate social regulators with a critical role to play in promoting good governance. They also have recognized convening power for community-based dialogue. With urbanization, the shift of administrative responsibilities from the village to municipal level and from customary to statutory institutions require critical consideration of what policy makers deem ‘legitimate’.

The false stereotyping of traditional authorities as anti-modernization and anti-democratic is another challenge that needs to be addressed. Traditional authorities are key community-based actors many of whom are collaborating with local governments to jointly tackle urban issues and enrich efforts towards achieving sustainable urban development.


This Roundtable addresses the role of traditional authorities in achieving sustainable urban development.

Its primary objective is to harness the potential role of traditional authorities by ensuring their active involvement.

In making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Guiding Questions:

What are the challenges faced by traditional authorities in contributing more effectively to sustainable urbanization?
What are the best practices and policies related to inclusion of traditional authorities in decision making processes in cities and urban settings?
What are some examples of successful engagement of traditional authorities by more formal institutions in urban governance and sustainable urban development processes?
How can connections between traditional authorities around the world be improved and their performance leveraged to achieve sustainable and equitable urban governance?
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