They’re at it again.

The UN is gearing up once again to convene a major gathering for the purpose of micro-managing our lives — this one is set for next week in South America.

Over 36,000 people from around the world are poised to descend on Quito, Ecuador to attend the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, popularly known as Habitat III.

The gathering high in the Andes (Quito sits a stately 9,350 feet above sea level) is being billed by the UN as a “major global summit” convened to “reinvigorate the global political commitment to sustainable development of towns, cities, and other human settlements.” Habitat III is the third in a series of such conferences that date from 1976. The last such conclave, Habitat II, was held in Istanbul in 1996.

The real purpose of this meeting, however, is far more troubling.

New Urban Agenda

The centerpiece of the Oct. 17-20 conference is the “New Urban Agenda.” Mid-level officials representing the UN and its nearly 200 member states have been working on drafts for the New Urban Agenda over the past couple of years, and the wording of the final document will be hammered out next week in Quito. While the final document will be non-binding, it will, according to the UN, provide “guidance” to policymakers at the national, regional, and local level on a variety of issues, including poverty, quality of life, environmental degradation, climate change, and “equity in the face of globalization.”

Scratch beneath the surface of the New Urban Agenda and you will quickly find, well, a far-Left agenda. The UN assures us, for example, that “there is increasingly widespread agreement that cities today hold the key to quick and immediate action on global climate change.” “Cities,” the UN says, “occupy less than a tenth of the world’s land area yet they suck up three-quarters of all energy use. Metro areas also account for the vast majority of carbon emissions.”

In addition to providing a platform for NGOs, second-tier government officials, and obscure UN functionaries to rail against the supposed threat posed by human-induced climate change, Habitat III will, under the ever-expanding concept of “sustainable development,” address such topics as “national sovereignty and policymaking, international governance around natural resources, private-sector profit motives and consumer trends.” The underlying assumption of all this is that global bodies have a decisive role to play in how resources – natural, financial, and human – are to be allocated. These global bodies include the UN, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), major investment banks, international corporations, and the ubiquitous green NGOs.

To oversee the conference, the UN General Assembly authorized a 10-member Bureau, selected for geographic balance. Members of the Bureau are Chad, Chile, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Indonesia, Senegal, Slovakia, and the United Arab Emirates. France serves as chair the Bureau. Other high-profile UN bodies are expected to play a prominent role at Quito, including the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). They will be joined by a sizeable contingent of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), prominent among them the usual suspects: well-funded environmental groups pushing renewable energy and warning of cataclysmic climate change (formerly known as global warming).

The Global Guiding Hand

One might ask: Why are people representing global organizations sticking their collective noses into matters which have traditionally been dealt with at the local level? The challenges, we are told, are so complex and intertwined that they far outstrip the capacity of local communities – be they cities or villages, in rich countries or poor ones – to handle on their own. What is needed is a guiding hand that only global elites can provide.

All of this is being undertaken in the name of sustainable development, a concept whose supporters have been careful not to define with any clarity. The closest thing to a definition was a few words strung together in 1987 by something called the World Commission on Environment and Development, an obscure body created by the UN General Assembly. It defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

This, of course, says absolutely nothing, which is just the way its proponents want it. It enables transnational bureaucrats in league with green activists, deep-pocketed foundations, and rent-seeking purveyors of every imaginable concoction of “sustainable” snake oil to fill in the blanks to suit their own interests.

The elites who will be hobnobbing in Quito next week are as far removed from the lives of ordinary people – in whose name they purport to act — as the crowd that hangs out in Martha’s Vineyard or Davos. In some cases, it’s the same people.