The New Ur­ban Agenda Ap­proved at Habi­tat III in Ecuador

Trillions - - In This Issue - By Brad Red­der­sen

From Oc­to­ber 17-20, 2016, over 36,000 peo­ple from 167 dif­fer­ent coun­tries de­scended on Quito, Ecuador, to at­tend the Habi­tat III con­fer­ence. Subti­tled “The New Ur­ban Agenda,” the con­fer­ence was or­ga­nized by the United Na­tions Con­fer­ence on Hous­ing and Sus­tain­able Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment.

The goal of the con­fer­ence was to set a new longterm course for sus­tain­able growth for ur­ban ar­eas. These re­gions, which now rep­re­sent around 54.5% of all liv­ing ar­eas,

• pro­duce 70% of the world’s GDP

• con­sume over 60% of all global en­ergy

• gen­er­ate 70% of all green­house gas emis­sions

• are re­spon­si­ble for 70% of all global waste

The driver for the con­fer­ence was made up of two parts. The first was to build on the progress of two past Habi­tat con­fer­ences, start­ing with one 40 years ago, in Van­cou­ver, Canada, when only 37.9% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion was in ur­ban cen­ters, and then a sec­ond Habi­tat event, held in Is­tan­bul in 1996, when 45.1% lived in the same re­gions. The sec­ond was to build on the ear­lier 2030 Agenda for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment, voted on by mem­ber states of the UN in 2015. With such a large per­cent­age of the world’s pop­u­la­tion liv­ing in ur­ban cen­ters – and the con­tri­bu­tion of those cen­ters pos­i­tively to the GDP but also at a cost of con­sum­ing most of the world’s en­ergy and gen­er­at­ing an even higher per­cent­age of the world’s waste prod­ucts – there was no ques­tion from con­fer­ence or­ga­niz­ers and par­tic­i­pants as to how crit­i­cal it is to agree on a plan.

And they did jointly agree and set in place de­tailed next steps for the plan. The event also fea­tured ex­ten­sive side dis­cus­sions on the im­por­tance of pub­lic spa­ces, how to pro­vide more in­clu­sion for women in the new ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments, what it might take to get youth more ac­tively in­volved in the cities and even how to pay for what had al­ready been pro­posed in pre­vi­ous draft agree­ments.

But the land­mark out­come of the event – and the one for which those 167 dif­fer­ent coun­tries in­volved will now be tak­ing de­tailed ac­tions go­ing for­ward – was the pass­ing of that plan.

The New Ur­ban Agenda

The agenda it­self is quite in­volved and dense, but be­cause so many cities and peo­ple around the world will be af­fected by it, it is still im­por­tant for con­cerned cit­i­zens through­out the world to be fa­mil­iar with some of its ma­jor state­ments. The se­lec­tions be­low come sum­ma­rized di­rectly from the full doc­u­ment, avail­able on­line.

The vi­sion is per­haps best pro­vided ex­actly as the or­ga­niz­ers wrote it:

“We share a vi­sion of cities for all, re­fer­ring to the equal use and en­joy­ment of cities and hu­man set­tle­ments, seek­ing to pro­mote in­clu­siv­ity and en­sure that all in­hab­i­tants, of present and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, with­out dis­crim­i­na­tion of any kind, are able to in­habit and pro­duce just, safe, healthy, ac­ces­si­ble, re­silient, and sus­tain­able cities and hu­man set­tle­ments, to fos­ter pros­per­ity and qual­ity of life for all.”

Within those cities, the or­ga­niz­ers em­pha­size the need for such cities to ful­fill their so­cial func­tions and pro­vide for ba­sic hu­man needs, in­clud­ing ac­cess to food, shel­ter, wa­ter, ed­u­ca­tion, waste man­age­ment and se­cu­rity, among oth­ers:

• A style of liv­ing that is par­tic­i­pa­tory and pro­motes civic en­gage­ment.

• The achieve­ment of gen­der equal­ity and em­pow­er­ment.

• The sup­port of long-term sus­tain­able growth. • Pro­tec­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment.

• Man­age­ment for dis­as­ter-risk re­duc­tion, in­clud­ing con­sid­er­a­tions of cli­mate change, which is al­ready very much with us.

As part of mak­ing this a re­al­ity and less just a call to ac­tion, the plan also notes that:

• Erad­i­cat­ing poverty is one of the big­gest im­per­a­tives in any en­vi­ron­ment but espe­cially so in the cities. No one must be left be­hind as growth con­tin­ues, re­gard­less of age, sex, phys­i­cal health, pres­ence of dis­abil­i­ties or back­ground. Re­spect for hu­man rights must un­der­line ev­ery as­pect of plan­ning.

• There must be spe­cific re­in­force­ment of the im­por­tance of pro­vid­ing ad­e­quate hous­ing to all tiers of so­ci­ety.

• Ac­cess to af­ford­able in­fra­struc­tures such as re­new­able en­ergy, safe drink­ing wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion, sus­tain­able mo­bil­ity and health care is crit­i­cal.

• Open spa­ces and con­nec­tions with the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment must be built into all mass plan­ning. Ed­u­ca­tion in­clud­ing both for­mal school­ing as well as ac­cess to his­tor­i­cal sites and mu­se­ums, along with cel­e­bra­tion of in­dige­nous peo­ples and their cul­tures, must be planned for.

• There must be in­clu­sive ac­cess to fi­nan­cial re­sources and in­fra­struc­tures (such as dig­i­tal pay­ment sys­tems) for all.

• Gov­ern­ment and le­gal sys­tems must sup­port keep­ing the in­fra­struc­tures run­ning, safe and fair for all.

Other items of note in the agenda in­clude: • The need for ac­cess to mean­ing­ful work for all.

• Pro­vid­ing the means of col­lab­o­ra­tion among all pop­u­la­tions and gov­ern­men­tal units, both within the ur­ban cen­ters and be­tween those of dif­fer­ent na­tions.

• The im­por­tance of un­der­stand­ing how our ecosys­tems in­ter­twine.

• De­vel­op­ing re­silient and thought­ful means of deal­ing with both nat­u­ral and man-made dis­as­ters.

Other spe­cific points in the agenda in­clude:

• Pro­vi­sions for sup­port­ing the Smart City con­cept, with dig­i­tal and in­for­ma­tion in­fra­struc­tures for all, within ev­ery ur­ban cen­ter.

• Fos­ter­ing sus­tain­able con­sum­ing pat­terns within the com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing how waste man­age­ment is han­dled.

• De­mand­ing the use of re­cy­cled and re­cy­clable ma­te­ri­als in ev­ery as­pect of ur­ban life.

• A move from re­ac­tive to proac­tive plan­ning ev­ery­where, in­clud­ing con­sid­er­a­tion of long-term cli­matic shifts, de­mo­graphic changes, ed­u­ca­tional and job changes as the world evolves and more sup­port of the Paris Cli­mate Change ac­cords.

• Pro­vid­ing ac­cess to what the or­ga­niz­ers re­fer to as “mul­ti­lat­eral funds” – in­clud­ing the Green Cli­mate Fund, the Global En­vi­ron­ment Fa­cil­ity, the Adap­ta­tion Fund and the Cli­mate In­vest­ment Funds – to deal with cli­mate-change is­sues that at this point are ac­cel­er­at­ing at a rapid clip.

• The im­por­tance of mixed-in­come liv­ing and work en­vi­ron­ments to en­cour­age ac­tive liv­ing and work­ing in truly di­verse en­vi­ron­ments.

The agenda con­cluded with nu­mer­ous steps re­lated to the study of best prac­tices in each of these ar­eas, de­vel­op­ing gov­ern­men­tal and Ngo-based means of test­ing out new ur­ban so­lu­tions and ac­tively work­ing to­gether to find ways to col­lab­o­rate among and be­tween each other.

What’s next for the group? Tak­ing it all home and mak­ing it hap­pen in ev­ery one of the del­e­gate com­mu­ni­ties rep­re­sented at the con­fer­ence. It’s an am­bi­tious agenda, but with care­ful thought, ded­i­ca­tion and at­ten­tion to the core prin­ci­ples em­braced by the group, it could make a ma­jor dif­fer­ence for the fu­ture for all of us, but only if we do our part and elect in­tel­li­gent, ca­pa­ble and hon­est pub­lic ser­vants.

The dire state of many cities is not due to a lack of fi­nan­cial re­sources or ef­fec­tive pol­icy but cor­rup­tion. Vot­ers con­sis­tently choose peo­ple who are un­qual­i­fied and should never be in pub­lic of­fice.

Amer­i­can cities like Chicago and Detroit are prime ex­am­ples of how voter choices can re­sult in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity by city staff, theft of tax dol­lars, higher taxes, rot­ting in­fra­struc­ture and high crime rates.

Un­til vot­ers wake up and start think­ing for them­selves and mak­ing bet­ter choices, the Utopian ideals of the Habi­tat con­fer­ences will re­main out of reach.

Im­age: Sergey Nivens /

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