Smart Cities, Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda

As we discussed in class, smart cities are cities that have the resources to support elements that attract intellectual adults and young people. A smart city will have plenty of components that attract a knowledgeable population, like innovative technology, academic events that provide access to more knowledge, museums and social events. However, I am more interested in the second half of the discussion, inclusive cities. I think that both Habitat III, including the New Urban Agenda (NUA), the Pineda article and the Asian Development Banks Inclusive Cities article speak to the importance of attracting and supporting everyone that urbanizes, not just the knowledgeable population.

All of the readings mentioned above focus on sustainable urban development and what that means for disadvantaged populations. Habitat III, which is working to achieve SDG Goal 11, is advocating for equal access, use and enjoyment of cities for everyone in this generation and future generations (2). The plan is working to readdress the way that cities “plan finance, develop, govern and manage cities” (3). The NUA is trying to change the way that cities are conceptualized so that inclusive sustainable urban development can be achieved. For example, the NUA has a call to action to help fight discrimination of many of the Major Groups, but they also included PWD (4). The agenda is striving to provide safe, accessible cities to all citizens, not just the young professionals and higher socioeconomic status (SES) residents.

One very important consideration when working towards inclusive sustainable development in cities is spatial considerations for PWD. Pineda’s article, Enabling Justice: Spatializing Disability in the Built Environment emphasizes the need for framing disabilities in respect to the environment that surrounds them (111). In order for cities to be truly inclusive, they must have spatial justice for PWD. In other words, “space is only just if it is to the advantage of the least well off stakeholder” (115). It is imperative that sustainable urban development includes PWD and the space they need to thrive, like audible cross walks, kneeling buses and curb cuts (120). PWD can live full, independent lives if their environment (in this case the city) allows it.

The Asian Development Bank article also provides an example of empowering disadvantaged communities. Through their multi-sector approach to slum rehabilitation in India, the Bank worked to provide services to citizens where they currently lived. For example, the Bank funded many projects that provided community initiated services like access to roads, rain drainage systems and low cost sanitation (29-30). Although slums in India and low income urban areas in cities like Washington DC are in some ways different, they are also quite similar. My biggest concern for developing inclusive cities is to preserve and empower the community that already exists in the city. Gentrification is a huge concern for me as we embark on a goal to involve everyone in cities. The India case study provided a powerful message to me that you can empower a community where they are, instead of relocating them to further the goals of a “smart city.” Each citizen counts in an urban area and making plans that involve the voices of the marginalized is an important step to making smart cities and inclusive cities work cohesively.