New Urban Agenda, SDG 11, and Smart Inclusive Cities

Emily draws attention to an interesting dichotomy in both our class discussion and the overall discussion over SDG 11: the difference in smart cities and inclusive cities. As we discussed in class, smart cities attract young people and intellectual adults into a space that provides resources for innovation and enables them to develop ideas and exist in a sustainable environment. Inclusive cities, as discussed in the Asian Development Bank’s article, have the resources which allow all members of society to participate – not only those who are intellectual. While smart cities and inclusive cities need not be mutually exclusive terms, one focuses more on innovation and progress, and the other focuses more on equal ability to participate.

Both the New Urban Agenda and SDG 11 include language that advocates smart and inclusive cities. Equal access to safe, affordable housing, transportation, and public spaces as well as cultural expression an economic growth are all topics prioritized by each of these documents. What is more, both of these documents emphasize the role of incorporating major groups and other stakeholders who have previously been left out of the development discourse. Specifically, persons with disabilities (PWD) are directly mentioned. SDG 11 target 11.2 advocates for equal access to transportation for PWD, and 11.7 addresses equal access to green and public spaces. The New Urban Agenda recognizes PWD twelve times throughout the entire document. Both of these documents together set up an international framework for developing sustainable, smart, and inclusive cities.

In Victor Pineda’s article Enabling Justice: Spatializing Disability in the Built Environment, he argues that people should reframe how they define disability when approaching development. According to Pineda, the legal definition of disability fails to consider the physical space in which people carry out our lives (113). By omitting the “philosophical preeminence of space” (113), the definition of disability does not accurately capture what it means for a person to be disabled. Having a disability alters and in many cases prevents PWD from accessing certain resources in their environment which others may find commonplace. Staircases and crosswalks are commonplace in an urban environment, yet these resources which are designed to enable people to share space, are not accessible for PWD. The international framework set up by SDG 11 and the NUA are set up to address the obstacles facing large portions of the population who are prevented from participating in urban life.