Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda

Habitat III is the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development. The conference focused on adopting the New Urban Agenda, which focuses on how the international community plans, manages, and lives in cities. The New Urban Agenda is a guide to building inclusive and sustainable cities. According to the United Nations, more than half of the world’s population is living in urban areas and by 2030, almost 60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. The New Urban Agenda highlights the importance of the relationship between urbanization and development. A growth in population density can correlate to escalating adaption needs and substantial development deficits created by a shortage of human and financial resources. Instead of allowing urbanization to further exacerbate dilemmas, it is important to understand that urbanization presents an opportunity to incorporate inclusive and sustainable development practices in cities via policy, planning, and design. Given that the world’s concentration in urban areas is growing, it is critical that as cities grow, the practice of inclusive and sustainable development grows with it. This idea is culminated in both the New Urban Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal #11. Both international frameworks highlight the importance of inclusive cities.

This emphasis on inclusive cities is especially important for persons with disabilities. In “Enabling Justice: Spatializing Disability in the Built Environment”, Pineda asserts that dominant models of disability fail to address the disabling role of the environment. Pineda mentions that persons with disabilities are often viewed without consideration of the environment. He asserts that it is crucial to view a person as being disabled with respect to the environment. Pineda argues “people with disabilities have for too long been an invisible constituency for architects and planning practitioners who build the public and private spaces we inhabit.”

Inclusive cities aim to combat the unfreedoms that persons with disabilities face in an urban environment. The idea of inclusive cities is that they are available to everyone, including people of different economic backgrounds and persons with disabilities. The New Urban Agenda shares this commitment to the freedoms of persons with disabilities; this is evident in its’ fifteen references to persons with disabilities within the New Urban Agenda.

The New Urban Agenda and SDG 11 also share a commitment toward “smart cities.” Smart cities attract a young professional demographic and drive innovation. Jordan raises a critical point in addressing the goal toward achieving smart cities. While the NUA and SDG 11 share a commitment to both, smart cities and inclusive cities do not always coincide with one another. Achieving a balance between smart and inclusive cities will prove to be rather challenging.