Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda

One of the most significant driving forces of recent global development has been Urbanization. More than half the people on earth live in cities and the World Bank projects that this proportion could increase to seventy percent by the year 2050. Urbanization has provided a pathway out of poverty for decades. Cities are often centers of things like trade, government, and public services, all of which are critical to effectively developing a community. As of the beginning of this year, cities accounted for approximately eighty percent of worldwide GDP. To capitalize on this type of economic engine, the international community has included the need to create more inclusive cities in the Sustainable Development Goal 11 which seeks “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” cities. The Goal recognizes that in 2016, approximately one third of people living in cities in the developing world live in what the United Nations call slums. The Habitat III Conference held in Ecuador in October of this year was intended to be a large step towards remedying this issue.

The Habitat III Conference was considered a resounding success by those who hosted it. Their most convincing evidence to this effect is the incredible number and variety of people who attended. Of the thirty thousand people in attendance, there were approximately ten thousand international participants from one hundred and sixty-seven countries. In the span of four days almost the Habitat III organization hosted over one thousand events hosting eight Plenary sessions, six High-level Roundtable sessions, four Assemblies, sixteen Stakeholder’s Roundtables, ten Policy Dialogues, twenty-two Special Sessions, three Urban Talks, an Urban Journalism Academy, and fifty-nine United Nations events. However, the organization cites not the quantity of their functions but the quality of the functions. Press releases from the organization and attendees show excellent progress forward in all three of what Habitat III calls the Transformative Commitments for Sustainable Urban Development. The transformative commitments for sustainable urban development have social, economic, and environmental dimensions which they consider integrated and indivisible. The social dimension focuses on issues like and tenure, the value of public space, and the sustainable leverage of natural and cultural heritage. The economic dimension involves housing policies as well as policies involving access to knowledge, skills, education, and the promotion of investments, innovations and entrepreneurship. The environmental policies address issues like climate change, unsustainable resource consumption, slum upgrading, energy efficiency and the social and ecological function of land.