When the New Urban Agenda: Habitat III conference was held in October, 2016, the main focus of the conference was to promote the idea of sustainable cities and start developing ideas on how to implement strategies of urban development. Although this document’s main purpose focuses on the urban landscape, the first draft of the NUA III official document contains fifteen mentions of rural development as a part of the plan for urban development:
Article 43: integration of rural development in the framework of developing cities and human settlements
Article 44: integration through ” transport and mobility, technology and communication networks and infrastructure”
Article 62: working with both urban and rural areas, “strengthening the sustainable management of resources ”
Article 77: ensuring coherence of local governmental policies regarding land development keeping rural areas in mind
Although it may not be evident how including rural development helps meet the targets of Habitat III, it is essential to consider what dynamics exist between the two and how improving one can indeed improve the conditions for the other.
One of the biggest challenges that we are currently facing is the overpopulation of our cities and how to accommodate for increasing numbers. This increase in population is mostly due to the migration of poor populations living in rural areas that look towards the city for better work opportunities. If we are to resolve overpopulation of cities, we need to look to what can be done in the rural landscape to provide sufficient opportunities and benefits to rural populations to keep them from migrating to the cities. This is the main goal of articles 43 and 44, where a stronger integration of rural-urban development through technology, communications, and infrastructure can bring a level of development to the rural setting, providing more economic opportunities in those areas and mitigating rural-urban migration.
Another important aspect is the effect that urban development has on the rural landscape. As cities grow, the need for resources such as land, water, food, electricity, etc… increases and most of the time, the use of those resources impacts rural communities. A lot of the waste generated by cities ends up polluting rural communities, which affects the crop outputs and therefore the livelihoods of the populations living in areas most affected. Article 62 emphasizes a strong partnership between the two in order to advance the goal of sustainable cities that would benefit rural areas as well. The urban sector bring to the table new technologies that can help improve the efficiency of the resources it uses, such as creating the infrastructure for green energy (solar panels, hydroelectric, wind energy) and reduce the amount of pollutants that cities emit, and the rural sector provides the conditions under which these resources work best, and provides insight on the effects that the pollution has. Sustainability is therefore an issue that needs to be addressed with the rural sector in mind if it will work at the highest degree of success.
It is impossible to achieve the goal of “sustainable cities” without considering the effects that it has on rural communities and without taking into account the tightly wound relationships that exist between the two. This is why rural development plays an important part in the development of Habitat III and helps us reach most of the Sustainable Development Goals in the 2030 agenda.