The New Urban Agenda (NUA) is a comprehensive agenda for sustainable urban development adopted in Quito, Ecuador during the Habitat III conference. The NUA sets forth a 20-year plan, or “roadmap” for achieving the goal of “making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” that is enshrined in Goal 11 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to most recent statistics, more than half of the worlds population now lives in urban settings, a trend that is predicted to continue. This statistic demonstrates the incredibly important role urban areas play in overall goals of development and sustainability. In order to achieve a sustainably developed world, a transformation of urban areas to be both inclusive and sustainably managed is crucial.
As a large portion of the developing world is undergoing rapid urbanization, the importance of the New Urban Agenda in promoting urban spaces that are inclusively designed for persons with disabilities is landmark. Within the document itself, the New Urban Agenda includes 15 explicit references to the importance of considering the needs and contributions of persons with disabilities in urban settings. The NUA does not only mention the importance of persons with disabilities as a consideration for urban development, but the document also clearly identifies actions that will help ensure that PWDs are not left behind in urban development. One of the opportunities for inclusivity necessary for implementing the NUA is in building the capacity of civil society groups, organizations of persons with disabilities in particular, so that their voice can be heard in urban development decision making process. Another strategy laid out by the New Urban Agenda for increasing inclusivity is in the designing of universally accessible buildings. By incorporating accessibility, inclusivity, and efficiency into city building codes and standards, urban spaces can greatly improve in their ability to serve all members of the city in the expansion of access to public spaces, government buildings, libraries, schools, etc. Finally, an important opportunity for expanding inclusivity in urban settings is through the use of information and communication technology (ICTs). Incorporating inclusive, accessible ICTs into city planning, political participation, community engagement can break preexisting barriers to participation for not only persons with disabilities, but along socioeconomic distinctions as well.
While only time will tell whether or not the worlds cities can become truly sustainable and inclusive by 2036, the New Urban Agenda is a landmark document that greatly informs the efforts of cities striving to become sustainable and inclusive for all.