Inclusive cities are key to achieving widespread and long-lasting reductions in poverty over the long terms. Cities have been, and will continue to be, the engines of economic growth, and creating more inclusive cities is key to ensuring wealth creation and productivity gains benefit as many people as possible. The Millennium Development Goals were the first grand challenge of their kind because they united global focus around such things as eliminating extreme poverty. The MDGs in term spawned concepts like the inclusive city as stakeholders around the world sought out ways to achieve the MDGs. One multilateral stakeholder who took up the idea of inclusive cities was the Asian Development Bank in its April 2011 report titled “Inclusive Cities.” This report was but one in a series produced by the Asian Development Bank themed around urban development. The report notes early on that the “Asian miracle” of high growth and economic gain has been driven by cities. It is critical then, if we are serious about poverty reduction, to promote access to cities so greater numbers of people in Asia and around the world can participate in the growth of cities.
This access to the city, and to urban spaces, is felt most acutely by persons with disabilities as shown by Victor Pineda in “Enabling Justice.” Pineda draws attention to the ways the manmade urban environment can impact the mobility and accessibility of persons with disabilities. Pineda also charts the move from various forms of thinking about disability to one that is grounded in thinking about how the physical environment contributes to disability. This thinking mirrors that of the Asian Development Bank in that both are trying to call attention to the ways the physicality of cities and manmade environments can limit access to economic opportunity and social services.
The physicality of spaces can either increase or decrease rates of poverty because of either decreasing or increasing economic access for persons with disabilities and the public at large. In recognition of this fact, the United Nations has held three conferences in 1976, 1996, and 2016 to craft plans for increasing the accessible of economic development in urban areas. These conferences and efforts by the United Nations have contributed to a paradigm shift and recognition of how necessary a “right the city” is for sustainable development and poverty reduction.