Habitat III

One of the concepts that we discussed in the first meeting of our class was what being disabled really means. One of the concepts that was raised was that a person is only disabled once they can not do something because of their position. This means that if the world adapts itself to become more adaptive to “disabilities”, citizens across the world aren’t restricted. The idea of smart, inclusive cities is the starting marker that would allow for a wider variety of citizens to be included in society. By avoiding marginalization of any demographic of people, cities can grow and promote safe, interactive, sustainable and rich urban spaces for all residents. While all smart cities should be inclusive cities, not al inclusive cities are necessarily smart cities. Smart cities focus on using analytics and sensors to create efficiency and predict was the society needs, and often factor inclusivity into decisions that are made. However, inclusive cities do not need to be super technologically advanced to avoid discrimination. I believe this is a fact that is not often addressed with clarity, often thinking the two terms are synonymous. However, the main component that is shared between the two concepts revolves around future planning to create cities that will grow and change as the population grows and changes.

To address creating cities that would fit these dimensions, the New Urban Agenda: Habitat III conference was held in October 2016 in Quito. The NUA creates a 20-year roadmap for achieving the goal of making cities and settlements more inclusive, resilient, safe, and sustainable and echoes Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities. One large change between the Habitat III document and other the previous NUAs was the emphasis of pre-planning to prevent slumming from occurring. In previous NUAs, there was a large focus on the importance of “de-slumming”, and fixing the horrible living conditions by vacating residence, tearing down the slums and rebuilding – a timely and expensive initiative. In habitat III, there was a large emphasis placed on creating living spaces that would prevent slumming to begin with, a much more economical and logistically simpler concept. As the world’s population is rapidly urbanizing, with more than half of the world’s population now living in an urban setting, pre-planning is more influential than ever.

Specific preplanning is being focused around PWD. The NUA clarifies specific actions that ensure PWDs are included in the urban development. By designing a universally accessible building, urban spaces can improve their ability to accommodate to all members of the city. However, one thing that I wish was addressed more in the class were the environmental ramifications of smart and inclusive cities. Obviously, having inclusivity is a must, but the question arises as what is necessary for inclusive cities and what is creating more waste. The NUA emphasizes the importance of sustainability in the framework, however, all new development comes with an environmental cost. At the moment, cities consume more resources and produce more waste than any other areas of the world. (Environmental effect of cities: https://www.prb.org/urbanization-an-environmental-force-to-be-reckoned-with/) While it is impossible to deny that urbanization is continuing to occur at a rapid rate, we must think not only what is best for the citizens living in the cities, but the total ramification of urbanization and how to minimize the negative effects on the Earth.

The NUA has created a new, international dialogue. One that emphasizes, not only the importance of planned urbanization but also one that declares the “Right to Cities” and the need for planning for all citizens.