With rapid urbanization occurring all around the world, the need to create more inclusive and smart cities is more important than ever. An inclusive city includes both sustainable and equitable urban services, such as water supply, housing and transport facilities, and social services, such as education, health and public space. Ultimately, an inclusive city is a space where everyone, regardless of ability, in enabled and empowered to fully participate in the opportunities that cities have to offer (ADB 2011). Moreover, all people should have the rights and opportunities to navigate a city and make choices, regardless of infrastructure available.
The New Urban Agenda plays a significant role in helping realize this goal of inclusive cities. Developed from the Habitat III conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development in Quito, Ecuador in 2016, the New Urban Agenda is a road-map to promote a sustainable and equitable model of urban development that focuses on urban planning and design. This framework will be utilized as a guideline for 20 years until the next Habitat conference. Additionally, we discussed the General Assembly of Partners (GAP) and the Partner Constituent Group. The GAP is a platform for non-governmental partners and includes 16 groups. Similarly, the PCG includes 14 groups, some of which are children and youth, civil society organizations, grassroots organizations and the media. The downside to these group platforms that include other stakeholders working in inclusive urban development is that there are many different competing interests at play. Similarly, these groups must follow governing rules, expectations, and protocols of UN Habitat, which can limit their role in a way.
Yet the language around inclusive cities has become controversial, mainly due to “rights” language. Since inclusive development for persons with disabilities has been recognized by many as a human rights issue, this infers that inclusive cities must exist to follow human rights. Yet, it also suggests that not having inclusive cities is a human rights issue and that has been controversial to many stakeholders and governments.
For my capstone project, I will be conducting a case study on Malaysia where I will look at how Malaysia has responded to the CRPD Article 24. From reading through government documents regarding education, I have noticed that Malaysia strives to create inclusive spaces for all students, but especially for those with physical disabilities. This is mostly evident in their most recent national education policy, Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025. Yet, from reading general news sources and op-eds, it seems that schools in rural and poorer areas lack the resources and accessibility that other schools in larger cities have.
Asian Development Bank: Inclusive Cities (2011)
Smart Cities Council at smartcitiescouncil.com
Malaysia Education Blueprint, 2015-2025 (2015)