City-Scale Resilience Plans: Implementation of WUF 9

The World Urban Forum, established in 2001, is a conference that covers a multitude of urban issues including rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change, and policies. In 2018, the ninth session of the WUF took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and brought together stakeholders from all around the world to convene on the building, planning, and management of cities. WUF 9 was the first session to focus on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda; the NUA commitments included sustainable urban development for social inclusion and ending poverty  sustainable and inclusive urban prosperity and opportunities for all; and environmentally sustainable and resilient urban development. 

In April of this year, the UN-Habitat published a guide on addressing human settlements in National Adaptation plans, and was presented at the NAP Expo 2019. By including urban settlement issues into the NAPs, UN-Habitat believes it will help countries address urban areas specifically in the context of combating climate change. One specific SDG target that is relevant to this is SDG Target 1.5 that states: “by 2030 build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations, and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters.” As such a complex problem to tackle, making a city resilient to climate change calls for including pre-existing factors, like location, ecology, resources, political history, infrastructure, and culture. Along with all of that, it is so crucial to be inclusive of vulnerable groups in sustainable urban planning. 

With the rapid urbanization taking place all around the world, cities hold immense significance for building and bolstering urban resilience to climate change. Many cities around the world have taken steps to implement resilience plans. For example, Washington D.C. just released its first Resilient Strategy, in April of this year. The plan focuses on two areas, along the Anacostia River and Kenilworth Park. Both of these areas are more vulnerable and at-risk to climate effects, as they are low-lying and flood prone. This strategy also contains broader goals including closing the educational achievement gap, building more housing and more. The D.C. Resilience Plan is a city-scale attempt at pushing us closer to the NUA commitments and SDGs. We can look to cities as a hope for sustainable planning in the future. 

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg1

Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF 9)

UN-Habitat Presents Guide on Addressing Human Settlements in NAPs

Conversations at WUF

The World Urban Forum was established in 2001 by the United Nations to create a dialogue of the ever-changing issues associated with urban life and development. The conference, which is organized by UN-Habitat is held every other year in a select city. The main goals of the World Urban Forum are as follows:

  • Raise awareness of sustainable urbanization among stakeholders and constituencies, including the general public;
  • Improve the collective knowledge of sustainable urban development through inclusive open debates, sharing of lessons learned and the exchange of best practices and good policies; and
  • Increase coordination and cooperation between different stakeholders and constituencies for the advancement and implementation of sustainable urbanization.

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Monitoring Inclusive Sustainable Cities Through the WUF

Our class had the opportunity to further delve into inclusive, sustainable cities as we learned about the World Urban Forum, or WUF. The WUF is convened by UN Habitat and is a world conference on cities in a non-legislative forum. The last one, WUF9, was held in Kuala Lumpur in February 2018. WUF10 will be held in Abu Dhabi in 2020. This forum is crucial because it meets more frequently — every two years — versus Habitat where UNGA and all the participants involved with that meet every twenty years. Habitat III helped set the stage for the New Urban Agenda (NUA), where it has a series of long-term visions, commitments, and implementations countries will use to further develop of smart cities and ensure everyone has a right to the city. WUF acts as a checkpoint to see the progress of whatever happens at Habitat, and in this case, it is the NUA from Habitat III. Continue reading

Development Theory and Actors: An Understanding of Development

The readings from this previous week delved into the first chapters of Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen and International Development Studies by Sumner and Tribe. Amartya gives an initial overview as to what freedom means in development and how current indicators value policies and individual well being. He discussed how evaluative purposes should be based on substantive freedoms that consider functionings and capabilities. Functionings are certain things a person may value doing or being, such as being free of disease. Capabilities are the combinations of those functionings feasible for a person to achieve, and that capability represents the freedom to achieve. Freedom has two parts: the processes that allow for it and the opportunities people have. You can define a more developed society based on how much access to these freedoms (health care, education, employment, etc.) a person has. The World Economic Forum published an article back in 2016 where the New Economics Foundation attempted Continue reading

Breaking Down the Sustainable Development Goals and HLPF

As we have learned in class, the Sustainable Development Goals has seventeen goals — set with targets and indicators — addressing global challenges with inclusive and sustainable solutions for all. To assess the progress of these goals, the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development meets annually and also allows major groups and stakeholders to speak and recommend certain actions during the forum. While Sen’s readings for this past week were prior to the implementation of the SDGs, he highlights certain areas that are intrinsic to freedom and development that are also featured within some of the major goals. He touches upon challenges in development, such as eliminating endemic deprivation and preventing severe destitution, which coincides with SDGs 1 and 2 on eliminating poverty and hunger. He also emphasizes the agency role of women that impacts infant survival, reduces fertility rates, and empowers women through education and employment. The UN has a similar page that also highlights the benefits of economic empowerment for women, including increased organizational effectiveness and growth in businesses as well as overall productivity.

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Making Cities Inclusive

This week’s readings focused on inclusive smart cities, Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda. The New Urban Agenda, or NUA, was a document adopted at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, or Habitat III (Habitat III). Habitat III took place in Quito, Ecuador in October 2016. Some of the main highlights in the document include readdressing the way cities and human settlements are planned, designed, and financed. It highlights a saying called “right to the city”, meaning that all inhabitants have a right to the public goods, facilities, and resources where they live. There should be equal means of access and opportunity. The document then lists several different paragraphs affirming their commitments and implementations, such as supporting local governments to determine their management structures in line with national policies. The US can take NUA and integrate its goals with US cities. An article by Matthew Cohen and Geoffrey Habron suggested that NUA can be incorporated into existing frameworks like the Sustainability Tools for Assessing and Rating Communities (STAR) to help improve areas such as equity. I think looking into how NUA has been applied to other cities in the US would be beneficial to understand our progress on inclusion in the last three years. Continue reading

Sustainable, inclusive cities: a grand challenge

When I was considering how to begin my capstone proposal, I didn’t know where to start. Envisioning a process for writing a framework that countries can follow to develop sustainable, accessible and inclusive cities seemed like a great idea when I began this class, but now, as the prospect of actually creating this thing is daunting. I decided to make a “mind map” (something that my professors had us do when I was abroad) to clear my mind and put some ideas on paper. What I ended up with was a spider-like diagram that was barely legible, containing only some of the parts that an inclusive sustainable city needs. My page was full, but I could still see things that were missing: what about the governance feedback loops? Should I spaces for community gardens? Will there be room for new businesses and entrepreneurs to make a living in the city? It struck me then that, although I had considered that urban planning for inclusivity and sustainability was a challenge, I had not considered how much of a grand challenge this would be.

When we’re talking about sustainable urban planning, the normal aspects of “green” living come to mind: parks, street trees, rooftop gardens, etc. When discussing inclusive planning, other details of the urban landscape pop up: ample ramps, elevators in all buildings and public transit stops, cross walks that vibrate and tell you when to cross the street. The problem is that these two things are seldom thought of in tandem. Sustainability and inclusivity are often placed in two separate camps and addressed by separate groups of people.

If we conceptualize the main problem as population growth and climate change, which are also interconnected, grand challenges, it is easier to see how both inclusivity and sustainability need to be integrated. As population growth continues, more and more people will live in cities; cities that need to be denser and well-built. Building well means accounting for everyone’s needs and ensuring that all urban dwellers have the ability to choose what kind of life they want to lead. In the context of climate change, cities need to be resilient and built to withstand more frequent and intense weather events, and an integral part of this resiliency is making sure that people have access to necessities like healthcare, healthy food, transportation, and education.

Designing cities to be both sustainable and inclusive means reorganizing and rebuilding them better, not bigger. Persons with disabilities have been left out of the sustainability conversation for too long, and we cannot continue along this path if we hope to address this grand challenge. Everyone has a part to play, everyone has a voice. This is a challenge we must address together.

https://wuf.unhabitat.org/

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg11