Smart Cities, Habitat III, and the New Urban Agenda

The third and most recent United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, held every 20 years, took place in 2016. The preparatory process took several years leading up to the conference, with three prepcoms to encourage and organize regional and national participation beforehand. Regional Reports were collected to build National Reports and provide a powerful tool to aid in the sustainable development  The forum aimed to reinvigorate the global commitment to sustainable urbanization. Its primary objectives were “to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable urban development, assess accomplishments to date, address poverty, and identify and address new and emerging challenges.” The outcome document of the conference was the New Urban Agenda (NUA) which was endorsed by the UN General Assembly later that year. The document illustrates a shared vision for a sustainable future in which everyone has equal access to the benefits of cities. These cities will be reevaluated in terms of sustainable features and economic, environmental, and social benefits. Since the conference was held a year after the Sustainable Development Goals were established and adopted by all UN member states, it offered a unique opportunity to discuss the important challenges of sustainable city planning, development, and management. One significant aspect of sustainable development is improving waste management and infrastructure.

Landfills around the world are reaching their capacity. With a rapidly growing world population, people are producing more waste that is mismanaged and transported to overcrowded and harmful landfills. The adverse environmental and health impacts caused by poor waste management will continue to worsen as the threat of climate change looms. In order for us to combat the imminent global waste crisis that will place increased pressure on cities, we must develop sustainable solutions such as waste reduction, curbside compost programs, fostering innovation, and advancing technology. NUA commits to sustainable waste management in eight of its 175 commitments by supporting equal access to safe waste disposal, reducing and treating wastewater, food waste reduction, environmentally safe waste management, and more. The international community must continue to push and and follow through on promises to solve the waste management crisis that landfills have caused.