Inclusive Cities, Habitat III and New Urban Agenda

Summary: A major part of inclusive sustainable international development is ensuring that cities are created / adapted in a way that advances the space forward for all. This means making pubic spaces available for every person and working towards equity in cities. Since a large majority of people around the world lives in cities and continues to migrate towards them, the focus on cities is important because they are large contributors to the global world.

Inclusive cities are an important concept to analyze when speaking about any type of development. The World Bank details the lens that inclusive cities must be looked through. The World Bank states, “It is essential to understand that the concept of inclusive cities involves a complex web of multiple spatial, social and economic factors:

  • Spatial inclusion: urban inclusion requires providing affordable necessities such as housing, water and sanitation. Lack of access to essential infrastructure and services is a daily struggle for many disadvantaged households;
  • Social inclusion: an inclusive city needs to guarantee equal rights and participation of all, including the most marginalized. Recently, the lack of opportunities for the urban poor, and greater demand for voice from the socially excluded have exacerbated incidents of social upheaval in cities;
  • Economic inclusion: creating jobs and giving urban residents the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of economic growth is a critical component of overall urban inclusion” [1]

This topic is especially important when it comes to ensuring people with disabilities are included in this conversation and implementation. As discussed in class, having smart cities in an inclusive city really helps with the inclusion of people with disabilities. Smart cities, through the use of technology, can improve public transportation for people with a multitude of disabilities. This can be smart apps that can verbally announce the exact steps that you must take in order to get to the bus. Smart cities also help inclusive cities because it connects the people with the local government or businesses. This means that the local government and businesses can get real feedback from all kinds of people experiencing problem in the city.

The New Urban Agenda came about because the UN saw the need to focus on cities. In fact the UN reports that, “While cities today occupy only 2% of the total land, they contribute 70% to an economy’s GDP, are responsible for over 60% of the global energy consumption, emit 70% of the green house gases, and contribute 70% of the global waste.”[2] Cities need special consideration considering the large impact they have all over the world. The New Urban Agenda seeks to, “Integrate equity to the development agenda. Equity becomes an issue of social justice, ensures access to the public sphere, extends opportunities and increases the commons.” Overall focusing on Inclusive cities was a concept I had not been aware of in development but now I can see how it is so vital to focus on ensuring that cities are a place for all types of people to live.

[1] The World Bank. “Inclusive Cities.” 2018. Retrieved at https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/inclusive-cities#2.

[2] The United Nations. “The New Urban Agenda: Habitat III.” 2018. Retrieved at http://habitat3.org/the-new-urban-agenda/.

SDGs and HLPF

This week in class we discussed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the High Level PoliticalForum (HLPF). In this post I will discuss the implications that the SDGs and HLPF have on international development and peoples with disability. I will also touch on which SDG fits best with my project.

 

The SDG’s are a list of development goals that the UN agreed upon in 2015. It is essentially the revamped version of its predecessor the Millennium Development Goals.

The UN defines the SDGs as “The blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. The Goals interconnect and in order to leave no one behind, it is important that we achieve each Goal and target by 2030.” I think the key aspect of the SDGs is the idea of intersectionality. If there is not development for all, then that’s a problem. For example, the MDGs did not talk about peoples with disability once, whereas the SDGs does include them in the language. Language is crucial for this type of document because without setting clear goals with direct language, too many issues may be left up to interpretation. For example, it was thought that in the MDGs peoples with disability were included throughout all the goals. However not every country made sure to include peoples with disabilities in their legislation or implementation of the MDGs.

The HLPF, as defined by the UN, is “the main United Nations platform on sustainable development and it has a central role in the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the global level.” The HLPF basically is a committee to monitor and assist with the implementation of the SDGs. The UN also mentions that part of the HLPF’s duties are to “enhance evidence-based decision-making at all levels and contribute to strengthening ongoing capacity-building for data collection and analysis in developing countries; and promote system-wide coherence and coordination of sustainable development policies.” This added component of collecting and using data is important as it insures that all the information is backed by scientific data. It is also important to note the HLPF’s requirement of promoting coherence and coordination. Often, the different actors of international development are fragmented. This move to bring information and actors together to ensure the sharing of all possible best-practices.

For my capstone project I will be focusing on SDG number 8; decent work and economic growth. I will be focusing in more on the microfinance aspect of decent work and economic growth. This means ensuring that ALL people have access to loans that will empower them to have decent employment and the chance to work. One of the major criticisms if the SDGs are that they are too broad, however if you work on a small aspect of development while working towards one of these larger goals than that is still effective.

Sources:

The United Nations. “Sustainable Development Goals.” (2018) Retrieved at https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

The United Nations. “Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform; High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.” (2018) Retrieved at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/hlpf

Development Theory and Actors

Development Theory and Actors:

Defining the term “international development” is a difficult thing. A lot of theorists have many different opinions about what constitutes “development.” Most people feel like countries such as the United States, Denmark, the UK, and others are “developed” even though people in those countries still face many challenges. That is why Amartya Sen gives the most comprehensive view of international development in his book Development as a Freedom. Sen begins his book by talking about development as “the process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy”(p.3). This is very different from the other theories of development that mostly focus on economic growth. Focusing on just GDP per capita or the average income in a specific country does not show the entire picture of a countries level of development.

The argument of Sen’s that really caught my attention was when he criticized the “real income approach.” The real income approach characterizes development by comparing individual’s utilities. This means evaluating the outcome if people were to receive the same “commodity bundle.” While in theory giving everyone the same exact commodity bundle sounds like a good idea, it ignores the differences between humans. As Sen puts in, “Differences in age, gender, special talents, disability, proneness to illness, and so on can make two different persons have quite divergent opportunities of quality of life even when they share exactly the same commodity bundle”(p.69). Sen is speaking about the difference between equality and equity and how that plays into development. It’s not enough to simply give everyone the same thing; you must ensure that they have equity in their opportunities. For example perhaps you give everyone the same amount of money to travel, but for a persons with a physical disability it may be more expensive because of the public transportation and time. This is still denying the person with a disability their right to freedoms. While researching my capstone project on microfinance I noticed that this issue could appear quite often. When giving microfinance loans it is always important to keep in mind an individual’s capabilities and needs.

I personally like Sen’s capabilities model of development because it is the most equitable form of international development theory. Instead of inserting ideals on other countries, it emphasizes that each country aims to give all the possible rights to citizens to allow them the equal opportunities to live their lives as they choose. It also does not assume that one country is perfect or does not need improvements. Even though some countries are more developed than others in terms of granting freedoms to people, countries like the United States have people that are deprived of some basic rights.