An Inclusive & Smart City

The New Urban Agenda (NUA) was created out of the United Nations Conference Habitat III to address the need to focus on the world’s most built environment, namely cities. The focus on cities is pertinent because by the year 2050 two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities, according to the United Nations. Within NUA, the focus on sustainable development and reimagining our cities to be inclusive and equitable for all is apparent but I found it interesting that the topic of creating more “smart” cities is only mentioned once. Smart cities or making a city “smart” involve integrating technologies and sustainability and or resilience measures through technology to advance, protect, and make a city more accessible for all. The 66th paragraph in the New Urban Agenda speaks to the “smart city” approach stating:

Paragraph 66: We commit ourselves to adopt a smart-city approach that makes use of opportunities from digitalization, clean energy, and technologies, as well as innovative transport technologies, thus providing options for inhabitants to make more environmentally friendly choices and boost sustainable economic growth and enabling cities to improve their service delivery.

New Urban Agenda, page 19


Ambitious as well as crucially needed for a future impending the harsh ramifications of anthropogenic climate change but does not fully speak to how smart-cities would be inclusive if implemented in cities. I believe that the integration of inclusive smart cities in the future and pertinent to address in this way as to not leave any person behind in its development. For instance, how can making a city smart involve inclusivity measures for out low-income areas, update urban services and disaster risk management plans, accessibility measures for persons with disabilities and older persons, as well as overall increasing the ability for people to choose as a developmental framework?
Washington D.C. is attempting the rout of making itself a smart city and has yet to fully address the inclusivity measures that a smart city can have and therefore underutilizing the potential of integrated technologies to make the District smart. This is a lost opportunity that moving forward must be addressed and implemented in tandem with inclusivity measures for everyone as the city will be holding out the world’s future generations.

http://habitat3.org/wp-content/uploads/NUA-English.pdf

https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/29053/inclusive-cities.pdf

https://smarter.dc.gov/AboutUs.aspx

Inclusive, Smart Cities and the New Urban Agenda

In 2016, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) occurred in Quito, Ecuador to discuss the future of sustainable urbanization. Around 30,000 people participated in the conference, representing member states, civil society, organizations with accreditation from the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and the General Assembly of Partners (GAP) which includes members from the Major Groups and other Stakeholders (MGoS). There was also an emphasis on having representatives from local and regional governments as these are key actors when considering urbanization. 

The outcome of Habitat III was the New Urban Agenda (NUA). The purpose of NUA is to act as a guide for the next 20 years of sustainable urban development. There are several key concepts that NUA addresses as vital to a successful sustainable urban development framework. First, NUA emphasizes the importance of acknowledging all aspects of sustainable development in order to work effectively. The framework makes references to and is meant to work in conjunction with other frameworks related to sustainable development including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the Paris Climate Agreement. Understanding the intersectionality between all sectors of sustainable development is the key to creating a successful structure to address it. 

Another important element in NUA is the endorsement of the smart-city model. A smart city is an urban area that uses information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as sensors, to create a more efficient, accessible and overall better city. NUA encourages the adoption of the smart-city approach which encourages clean energy use, digitalization, and innovative transportation technologies to improve environmental sustainability, economic growth, and overall quality of life for residents. NUA also puts forward a new vision for cities, referred to as the “right to the city”, which essentially makes equal access to the use and enjoyment of cities a human right. Especially in a smart city, this would mean that both the built environment and the technological environment of the city must be accessible for everyone. The idea of the “right to the city” is an incredibly important step towards creating a more inclusive and accessible world. Future meetings and documents should continue to focus on the idea of the “right to the city” and promote it among local and regional governments around the world. I believe if cities are developed using this mindset, cities in the future will be far more accessible and inclusive for all residents.

http://habitat3.org/wp-content/uploads/NUA-English.pdf

Inclusive "Smart City" Approach

Building the world’s smart sustainable cities together is one of 17 goals (SDG 11) of the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. In 2018, the UN High-level Political Forum (HLPF) met to discuss some goals, SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) being one of them. With rapid urbanization and movement of people from rural to urban cities, the growth of cities is staggering. In today’s society, mass potentiality also bring challenges to maximize Information Technology (IT) and Internet of Things (IoT). I cannot emphasize enough the impact of “big data” and how “data is king”. Through the indicators and targets of SDG 11, we are able to come to solutions that truly enable cities to become smart and sustainable.

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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

The Future of Cities

Cities play an astonishing role in the global community on multiple levels. Not only do the congregate millions of people within such small parameters, but they are cultural, financial, and educational hubs. Living in a city gives an individual access to a plethora of resources they may otherwise not have access to. Though they provide a large assortment of resources they are the massively unsustainable. Though cities only take up about 2% of global land, they account for more than 60% of global energy consumption, 70% of greenhouse gas emissions, and 70% of global waste according to the New Urban Agenda.

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Spatially equal city design

The readings for this week emphasized the point that disability, along with being a socially and culturally constructed label, is affected by spatial relations. One is only considered disabled with respect to an environment, especially the way in which an environment conceptualizes and distributes space. This is an especially important phenomenon to consider when designing, inclusive cities.

https://www.academia.edu/299654/Enabling_Justice_Spatializing_Disability_In_the_Built_Environment

When we talk about creating sustainable cities, persons with disabilities are usually left out of the conversation. We design immaculate, aesthetically pleasing cities that incorporate the newest, fastest technology, all without considering the needs of those with disabilities. Take DC, for example. Comparatively, the new metro system is faster, cleaner, and more dependable than the one before it. The cars are larger in size with more comfortable seating and wider doors. But it is still just as difficult for a person who is using a wheelchair to navigate their way through the throngs of people crowding platforms and refusing to make room for them on the cars. Don’t even get me started on the horrible state of elevators at the metro stations themselves.

The components of a city- transportation, recreation, navigability, cultural life, and the built environment- need to be accessible in order to be sustainable. Until we get this inclusive city thing right, we will just have to keep rebuilding, going back to the drawing board until we stop ignoring the needs of others. This would be simply done by incorporating those we are designing the city for in municipal governments and offices, and by getting feedback from those that have grievances or ideas of how to rework an urban space.

Designing a city to be accessible and inclusive would not only make it more environmentally sustainable, but socially sustainable as well. When we cultivate spaces for those that society has traditionally ignored, we bring them out of the woodwork and into urban cultural life. Cities are places where major life activities are carried out, and they define the circumstances under which people live. Life is a human right, and living life the way you want is a choice that all people are entitled to; everyone has a “right to the city,” so we need to design them that way.

http://habitat3.org/wp-content/uploads/NUA-English.pdf