Inclusive Cities

As the world’s population has increased, so has the sizes of its cities. This does not particularly refer to the area cities occupy, but rather the number of people living in cities. Though cities only take up about 2 percent of the land on Earth, they consume over 60 percent of global energy consumption and contribute to 70 percent of the economy (GDP), global waste, and greenhouse gas emissions. City populations are diverse, generally including many cultures, ethnicities, and socioeconomic classes. Unfortunately, inequities are frequently apparent among city populations as some citizens are not allowed the same opportunities as others due to circumstances often beyond their control. Continue reading

Inclusive Cities and the New Urban Agenda

Our discussion of inclusive cities this week left me with a few questions regarding the equity of smart cities. While I agree that smart cities are an essential component of inclusive sustainable development, I am wrestling with how to make this a completely global conversation rather than a Westernized solution to the problem of inclusivity.  Continue reading

Inclusive Cities, Habitat III, and the NUA

Our discussion of inclusive cities today recalled some memories of studying abroad in Seoul. By many standards, Seoul can be considered a smart city; it incorporates numerous apps for transportation, safety mechanisms in CCTV, and the use of innovative technology can be found in nearly every neighborhood in the city. However, aspects of inclusivity in the city were sporadically, almost as if they had been stuffed into a city-plan last minute. Continue reading

Inclusive Cities

Rapid urbanization and population growth will amplify global inequities if development initiatives are not inclusive of the poor and vulnerable. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) developed Strategy 2020, a long-term framework, 2008-2020, committed to inclusive development and livable cities. In Asia, one-third of the population resides in slums (ADB). UN Habitat defines slums as as:

“a group of individuals living under the same roof who lack one or more (in some cities, two or more) of the following conditions: security of tenure, structural quality and durability of dwellings, access to safe water, access to sanitation facilities, or sufficient living area.” (ESCAP, 2008)



South Asian Slum

The conditions that define a slum coincide with human rights violations, such as the human right to water and security. On the other hand, Asia, with the People’s Republic of China and India, lifted 125 million people out of slum conditions. However, rapid urbanization and population growth have contributed to an increase of the worlds slums. Addressing the needs and challenges of the poor requires direct interventions within slums. This requires greater inclusion of the poor in city planning and development initiatives. Amartya Sen asserts that the removal of poverty, poor economic opportunities, and systemic social deprivation is fundamental for development. Sen further determines that income cannot be the sole measurement of capability deprivation, and handicaps, such as age or illness, can further inhibit one’s ability to translate income into capabilities. The capability lens should be used when implementing programs in creating more inclusive and livable cities.


UN-HABITAT. 2010. State of the World’s Cities: Bridging the Urban Divide 2010/11. UK–USA: Earthscan. p. x.

United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). 2008. Statistical Year Book for Asia and the Pacific


CRPD and the New Urban Agenda

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) reflects upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that everyone is entitled to the same rights and freedoms (Preamble B). The CRPD highlights the unequal impacts of poverty on persons with disabilities The CRPD defines disability as “those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others (Article 1, CRPD). Article 28 of the CRPD calls for States to “recognize the right of persons with disabilities to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions, and shall take appropriate steps to safeguard and promote the realization of this right without discrimination on the basis of disability” (CRPD, Article 28, 2009).

The New Urban Agenda plays an integral role in ensuring that these rights are realized. Cities will play an integral role in achieving the goals set forth in this agenda. Therefore, the New Urban Agenda will require an urban paradigm shift and requires cities to:

“Readdress the way we plan, finance, develop, govern and manage cities and human settlements, recognizing sustainable urban and territorial development as essential to the achievement of sustainable development and prosperity for all.” (Article 15, New Urban Agenda)

While rapid urbanization has many challenges, it also provides many paths for inclusion. The New Urban agenda can also help propel the SDGs.  In order to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals of eradicating poverty and zero hunger, the voices and perspectives of the world’s most marginalized people must be included at every stage of development. All segments of society must co-adopt the responsibility to bring transformation changes to all citizens. Therefore, a disability perspective towards development is fundamental to transformation and for the achievement of the SDGs and New Urban Agenda.

Inclusive City

The majority of the world’s population with soon be based in major cities making the structure of cities and their inclusivity increasingly important. It is crucial that the benefits of cities are open and easily accessible all people. It is also key that people with disabilities and marginalized groups are given to opportunity to not only utilize the city but be active economic contributors in order to push cities towards further development. These are just some of the elements of an inclusive city, more examples include ensuring all people have access to public transportation, parks, affordable homes, healthcare, etc.

The Habitat III conference took place in Ecuador and reviewed the topic of housing and sustainable urban development. This conference and the discussions within revolve directly around the theory of inclusive cities. The conference specifically recognized global urban trends and it set a new global standard for urban development. The major outcome of this conference was the creation of the New Urban Agenda. The NUA has specific sections that dictate the freedoms, services, and requirements that cities must provide its citizens in order to be considered a an inclusive developed city. The NUA specifically mentions inclusivity as a key to a developed city and requires that all persons have access to the rights of the city.

Inclusive Cities, Habitat III and New Urban Agenda

Cities have been attractors of populations. In cities there are more opportunities, jobs, transportation, close proximity. In cities you experience different cultures, politics. According to the World Bank report about 70% of the world population will live in cities by 2050. Thus, it is essential to make sure that cities provide opportunities and equal living conditions to all, because every individual has a ‘right to the city’.

The New Urban Agenda is the outcome document that was agreed upon at the Habitat III UN conference on housing and sustainable urban development in Quito, Ecuador. The UN conference was the first time in 20 years that the whole international community, led by national governments, collectively took stock of fast-changing urban trends and the ways in which these patterns are impacting human development. In addition, it was the first UN global summit about the adaptation of the 2030 SDG’s. The significance of the conference was that it set a new global standard for sustainable urban development and lets us rethink how we plan, manage and live in cities. It became an opportunity for the whole international community at all levels to harmonize its understanding of the problems by current trends in urbanization. It is roadmap for building cities that can serve as an engine of prosperity and center for cultural and social well-being for all. It also acts as guide to achieve SDG 11. In the NUA, governments are committed to provide basic services for all citizens and ensure that all citizens have access to equal opportunities and face no discrimination, including the most common excluded group­­­– persons with disabilities. PWD make up 10% of the world population, and yet they one of the most marginalized groups with limited access to rights that they deserve.  Habitat III was an important achievement for PWD – through engagement in GAP, PWD became an official stakeholder group of Habitat III and impacted the language of the final draft of the NUA (were referenced 15 times). This is a big achievement and a great leap forward not just toward SDG11, but also in promoting and encouraging inclusive policies towards all groups that been to this day excluded.

Inclusive Cities and their Role in Development

By 2050, the world population will nearly double what it is right now. That is why inclusive and sustainable cities are so important. Inclusive cities came out of UN Habitat and the idea behind them is that cities need to be more inclusive in their design and infrastructure. This includes more accessible public transportation, and buildings with ramps and elevators that make getting into and around buildings easier for persons with disabilities. In addition to access for persons with physical disabilities, inclusive cities would include speaker systems and screens that announce when public transportation is arriving. That technology is also transferable to other sectors, such as having online systems or digital systems in all public sectors like libraries or hospitals.

Inclusive development and inclusive cities go hand in hand. Part of making the world more inclusive for persons with disabilities is making their environment more accessible. The CRPD requires State Parties to make the lives of persons with disabilities better, and one way would be to increase the accessibility of the environment around them. The CRPD has initiatives that focus on monitoring and evaluating disability-inclusive development. The CRPD is concerned with proper data collecting on persons with disabilities as well as inclusive housing initiatives. Under the CRPD .”..States parties have a general obligation “ to undertake or promote research and development of universally designed goods, services, equipment and facilities, as defined in article 2 of the Convention, which should require the minimum possible adaption and the least cost to meet the specific needs of a person with disabilities.” So the connection between the CRPD and inclusive cities is quite clear. State parties are obligated to make sure that research and money is devoted to advancing the lives of persons with disabilities.

Habitat III and the NUA (the outcome document which came out of the H3 conference) are also devoted to inclusive and smart cities. Through the GAP (General Assembly of Partners), a group of 17 constituency groups, of which one is Persons with Disabilities, Habitat III has a direct impact on persons with disabilities. The NUA is implemented at the state and local level at the discretion of the State parties themselves. Local governments play an important role in implementing the NUA and by working at the local level it is easier to introduce new policies that have direct impact on persons with disabilities. The NUA and inclusive cities all have an impact on persons with disabilities and through the GAP, those policies are being further implemented.


Inclusive cities are key to achieving widespread and long-lasting reductions in poverty over the long terms. Cities have been, and will continue to be, the engines of economic growth, and creating more inclusive cities is key to ensuring wealth creation and productivity gains benefit as many people as possible. The Millennium Development Goals were the first grand challenge of their kind because they united global focus around such things as eliminating extreme poverty. The MDGs in term spawned concepts like the inclusive city as stakeholders around the world sought out ways to achieve the MDGs. One multilateral stakeholder who took up the idea of inclusive cities was the Asian Development Bank in its April 2011 report titled “Inclusive Cities.” This report was but one in a series produced by the Asian Development Bank themed around urban development. The report notes early on that the “Asian miracle” of high growth and economic gain has been driven by cities. It is critical then, if we are serious about poverty reduction, to promote access to cities so greater numbers of people in Asia and around the world can participate in the growth of cities.

This access to the city, and to urban spaces, is felt most acutely by persons with disabilities as shown by Victor Pineda in “Enabling Justice.” Pineda draws attention to the ways the manmade urban environment can impact the mobility and accessibility of persons with disabilities. Pineda also charts the move from various forms of thinking about disability to one that is grounded in thinking about how the physical environment contributes to disability. This thinking mirrors that of the Asian Development Bank in that both are trying to call attention to the ways the physicality of cities and manmade environments can limit access to economic opportunity and social services.

The physicality of spaces can either increase or decrease rates of poverty because of either decreasing or increasing economic access for persons with disabilities and the public at large. In recognition of this fact, the United Nations has held three conferences in 1976, 1996, and 2016 to craft plans for increasing the accessible of economic development in urban areas. These conferences and efforts by the United Nations have contributed to a paradigm shift and recognition of how necessary a “right the city” is for sustainable development and poverty reduction.

Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda: Transforming Cities

The New Urban Agenda (NUA) is a comprehensive agenda for sustainable urban development adopted in Quito, Ecuador during the Habitat III conference. The NUA sets forth a 20-year plan, or “roadmap” for achieving the goal of “making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” that is enshrined in Goal 11 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to most recent statistics, more than half of the worlds population now lives in urban settings, a trend that is predicted to continue. This statistic demonstrates the incredibly important role urban areas play in overall goals of development and sustainability. In order to achieve a sustainably developed world, a transformation of urban areas to be both inclusive and sustainably managed is crucial.


As a large portion of the developing world is undergoing rapid urbanization, the importance of the New Urban Agenda in promoting urban spaces that are inclusively designed for persons with disabilities is landmark. Within the document itself, the New Urban Agenda includes 15 explicit references to the importance of considering the needs and contributions of persons with disabilities in urban settings. The NUA does not only mention the importance of persons with disabilities as a consideration for urban development, but the document also clearly identifies actions that will help ensure that PWDs are not left behind in urban development. One of the opportunities for inclusivity necessary for implementing the NUA is in building the capacity of civil society groups, organizations of persons with disabilities in particular, so that their voice can be heard in urban development decision making process. Another strategy laid out by the New Urban Agenda for increasing inclusivity is in the designing of universally accessible buildings. By incorporating accessibility, inclusivity, and efficiency into city building codes and standards, urban spaces can greatly improve in their ability to serve all members of the city in the expansion of access to public spaces, government buildings, libraries, schools, etc. Finally, an important opportunity for expanding inclusivity in urban settings is through the use of information and communication technology (ICTs). Incorporating inclusive, accessible ICTs into city planning, political participation, community engagement can break preexisting barriers to participation for not only persons with disabilities, but along socioeconomic distinctions as well.


While only time will tell whether or not the worlds cities can become truly sustainable and inclusive by 2036, the New Urban Agenda is a landmark document that greatly informs the efforts of cities striving to become sustainable and inclusive for all.