The future of sustainable cities and towns looks bright
This past October, world leaders and key representatives from the 193 member states of the United Nations were invited to meet in Quito, Ecuador for the celebration of Habitat III—the third international summit to take place over the course of four decades since its conception in 1976— directed toward promoting socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities— and specifically, providing adequate shelter for all.
In addition to the official participation of the United Nations member states , the summit welcomed representatives from hundreds of noteworthy independent entities including NGOs, grass-roots organizations, universities, multilateral institutions, public and private foundations, and individual corporations to share and contribute their ideas, best practices, and concerns toward the construction, ratification, and adoption of what is now known as The New Urban Agenda.
The New Urban Agenda is a balanced set of both philosophical goals and practical guidelines, fashioned and completed during the summit with the consensus of all participants, which aims to instruct and inform both current and future generations of world leaders on sensible ways to plan, administrate, and cohabitate in our global cities over the next twenty years.
With 175 main points, agreed upon through consensus, the agenda was ratified by representatives of its nearly two hundred national delegates of the United Nations member states: marking an important landmark in the history of environmental action.
What does the New Urban Agenda dictate?
The New Urban Agenda tasks cities and their leaders with providing basic human services for all citizens including ongoing and ample access to:
- affordable housing
- drinking water
- nutritious food
- proper sanitation
- health care
- family planning
- access to culture and communication technologies
In this key document, the ideal city of the future was defined along the following parameters:
The compact city
A city planned to favor mixed- and public use of lands, valuing the spaces inside the urban perimeter and promoting collective mobility. Urban density prevents the evolution of suburbs and bedroom communities, improving the quality of life for city residents.
The inclusive city
A city in which all its inhabitants, both from current and future generations, without discrimination against either, can freely enjoy all its physical, social, and political spaces, exercising the right, equally, to adequate living spaces as well as public goods and services.
The participatory city
A city in which free participation amongst all inhabitants is actively promoted, generating a sense of non-exclusionary ownership that improves social cohesion and cultural interaction as a basis for living/vibrant, pluralistic, multicultural social relations/societies/associations.
The resilient city
A city capable of resisting and rapidly recuperating from human, social, and environmental risks, thus minimizing the impact and vulnerability of its citizens.
The safe city
A city that has no borders nor roadblocks for its citizens, where public spaces are the key to building peaceful and pluralistic communities, thus preventing the stigmatization or isolation of certain social groups.
The sustainable city
A city that plans its social, economic, and environmental future through innovative solutions that generate prosperity while respecting our natural resources.
The New Urban Agenda will serve as the organization’s guiding document for the next two decades, so expectations are high and much work is to be done in order to design and develop the much needed sustainable cities of the future.