Nearing a text: March to see release of key documents informing the New Urban Agenda

A series of high-level reports will be made public this month by global stakeholders and experts, constituting major inputs to the first draft of the Habitat III strategy.

By the beginning of May, the first draft of the United Nations’ 20-year urbanization strategy, the New Urban Agenda, will be released. That’s less than two months away.

That time frame makes the next few weeks critical for those hoping to influence the document, the eventual outcome of the U. N. Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development slated for October in Quito, Ecuador. The event is better known as Habitat III.

One such group is the World Urban Campaign, a coalition of public, private, NGO, philanthropic, grass-roots and academic groups administered by UN-Habitat. The campaign is just about to release its vision for an urban future, “The City We Need 2.0.” (Update: The document is available here.) The first version was released in 2014 ahead of the World Urban Forum; in turn, it built on a previous effort known as the “Manifesto for Cities — The Urban Future We Want”, from 2012.

Different from these earlier pronouncements, “The City We Need 2.0” is designed as a formal input to the Habitat process, the global stocktaking about the state of cities that will inform the New Urban Agenda. Much of that discussion has happened over the past nine months at more than two-dozen Urban Thinkers Campuses — local gatherings of experts, activists, scholars and the like who debate, discuss and draft recommendations for the New Urban Agenda.

[See all of Citiscope’s coverage of the Urban Thinkers Campuses]

As a result of those gatherings, the new document declares 10 principles, some re-used from version 1.0. According to the new draft, which Citiscope was able to see and which will be formally released next week, the city we need:

•    Is socially inclusive and engaging

•    Is affordable, accessible and equitable

•    Is economically vibrant and inclusive

•    Is collectively managed and democratically governed

•    Fosters cohesive territorial development

•    Is regenerative and resilient

•    Has shared identities and sense of place

•    Is well planned, walkable and transit-friendly

•    Is safe, healthy and promotes well-being

•    Learns and innovates

“The City We Need 2.0” also outlines 10 “drivers of change” in cities, with specifics on policies and programmes to help achieve the best outcomes within those topics. The proposed ideas include those aimed at government, the grass roots and more.

For example, finance is a driver of change that can be improved through intricate municipal financing strategies such as “land-value capture”, as well as by providing tax incentives to women heads of households. The other drivers of change are governance and partnerships; planning and design; land, housing and services; environment; health and safety; economy and livelihoods; monitoring and evaluation; and education and technology.

In early January, the World Urban Campaign released a call for “urban solutions” that would infuse “The City We Need 2.0” with concrete proposals. Those are currently under peer review and will be made public at the campaign’s upcoming meeting on 15-16 March in Prague.

[See: Got an urban solution? Submit it to the Habitat process]

The Czech capital will also see the unveiling of a promised partnership document from the General Assembly of Partners (GAP). Founded last year as a temporary initiative of the World Urban Campaign, the GAP seeks to harness civil-society energy ahead of Habitat III and to channel it into global implementation of the best ideas about the future of cities. Given that national governments ultimately have the final say on U. N. agendas, the GAP hopes that speaking with a unified voice will generate adequate momentum for their provisions to land in the final text.

Working with more than a dozen constituent groups covering many of the same areas as the World Urban Campaign, the GAP is leaning on its membership to come up with implementable ideas for the “day after” Habitat III. The hope is that the post-Quito landscape will usher in newfound attention to urbanization, ultimately resulting in sophisticated solutions to future urban challenges.

Finally, this month will see the long-awaited results of feverish work by the “policy units”, the 10 thematic expert groups drawn from the worldwide ranks of planners, architects, scholars and activists with intimate knowledge of the key issues at play in the New Urban Agenda. The outlines of their work were released at the beginning of the year; following a period of open comment, these should be made available soon.

[See: Tension points emerging on details of the New Urban Agenda]

It is widely expected that the work of the policy units will form the basis of the New Urban Agenda. Together with the documents prepared and submitted by the World Urban Campaign and General Assembly of Partners, as well as regional reports being put together by member states, these will inform much of the scope and contours of the New Urban Agenda “zero draft”.

Stay up to date on all Habitat III news! Sign up here for Citiscope’s weekly newsletter.

Get Citiscope’s email newsletter on local solutions to global goals.

Back to top

More from Citiscope

Latest Commentary

Comments Policy

Citiscope is a place for the world’s urban leaders — mayors, councils, business, civic, neighborhood and independent observers — to exchange ideas and learn from each other. Comments are most welcome. Participants must first sign in to Disqus. (Not registered? It’s easy: Sign up here or connect with a social media account.) We ask that you use your real first and last names and say what city you’re from. Comments that do not follow Citiscope’s comments policy will be removed.