Rights: First reactions on the New Urban Agenda ‘zero draft’

How does the Habitat III draft strategy address the ‘right to the city’ versus ‘cities for all’?


Friday’s release of the first draft of the New Urban Agenda has generated a flood of immediate reactions from close observers of the process who have reached out to Citiscope to offer their feedback. We have collated them in a series under some of the key themes that will come up during the first round of Habitat III negotiations on the document, beginning next week at U. N. Headquarters.

Can’t make it to New York but want to have your say in the conversation? Join the discussion in the Urban Dialogues online forum on the zero draft until 23 May. Want to share your thoughts with Citiscope? Email gscruggs [at] citiscope.org or cbiron [at] citiscope. org.

[See: U. N. issues draft New Urban Agenda, aiming for ‘actionable’ document]

“The zero draft of the New Urban Agenda in its preamble considers cities as places where human rights must be respected in full form for all inhabitants. Cities and human settlements among their qualities are the embodiment of the human spirit by which we determine our rights and responsibilities, both as individuals and collectively.

More responses to the New Urban Agenda ‘zero draft’

Municipal finance


Local government

National urban policies


What’s missing

“Despite claiming that cities are spaces created by man and admitting that is the space for the determination of rights and collective responsibility, [the zero draft] does not establish adequately the right to the city that has been considered in the preparation process of the Habitat III conference as a central issue for the development of fair, democratic, inclusive and sustainable cities.

[See: A needed cornerstone for Habitat III: The Right to the City]

“It is no doubt a good thing that in the zero draft there is a recognition of the right to the city as an existing human right with a collective dimension that compiles and systematizes existing human rights, and which aims to ensure that present and future generations of people have the right to use, occupy and produce fair, inclusive and sustainable cities, and recognizing that the object of protection is the city as a common good.

“But by establishing a general recognition designating ‘cities for all’ and to say that in some countries this conception translates into the ‘right to the city’ may bring greater difficulties for the New Urban Agenda to treat adequately:

  • The design/definition of this right as a field of collective and diffuse rights

  • The city’s components as a common good towards a qualification on which city should be protected and promoted with legal support

  • The definition of common and specific responsibilities of public officials and inhabitants of cities and civil society organizations

  • The extent of that right as regards the types of cities and covering the inhabitants of urban and rural areas.

“Our expectation is for the concept of the right to the city to be developed as a central issue on the agenda. Nothing against housing, which has been recognized as a central issue, but the political and cultural dimensions of the use, occupation and production of cities, and the right to the city, needs to be better highlighted and incorporated in the New Urban Agenda.

“The right to the city is already an existing collective human right and not a new human right (the U. S. position). [We must have] a common foundation and a consistent understanding of what it is and why it is critical to have this right in the New Agenda Urban in the rounds of negotiations that will start in the second half of May in New York.”

— Nelson Saule Junior, Instituto Pólis on behalf of Global Platform for the Right to the City (GPR2C)

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

“We further welcome the link established with the [Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs] and the commitment to the realization of the concept of cities for all and the mention of Right to the City. We would however hope that this would be more far-reaching in the action part of the document.”

— Emilia Saíz, spokesperson, Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments

“On a positive note, the ‘Right to the City’ was mentioned but with a bias of ‘Cities for All’. The concept could be more accurate as the experts had proposed for Toluca [the recent Habitat III regional forum for Latin America and the Caribbean] or as stated in the policy paper of PU 1.”

— Ana Claudia Rossbach, Policy Unit 3 (National Urban Policies)

[See: The challenges of land and inclusion for the New Urban Agenda]

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