What's missing: First reactions on the New Urban Agenda ‘zero draft’

What’s been left out of the Habitat III draft strategy?


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]

“One quick comment that all delegates and participants have neglected is about ‘substance abuse and drugs-related crimes’ that has been trending in the past decades, not only in major cities but also to small and rural towns. Crimes, violence, death, terror, etc. have been part of daily urban life and have become a social disease.

More responses to the New Urban Agenda ‘zero draft’

Municipal finance


Local government

National urban policies


What’s missing

“Interestingly, Points 39 and 40 (on safety) state, ‘Cities must be safe for everyone, particularly women and girls’. We know that sexual assaults and violence against women and girls in most cases are triggered by … attackers under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If the New Agenda does not address this, I think we all owe a big apology to those victims of violence.

“Ironically, in Point 121, public health is narrowly defined as a sanitation-related health issue. But many other urban public-health diseases are generated by many factors resulted by past [unsustainable] urbanization, such as the impact of pollution … as well as unhealthy lifestyles, fast food, drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, etc.

“Perhaps we can address this by adding one line or sub-sentence in the articles to show that we, the urbanists, are aware of the issues — or even better, by adding a full paragraph addressing this issue.

— Kemal Taruc, Secretary to the Member of the President’s Advisory Council, Government of Indonesia

[See: Habitat III can revolutionize urban thinking on health and well-being]

“We noticed that there is no mention of the term ‘green infrastructure’ in the Zero Draft. Green infrastructure is the network of natural and semi-natural landscapes/features and green spaces in urban, rural, terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine areas. The forms of green infrastructure include public space, greenways, street verges, open-space pockets in residential areas, sports and recreational facilities, private and semi-private gardens, green roofs and walls, squares and plazas, agricultural and other productive land.

“There are studies that show that green infrastructure promotes healthy living, increases physical activity, combats obesity and respiratory illness. In terms of mental health, green infrastructure can support a calming environment to reduce stress that can otherwise lead to depression and trigger other psychotic behavior.”

Lana Winayanti, Senior Advisor at the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, Government of Indonesia

“While calling for paradigm shift, the Zero Draft falls short in effectively doing so by failing to integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development: environmental, economic and social. Environmental integration is especially poorly articulated; the Zero Draft should clearly state that the economy is a subset of society, which is a subset of the environment. Without articulation of ‘planetary boundaries’ (as a reference to biocapacity and environmental thresholds) as caps within which an economy must function, the New Urban Agenda will fail to achieve sustainability.

“‘Inequality’ appears only ONCE. “Leave No One Behind” [the SDGs tagline] implies appropriate allocation of responsibilities in proportion to magnitude of impact both between countries and within urban communities and income groups. Structural violence that extracts wealth from the planet and people, concentrating it in the hands of the few, should be stopped. As a first step, we call for addressing ‘inequality among and within communities and between different human settlements’ in this document. (Supported by both the Pretoria and Mexico declarations).

[See: Equity can help cities win the sustainability race]

While there is an attempt to capture the essence of integrated territorial development, the Zero Draft specifically does not mention this term. In the April intergovernmental meetings, there were clear demands by many member states to introduce this notion throughout this document. We call for specifically mentioning integrated territorial development as a key, indispensable principle of the New Urban Agenda.”

— Hirotaka Koike, U. N. Major Group for Children and Youth    

“The issues of land and housing still need appropriate treatment of the problem of evictions and land disputes, which is not even mentioned. The document must have appropriate treatment regarding the impact of major urban development projects. Another issue is to establish equal treatment on land titles and property related to security of tenure. The draft states that it is possible to have various forms of title to housing and not to land titles (in this case, basically emphasizing property rights).

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

“With regard to public spaces and their political dimension, it was well treated in the Barcelona Declaration but is not present in the Zero Draft. It mentions cultural expressions but does not recognize public spaces as places of expression and political demonstrations.”

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

“We welcome the Zero Draft that incorporates the road to equality between women and men in the preamble to the declaration, stating that, ‘[The cities] are places in which we, the people, aim to achieve gender equality, empower women and girls…’

“We wish that this sentence were to say: ‘we, the people, have an obligation to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls and we pledge that it will.’ We note that the declaration itself incorporates the road to equality between women and men in areas that we have proposed, but it is still insufficient and insists on including women as part of ‘vulnerable groups’, which frequently generates assistance policies rather than ones that consider women subject to rights.

[See: Can the New Urban Agenda fundamentally transform gender relations?]

“We want the Quito Declaration to improve cross-incorporation on equality between women and men in the context of human rights. This requires explicit statements and understandable policies, programmes, mechanisms and instruments to facilitate implementation statements. One example in this declaration refers to violence against women and girls, explicitly, comprehensive multisectoral measures to prevent and respond to it.

“The norms stating the powers and responsibilities of any order of government should be accurate — they cannot be vague. If the norms do not say that governments should make comprehensive and participatory budgeting procedures to ensure equality between women and men and frameworks, methodologies and production of manuals for that effort, governments will not.

If it does not say that constructing and monitoring indicators to assess and monitor government work will require not only technological development but also social participation and citizens specific mechanisms (observatories, citizen comptrollers, etc.), supported and institutionalized, governments will not. If it is not said that indicators should measure service coverage to gauge progress toward universality, governments will continue reporting systems evaluation indicators of limited performance.

[See: Habitat III is a critical opportunity for grass-roots women]

If it does not include the processes of training and skills development on gender, international conventions and declarations, including Quito, governments will not include them in their educational content.”

— Magdalena Garcia, Mujeres Iberoamericanas en Red por la Igualdad Presupuestal entre Mujeres y Hombres (MIRA)

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