Living the New Urban Agenda

Preparing the dirt for the new verge located banana plantation.

Preparing the dirt for the new verge located banana plantation.

Kind of odd how things role. Did you know that UFS was invited to speak at one of North America's biggest place making forums, the outcome of which was going to the United Nations Habitat III _The New Urban Agenda, which has just been held in Quito, Ecuador. We are talking UFS here, a humble neighbourhood of 11 streets doing extraordinary things to do with sustainable people-focused places to live. Here is a wrap of the 10 key themes from Habitat III by Landscape Australia's Lucinda Hartley. Hard to believe that in some capacity, at some scale the UFS neighbourhood is delivering most of 10 key elements, and that what we do is interesting enough to be recognised globally. For those who don't enjoy a read, it might be time to bail now, for everyone else who is interested in the future of urban living, keep scrolling.

1. The urban paradigm
By 2050 the world urban population is expected to nearly double, making urbanisation one of the 21st century’s most transformative trends. The New Urban Agenda asks us to take advantage of this opportunity as the vehicle through which sustainable development can be realised. It urges not only the adoption of urban strategies and policies, but that all strategies and policies take into account urbanisation.

2. Everyone has a right to the city
The New Urban Agenda acknowledges that current urban development trends will not deliver equitable cities for all. Instead we need to adopt policies and practices that “leave no one behind”. As professionals, the New Urban Agenda encourages practices that work towards just, safe, healthy and resilient. Practices that end poverty in all its forms, end violence against women and girls (particularly in public spaces) and end all forms of discrimination, including people with disabilities. The New Urban Agenda acknowledges that some governments have adopted these practices through a ‘right to the city’ framework – a term originally coined by Henri Lefebvre (Le Droit à la ville) in 1968. There was a strong push from participants at Habitat III, particularly by the Mayor of Barcelona, for other governments to follow this path.

3. Participatory and people-centered cities
The New Urban Agenda calls for people-centered planning, and to ensure that participation is integrated across all areas of practice. The document urges professions to move beyond community engagement, to seek to empower all individuals and communities, particularly women and youth, as partners in creating the city.

4. Supporting local leadership
One of the major paradigm shifts in Habitat III is the call for decentralised decision making. This moves away from the Habitat II (1996) and Habitat I (1976) agreements which focused on delivery by national governments. The Mayor’s Forum held on the first day of Habitat III argued strongly for greater responsibility for cities in the delivery of the New Urban Agenda. This decentralisation is not only for local governments, however. The New Urban Agenda outlines that it is everyone’s responsibility: individuals, communities, civil society to shape better cities. The role of the professional is then to find new and better mechanisms to partner locally – with both councils and communities – to deliver improved spaces and plans.

5. Age and gender-responsive planning
Across all areas of city-making, the New Urban Agenda calls on professionals to seek to achieve gender equality. This includes women’s full and effective participation at all levels of decision making, as well as eliminating all forms of discrimination, violence, and harassment against women and girls in private and public spaces. Some city governments to present at Habitat III, such as Vancouver, have achieved progress in this area by putting a gender intersectional lens across all decision making. Other civil society organisations, such as Slum Dwellers International, specifically train and empower women to deliver urban renewal projects.

6. Use public space to improve participation, safety and inclusion
Public space is a strong theme throughout the New Urban Agenda document, recognising that equitable city-making cannot be achieved without sufficient quality public space. The New Urban Agenda argues for improved public participation in shaping public space, and for improvements to safety of public space, particularly for women and girls. Up to 30% of Australian women feel unsafe in public space. This is an area that urban professionals can help address.

7. Use infrastructure development to improve prosperity for all
The New Urban agenda recognises that urban form, infrastructure, and building design are among the greatest drivers of cost and resource efficiencies. As professionals we have the opportunity to improve economic prosperity through good design. The agenda also calls specifically for the development of compact cities, with well-connected infrastructure and services, preventing sprawl and marginalisation.

8. Environment, disaster and resilience
Under the New Urban Agenda UN member states acknowledged the threat of climate change and committed to preserve and promote the ecological and social function of land in cities. UN member states also committed to facilitating the sustainable management of natural resources in cities and human settlements in a manner that “protects and improves the urban ecosystem and environmental services and reduces greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution”. This provides a clear mandate for professionals to continue to work in ways that achieve environmental sustainability.

9. Smart cities approach
Governments and partners are urged to make the most of digitisation and a smart cities approach as an independent point. Equally governments and partners are urged to work more closely with science and technology sector. A number of side events at Habitat III demonstrated possible strategies in action: from drone mapping to virtual reality for slum redevelopment.

10. Collaborative networks and partnerships for success
Finally, across all themes and clauses, collaboration and partnerships are called for: across all levels of government, all sectors, with professionals, communities, private sector and civil society. Through formal and informal peer-to-peer learning networks. This process of collaboration and information sharing began at Habitat III but will be all the more critical in years to come.

Welcome to UFS Australia's most sustainable suburban neighbourhood!!!!