Magazine article UN Chronicle

Tangible, Manageable and Measurable: The New Urban Agenda's Road Map for Planning Urban Spatial Development

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Tangible, Manageable and Measurable: The New Urban Agenda's Road Map for Planning Urban Spatial Development

Article excerpt

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which contains 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Agenda set the pace for many aspects of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), to be held in Quito, Ecuador, from 17 to 20 October 2016. While the complete set of SDGs is important for Habitat III, Goal 11, "Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable", with seven associated targets, is especially critical because it embraces several components that make cities and regions sustainable, including housing, transport, planning, cultural and environmental heritage, disaster risk reduction, environmental impact and public space.

The recently drafted New Urban Agenda, which Governments will adopt in Quito, reaffirms Member States' support of all the components of Goal 11. Both parts of the outcome document--the "Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All" and the "Quito Implementation Plan for the New Urban Agenda"--clearly enunciate three priorities that will frame the successful execution of Goal 11 and the urban aspects of the other SDGs, and lead to the achievement of sustainable urbanization in the coming decades. These priorities are: having a supportive governance structure; inventing and maintaining twenty-first century planning and managing urban spatial development; and establishing sound financing mechanisms.

While the New Urban Agenda advocates pursuing these priorities with simultaneous and synergistic actions, the recommendations for city planning provide a clear road map for public and private decision-makers to tailor programmes to their particular environments. For overall guidance, they reference the International Guidelines on Urban and Territorial Planning, adopted in April 2015 by the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). The Guidelines provide direction in establishing planning functions at several levels: national (e.g. connecting and balancing the system of towns and cities); metropolitan (e.g. regional economic development, rural-urban linkages, and ecosystem protection); municipal (e.g. design and protection of citywide systems of public space, capital investments in basic infrastructure, overall block layout, and connectivity); and neighbourhoods (e.g. site-specific design and local urban commons).

The remaining provisions of the Agenda present several concepts for the structure and form of cities and regions. One calls for "implementing integrated, polycentric and balanced territorial policies and plans." Here, the Member States recognize that metropolitan areas composed of settlements of different scales and functions enable people to choose from a variety of living arrangements; can provide for the economies of scale that contribute to efficient, synergistic activities yet avoid diseconomies related to current congestion and excess densities in many places; and allow for the conservation of valuable agricultural land and ecosystem services, and the elimination of settlements in disaster-prone areas such as flood plains and steep slopes. The inclusion of "integrated" in this directive refers to providing and knitting together complementary internal systems, such as transportation, water and sanitation, housing, open space and community services within urban areas. This would improve the functioning of internal systems and similar external systems, as required by cities, towns and villages to ensure strong rural-urban synergies for the exchange of goods (e.g. food to cities) and services (health care to rural areas).

In accordance with its mandate emanating from a conference on housing and sustainable development, the New Urban Agenda places housing at the centre of its provisions. It makes a strong reference to the right to adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living established in earlier United Nations agreements, notably the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights. …

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