Building the path for inclusive and egalitarian cities
International governmental organizations, like the United Nations (UN), are a fertile land for the development and advancement of individual and collective rights. They can help push for higher standards in sensitive fields such as human rights, development and minorities’ protection. In this spirit, global agreements for sustainable development have historically influenced the lives of individuals and the demographic shape of cities and communities worldwide.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which came to an end in 2015, for instance, is known for having paid enormous contribution to the significant decrease in the mortality rate of children under-five years old. Likewise, the now former UN agenda for urban development, The Habitat Agenda: Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements, agreed in 1996, is seen as instrumental in the advancement of the constitutional right to adequate housing in over 100 countries since its adoption.
One year ago states adopted the new framework for development, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with ambitious plans for the next 15 years. In October this year, gathered at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), states adopted a New Urban Agenda. Together, these two documents provide substantial inspiration (and political commitments) for a comprehensive and transversal implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in cities and human settlements.
The New Urban Agenda brings an advanced vision for inclusive and egalitarian cities. Based on the greatest challenge and goal of ending poverty as the central tool to achieve sustainable development, the document emphasizes the need for age- and gender-responsive approaches and solutions throughout its measures. Furthermore, the Agenda is particularly effective in addressing the special vulnerabilities of groups like women and girls, children and youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, migrants, and others groups.
The urban population is expected to double by 2050. Thus, concentrating an exorbitant share of the world’s finance and specialized human resources, cities carry a great potential to boost development. Although the implementation plan for the urban agenda looks great on paper, we will need real commitments, actions and substantial investment to bring every individual and groups sharing the cities to the level of dignity, equality, safety, and liberty envisioned by the New Urban Agenda.
Cities and Women
A Women’s Assembly took place during Habitat III, to broadly discuss how women and women’s constituencies can ensure gender-responsive implementation of the New Urban Agenda and how they can promote a sustainable and women inclusive development of cites. According to UN Women, women are constantly subjected to discrimination and violence in public and private spaces, in the rural areas, and in small or big cities, reducing their freedom of movement and reducing their ability to participate in school, work and public life.
In the cities, in order to live their lives in full potential, women need to be safe and need to be empowered. Amongst others, this includes access to a gender-responsive public safety system and to means of public transportation that provide an environment free from sexual harassment and offers safe routes.
Besides, it also requires access to decent work opportunities, to education, training, childcare facilities, and to health and reproductive care. More comprehensively, The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is always a good parameter to be incorporated in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and any other development plan.