SPECIAL RELEASE: Urban Thinkers Solutions Towards Habitat III

SPECIAL RELEASE: Urban Thinkers Solutions Towards Habitat III



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Implementation is Our Mantra Say Urban Thinkers for Habitat III

When the World Urban Campaign partners started to envision the Habitat III Conference as a new opportunity to elaborate the content of a new urban paradigm for the 21st century, they had in mind a set of principles and drivers of change in order to define the ingredients of the paradigm shift for cities. They also started to put forward a set of urban implementable and tangible urban solutions. This has been the essence of The City We Need process initiated in end 2015 at their first Urban Thinkers Campus.

The main debate in the Urban Thinkers Campuses held in 2015-16 and attended by more than 7,800 people from some 2,100 organizations in more than 25 different cities globally was centered around principles and drivers of change, but also on implementable solutions that are innovative, stimulating, inspiring, ambitious and grounded in the reality of their communities and practice. Implementation has been the mantra for urban thinkers in the process towards Habitat III. It will continue to be so in the post-Conference era and urban solutions will be subject to further scrutiny and commitment to action.

+160 Solutions

Urban Thinkers are not short of solutions, moved by experience and knowledge. They have gathered a first sample of 164 Urban Solutions, meant to illustrate how the drivers of change can be implemented towards The City We Need, either locally or in multiple contexts, globally. This corpus of solutions has been analyzed and the sample list below is meant to inspire all Stakeholders of the Habitat III Conference in order to better envision the implementation of the so-called New Urban Agenda, to be endorsed by Member States at the Habitat III Conference (Quito, 17-21 October 2016). 

While the proposed new agenda presents an ambitious vision for sustainable cities and human settlements in order to address anticipated rapid urban growth, its reality and practicality are not yet easy to conceive and translate into potential tangible actions. For Urban Thinkers, it is imperative to take a step further and gather the most prominent innovative practices that can be considered as critical avenues for sustainable solutions. Such empirical and result-based approach is not new, but should help develop realistic expectations based on practical action.

What are urban solutions?

For the WUC Urban Thinkers, urban solutions are initiatives, practices, policies and models that address urban challenges. They range from projects to strategies that have been implemented or are in the course of being implemented, meant to have a proven impact on people’s lives, are economically feasible, replicable and scalable, influence transformation. Urban Thinkers have organized their solutions around ten drivers of changes of The City We Need: ''Governance and Partnerships'', ''Planning and Design'', ''Finance'', ''Land, Housing and Services'', ''Environment'', ''Health and Safety'', ''Economy and Livelihoods'', ''Education'', ''Technology'' and ''Monitoring and Evaluation''.  A first sample is presented below by the World Urban Campaign Secretariat. All solutions are available online.

Key learnings

A few learnings can be extracted from the sample of Urban Solutions presented by the World Urban Campaign:

  • LOCAL contexts are cradles for innovative urban solutions

Virtually all urban solutions presenting clear innovations are local, initiated by local governments, civil society and grass root organizations, the research and industries. At best, these actors work hands in hands from the start at the city or community level. These are the most powerful incubators of solutions, generating results and lasting processes thanks to the strong buy-in of communities and engagement of all actors at a meaningful scale. Local contexts seem to be the most effective cradles for urban solutions, where a new urban paradigm emerges.

  • Effective solutions INTEGRATE sectors, actors and processes

Although articulated around ten drivers of changes for this exercise, most solutions address several of them, and many encompass all drivers to represent integrated practices. Urban solutions embody the combination of sectors, actors, and processes rather going beyond traditional sectorial approaches, and this seems to be the trend overboard. For instance, integrated planning projects whereby all sectors and stakeholders are engaged and mobilized in holistic approaches represent a large number of urban solutions. Integration is the key to optimising urban processes and flows, affordability and accessibility.

  • EMPOWER and leave no one behind to achieve lasting results

The third most important driver for solutions is based on the principle of Leave No One Behind, whereby all communities should be empowered in the urban space. This is not rhetoric any more, but solutions with proven impacts in the most marginalized communities. These solutions should allow people to make smart choices, undertake action and monitor their own impacts. Behind empowering approaches is the recognition of urban informality and the need to integrate all urban areas and communities in a common vision for cities and human settlements.

What are the trends and promising solution areas?

The following have been identified by the World Urban Campaign:

  • Financing tools and promotion of social capital

How to finance the City We Need ? How communities are going to cope with their lives in a context of reduced resources? Solutions are precisely at the heart of communities and social networks ruled by reciprocity, trust, and cooperation, producing goods and services not mainly for themselves, but for a common good, an essential key to The City We Need.

  • Empowerment in the urban space

Informal workers, slum dwellers, children and youth are prime examples of these groups, which if empowered to better access the city yield great returns to communities and unanticipated scales. Empowering people uses various vehicles from education to art. 

  • Optimization of urban access and flows

Access and flows of vehicles, utilities and data can be greatly optimized for the people to improve the overall quality of life and economic returns at several levels. Such solutions also have tremendous impacts on the use of energy, land and resources, directly addressing environment and climate issues.

  • Sharing and pooling

In the same spirit, sharing and pooling data, bikes, cars, utilities, etc. seems to be the trend in order to cope for decreasing resources and optimize usage of urban infrastructure and space. At the same time, such solutions reinforce social interaction while prompting economic returns.

  • Environmental regenerative urban processes

These solutions help cities to harness their own regenerative capacity in order to address their increasingly damaging ecological footprints. Inefficient operations and wasteful linear system should be turned into resource-efficient and circular systems