The Urban Thinkers Campus organized as one of the preparatory meetings for upcoming HABITAT III conference, hosted representatives of nine constituency groups to discuss the City We Need principles that were agreed upon at the previous meeting in New York. Dana (YAB Europe) and Shamoy (Youth Fund beneficiary) teamed up to lead and facilitate the Children and Youth Constituency Group meetings.
The very intense three days brought up the following issues, trends and analysis in relation to the City We Need and HABITAT III:
- Definition of youth and children – implications at national level
- Definition is based on age (0-18 for children and 15-25 (or beyond) for youth), role in society and needs, all of which need to be taken into account when developing and implementing the New Urban Agenda and Habitat III. The definition of children and youth is linked to age. However, there is also a matter of maturity and the stage you are in life as well as context relativity.
- Children and youth as one group towards HABITAT III
- Current procedures have these two constituencies represented by the Major Group for Children and Youth in the official processes of Habitat III. We must also address age-specific needs and priorities and in accordance with their evolving capacities especially during implementation of the New Urban Agenda. While the main issue for children is education, for youth it’s employment and entrepreneurship. The challenge is how to highlight youth and their direct participation without forgetting children. Some issues are the same, some overlap but the main concern differs and we need to distinguish.
- Language in which the principles are written
- The principles are formulated in a vague and too broad way that we believe young people would have hard time to understand. If they don’t understand the point, we will lose them and that is not acceptable. The principles provide a passive role of urban inhabitants in the City We Need, especially for children and youth.
- Meaningful participation of children and youth in the process
- Current trends tend to treat youth participation as something socially expected, good to show off with, good to tick off a box. It is not enough to create space for youth to share and discuss their ideas together, without being unable to subsequently pass the message on to the UN and governments.
- We need a resilient city (this is not included as a principle). This is critical especially when we look at the inclusion of children and youth in this process. The level of resilience of a city depends largely on the social and economic situation of youth and children, which are key components of city resilience.
And following recommendations…
- Children and Youth as one group towards HABITAT III
We agree to have a constituency group for both, children and youth, to work together as strong allies in order to have stronger and louder voice. However, we have to make sure that interests of both groups are taken care of, in separate points if needed.
- Language of the principles
The language we use is utmost important in order to put the message across not only to the governments and decision makers, but to all young people concerned. The language of the principles thus has to be PROACTIVE, CLEAR and has to outline the RESPONSIBILITIES for us as much as for the authorities. It is not enough to define what we want the city to do for us, but also what we can do to ensure an effective functioning of the city.
- Meaningful participation
Children and youth need to be provided with an enabling environment to be included in national and regional processes leading towards Habitat III and actively engaged as a partner of local and national governments. They have to be treated as equal partners, not as pretty accessories. It is time to acknowledge that young people are capable of bringing meaningful contributions to the table.
Therefore, the City We Need needs to define responsibilities and expectations from the people who live in the city in order to create local and real ownership to urban development. It needs to recognize that urban realities are very different across the world, and for this reason, frame the principles through universally agreed frameworks that protect and bring forward the needs and rights of everyone regardless of age, and in particular those who do not necessarily find themselves socially, politically, physically and economically included. As such, the City We Need should be founded on principles of human rights.
We noted that local governance and participation can be articulated stronger in the principles. For children and youth, technology and innovation are important tools to be utilized for this purpose to ensure inclusive and broad outreach.
Including resilience as a principle for a New Urban Paradigm would address issues related to climate change and conflict as well as economic stability and prosperity.
- Additional principlesThe city we need provides education and economic opportunities for all The city we need has open and accessible public spaces
- The group proposed to include additional principles: