Youth taking #UrbanAction for the New Urban Agenda

The following video shows how youth got active at Habitat 3! Watch, be inspired and take some #UrbanAction!

#UrbanAction is the new UN-Habitat Youth campaign the was launched at Habitat 3 in Quito. The goal is to inspire and advocate for youth action to achieve the urban Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda.

#UrbanAction is part of the Youth 4 Global Goals Campaign.


Global Survey of Youth-led Peacebuilding Organizations and Initiatives

UNOY Peacebuilders and Search for Common Ground have been working with the  Secretariat for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security to develop a global survey of youth-led peacebuilding organizations and initiatives.

The purpose is to map youth organizations and initiatives building peace and preventing violence, to identify what they are doing, what impact they have made and their needs and goals for the future.

The survey will be one of the key ways of collecting data for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security, forming a direct way for young people to have their work represented in the study. It will also be used to create a publicly available database of consenting youth peacebuilding organizations and initiatives.

Does your organization fit the following?

  • Youth-led: The organization or initiative is primarily made up of, and driven by (including leadership positions) young people. Resolution 2250 defines young people as falling within the age range of 18-29 years old, while taking into account the variations of defining the youth that may exist in different contexts.
  • Working on peace and security: Implementing actions that aim to build peace, prevent violence, transform conflict and actively contribute to establish sustainable peace in their community, nation or region.

If so, please take part in the survey!

The survey is composed of 5 sectons which include areas of work and methods, results and impact, challenges and issues, and recommendations. it will take around around 30 min to complete the survey.

If you have any questions about the survey, please write to



The City Is Ours!

Who owns the city? This question was a subject of passionate debates at the Habitat III conference in Quito. The answer was straightforward: it belongs to its citizens. In this context, the design of public spaces is one of the biggest challenges. This has not always worked well. The Habitat III conference and the New Urban Agenda create opportunities for cities’ authorities and civil societies to learn with and from each other.

An opinion by Jonas Freist-Held from Habitat III, Quito October 2016

In Berlin, you do not have to search long to find best and worst practices how to design public space. On the one hand, the “Gleisdreieckpark” – a newly designed park in the heart of Berlin – with its inclusive and sustainable design sets new standards. Or the “Tempelhofer Feld”, the massive area of the former city airport that has become the city’s biggest recreational space, stands exemplary for effective citizen participation. On the other hand, you can find the “Alexanderplatz”, a grey and busy concrete desert in the heart of Berlin that becomes more terrible with every new building constructed.14859603_10211112837115690_1381135185_o

During the Habitat III conference on sustainable urban development in Quito, the Mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller, rightly stressed the role model his city can be to other cities around the world. Nevertheless, he did good to state that Berlin can – and must – as well learn and benefit from best-practices and experiences of other cities from all around the world.

The City as Public Good

The discussion about public spaces is closely linked to a movement that has become stronger and more influential within the last years: The Right to the City. Who owns the city? Are cities public good? – Questions passionately debated in Quito. For Sergio Roldán Gutiérrez the answer is easy. He is the President of the Urban Planning group of the Colombian city Medellín.

“Before we design a city we have to empower its citizens. A city cannot be shaped without the active participation of its people.” Just a decade ago his city was a stronghold of Colombian drug traffic, a crime haven. With targeted and intelligent policies, today, the town 14881244_10211112836835683_415405407_owith more than four million inhabitants has become a role model for innovative and sustainable urban development. Creative mobility solutions such as cable cars have connected districts suffering from poverty and crime to the city center. After that education centers were built and public spaces created. “If we fail to actively involve citizens, they might not experience the city as they should and ultimately even destroy what we created. The citizens have priority! Then comes the city. That’s our main objective, that’s our mission.”, the urban planner is convinced. The success proves him right.

Fight Against Urban Exclusion

But what if cities are not blessed with such foresighted decision-makers? Worldwide, and especially in Latin America, gated communities are growing. People are segregated by social status; public places are declared as exclusive. Increasingly, poor people are driven out to the cities’ outskirts. Hence, empathy for the lives of others decreases, social and economic inequalities increase. This is a frightening development. Public spaces are meeting places for people from all social classes, from any background and of any age. They are key to sustainable development in a vivid urban environment.14859410_10211112837155691_669084167_o

In Quito, it was the youth repeatedly stressing the importance of public spaces. It was one of their central causes at Habitat III, a conference that was dominated by the positive vibes and creative ideas of young people from all around the world. In discussions, such as during a spontaneous pop-up meeting organized by the Youth Advisory Board of UN-HABITAT, youth from Ecuador, Peru or Chile complained about the lack of channels to engage in their city’s development – an element Roldán Gutiérrez considers crucial in making a city work for its people.

Taking control!

That such channels are still missing in many places around the world does not leave young people silent or inactive. Habitat III has shown how initiatives and projects have been created at grassroots levels. Often, small-scale ideas and movements that incorporate sustainable and innovative solutions have the potential to create bigger change in the long run. And nothing is more sustainable than a strong and growing youth movement.

Examples of creative and innovative urban solutions are as diverse as cities around the world themselves. In Barcelona (Spain), streets are reorganized to create new public spaces and decrease traffic; the Colombian capital Bogotá supports street art and graffiti allowing citizens to design their city, One-Stop Youth Centers in Mogadishu (Somalia) create safe spaces with education services for young people, in Freiburg (Germany) the Vauban, a entirely green and sustainable city district was created from scratch and in Montreal (Canada) the city has introduced special measures to improve the safety of girls and women in public transportation. The list of projects and initiatives could be continued endlessly.

Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda provide a global framework to exchange these best-practice examples and to create new ideas and share them in an international network of cities. The years to come will show if the agenda will be successful. But one thing in Quito has become clear: young people are willing and capable of acting to design inclusive cities. Their creative potential is immense.

This article was first published in German at:

Urbanism in Mexico: Young Ideas for the Cities of Tomorrow

Since 2016 Badi Zárate Khalili has worked for the Metropolitan Institute of Planning in Guadalajara, the second biggest city of Mexico. With only 23 years old, he is the youngest city planner in his team and responsible for the coordination of public participation and communication. In addition, Badi has represented the Latin American youth in the Youth Advisory of Board of UN-Habitat since 2015.

Badi Zarate Khalili; Latin America UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board Representative at Habitat III, in Quito.

*Coordinating public participation and communication

*Urban Planning

It should not be a surprise that young people are getting a more active role in the design of public policies and decision making in the cities, it is just a natural step out of the enormous efforts made by previous generations. I had the pleasure of  volunteering in social action projects since I was 15 years old, which helped me understand the need of involvement of young people in making a difference and a love for service to the community started growing  in me since then and which is still my main motivation up to now. I began developing different projects as an activist for the right of the city and in 2015, I was invited to join the Metropolitan Planning team of Guadalajara.

Urban development in México has been a very firm and straight field dominated by a very exclusive group of people, mostly men. New generations have reached a new understanding of the importance of the cities and the critical time that we are facing. Yes, they have been pushing for a more inclusive agenda by promoting increased public participation in their communities. This has led to México having  innovative varieties of methodologies to bring the voice of the citizens to the urban development plans.

Although the course of youth has given enormous steps, there’s a lot left to do. The administrative system is still dominated by older men, and the inclusion that has currently been undertook, doesn’t reflect young voices and ideas in the final decision making. Young people’s ideas not only need to be listened to, but also taken and implemented with the same weight as other generation’s.

Programs that take into consideration the communities ideas and proposals have demonstrated their effectiveness on implementation. We have developed participatory planned Metropolitan development plans, major public consultations of the Planning policies, workshops on cities and growth for Children, workshops for young professionals about Metropolitan Planning and the building process of public policy, among others.

As mentioned, getting youth involved in city planning in México is an on going battle. But after proving their effectiveness and quality of work, this is slowly changing with young people being involved in the development and planning of cities.For example , majority of the people planning the future of Guadalajara, are under 30 years old.

Although the goals in the New Urban Agenda (NUA) have a long way to implementation, we are very content seeing that most of the work we do is based on the principles of the NUA; so we’ll keep on working in the same path, trying to be even more coherent by the objectives set by HABITAT III and to make our city a resilient, safe and inclusive place for all.

Key words: Inclusion, Governance, Local economy prosperity.

Courtesy of  Jonas-Freist Held.

Cities Of The Future: Why We Need Young People To Help Transform Their Communities

Siamak Sam Loni UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network
Reposted from Huffington Post 10/20/2016 04:05 am ET | Updated Oct 24, 2016

Cities are getting bigger, younger and more complicated than ever before. Some of the greatest development challenges of the 21st century are being created in cities. To solve these problems, we need to empower youth to work together with local authorities in planning, building and maintaining cities that are sustainable, inclusive and resilient.


John F. Kennedy once said “we will neglect our cities to our peril, for in neglecting them we neglect the nation.” With 200,000 people moving from the countryside to cities every day, it is hard to see an end to the massive wave of urbanization that is sweeping across the globe.

Today, nearly 1 billion people around the world live in slums, many of which have been emerging overnight in rapidly urbanizing megacities. If one was to picture an urban disaster, Dhaka would probably provide a partial image of how that would look – a city so densely stuffed with vehicles that “the worst traffic jam in Mumbai or Cairo or Los Angeles is equivalent to a good day for Dhaka’s drivers” (New York Times).

For the first time in human history over half the world’s population lives in cities. This figure is expected to rise with the United Nations projecting that by 2050 more than 70 percent of the people on the planet will live in cities and towns. In 1950, New York and Tokyo were the only two cities in the world that hosted more than 10 million inhabitants. Today there are 29 of these megacities spread across the globe, with 80 percent of them located in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Urban areas, in particular megacities, are increasingly rampant with poverty, a shortage of decent housing and extreme inequality, coupled with unsustainable rates of energy and food consumption. According to a recent report by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, “over the next decades, urbanization will be a defining trend in [many] parts of the world, especially in East Asia, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, where the bulk of extreme poverty is concentrated.”

Massive traffic jam on Beijing’s 50-lane expressway

The majority of cities across the globe are not just getting bigger. They are also getting younger. Millennials, representing half the world’s population, are 40 percent more likely to move to cities. Young peoples’ experiences, choices and preferences already shape the image of cities, especially in the developing world.

For the most part, millennials have little say and limited influence as to how their cities are planned and organized. Much of it may be a result of how millennials are perceived in both media and popular culture. In a recent New York Times articlereading “The World Has a Problem: Too Many Young People,” Somini Segupta argues that “much has been made of the challenges of aging societies. But it’s the youth bulge that stands to put greater pressure on the global economy, sow political unrest, spur mass migration and have profound consequences for everything from marriage to Internet access to the growth of cities.”

We must reverse this narrative and resist buying into the popular illusion that portrays millennials as demanding, ungrateful and disloyal members of society. Instead of viewing young people as part of the problem, we should start to see them as part of the solution. By changing the narrative, we can empower young people to work with local authorities to plan, design and manage cities to make them free of inequality, pollution, homelessness and crime.

To confront today’s urban livability crisis – subtle tweaks and adjustments, such as a few iconic green buildings here and there, won’t make the cut. For metropolises like Dhaka, solutions that radically reimagine the way the city is planned, designed and managed are not an option but a necessity. Cities can no longer afford to address the symptoms, they must focus on finding solutions that root out the causes. Instead of allocating more space for cars to accommodate the traffic, cities like San Francisco are removing parking slots in the downtown to discourage use of cars altogether while creating greater incentives for public transportation and ride-sharing platforms such as Uber and Getaround; a radical solution that will allow the city to clean up the air, re-purpose public space for bike lanes and parks, and encourage healthier lifestyles.

The need for genuine change is clear. Being a source of idealism and optimism, young people have embraced change for generations. That’s why the ideas of Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, which many have thought were so alien to Western political tradition, caught on with an unprecedented number of millennials. Being a source of unconventional thinking and new ideas, young people are best positioned for the task of coming up with solutions that have never been thought of before.

Associated Press

We have a new generation of young people that is tech savvy, generous, entrepreneurial and committed to social justice and community service. Through imagination, creativity, ambition, and energy, this new generation is shattering the old paradigms in three ways.

First, millennials today are leading entrepreneurship charts across the globe, opening more businesses and creating thousands of jobs. A BNP Paribas reportrecently found that “millennial entrepreneurs have launched twice as many businesses as boomers.”

Secondly, young peoples’ remarkable commitment to fairness and social justice, exemplified by volunteering and donating to charitable causes, makes them a valuable partner in tackling challenges faced by their communities, from inequalities that plague urban dwellings around the world to climate change that disproportionately impacts the urban poor. According to the Millennial Impact Report, 84 percent of young people “made a charitable donation in 2014, and 70 percent spent at least an hour volunteering.”

Finally, the skills and mindset of the new generation is giving rise to human-centred technologies and transformative solutions that are making cities smarter, more integrated and global. A recent survey by AIESEC concluded that youth are mostly seeking jobs that are “challenging, global and meaningful.” With millennials projected to make up 75 percent of the global workforce by 2030, these views could drive young people to pursue careers in companies that design products aimed at solving social and environmental challenges.


This week, Ecuador is hosting the 3rd United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, known as Habitat III, bringing together UN officials, mayors, urban experts, civil society and youth, to adopt the New Urban Agenda (NUA) – a global strategy for making cities “just, safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, resilient, and sustainable” over the next 20 years. NUA is more than just a once-in-20-years opportunity to provide half of humanity with a decent place to live. Urban areas already generate over 70 percent of the World’s GDP, consume 60 percent of world’s energy and cause three quarters of carbon emissions, making achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) inconceivable without a transformative plan for cities.

The conference symbolically began with the Children’s and Youth Assembly to pay tribute to the role young people play in realizing the vision of the New Urban Agenda. The official draft document mentions the word “inclusive” 36 times but regardless of how many times the text emphasizes the important intention to build inclusive cities, what matters is whether it will make a real difference for inhabitants of cities.

To create communities that offer hope instead of desperation, cities must promote a sense of belonging and cross-generational collaboration every step of the way, and most importantly, treat young people as equal and capable partners. If local authorities harness the qualities of youth and work closely with them to plan, design and manage cities, we could see more liveable communities and thereby, a more liveable world.


This article was co-authored by Siamak Sam Loni (@siamak_sam) and Anastasiya Kostomarova (@AnastasiaEugene).

Anastasiya is a Research & Policy Officer at the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network – Youth and the Co-Manager of the Local Pathways Fellowship, which empowers young people to champion local pathways for sustainable development.

Risk of “outright violence” increasing against LGBT in cities

The risk of “outright violence” against the LGBT community is growing in cities but hopes are high that a newly-adopted agenda for future urban living will create more “safe spaces”.

That’s the view of Cicely-Belle Blain, a Canadian youth worker, who was one of the delegates to the recent Habitat III conference on the future of cities, which took place in Quito, Ecuador.

The New Urban Agenda, adopted at the conference in Ecuador, does not specifically mention lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender issues, although it calls for greater inclusion of minority groups.

Ms Blain told Matthew Wells why her delegation had lobbied for the inclusion of a so-called “queer declaration”.

Listen to Podcast: Duration: 3’26”

Source: United Nations Radio


— by Cicely-Belle Blain,, NOVEMBER 4, 2016

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about the whirlwind experience of being involved in formulating the Queer Declaration, a document aimed at encouraging the United Nations to include LGBTQ/2S-friendly language in the New Urban Agenda at the United Nations Habitat 3 conference. The document was endorsed by many local supporters and eventually garnered international attention, prompting the official Canadian Delegation to the Habitat 3 conference to support and adopt it, mirroring Canada’s history of progressive LGBTQ/2S* inclusion.

The best part about all of this for me? I got to go to Quito, Ecuador to lobby for the Queer Declaration and advocate for the safety, well-being and happiness of queer and trans youth in cities. The theme of the conference was No One Left Behind, and so I made sure this statement extended to LGBTQ/2S communities. I’m now sitting in Houston airport after the first leg of my twenty-one hour journey home to Vancouver and I’m excited to reflect on my experience.

Quito, 2,500 metres above sea level, took my breath away… literally. With the help of altitude acclimatization medication, I quickly became accustomed to the reduced oxygen levels, which was fortunate because I needed every breath I had to make space for LGBTQ/2S voices in a conference of 50,000 attendees.

image2Caption: the city of Quito

The Habitat 3 conference was preceded by YouthHAB, a youth-led and -oriented mini conference to engage local Ecuadorian youth as well as international guests in the conceptualization of the New Urban Agenda. Along with Ellen Woodsworth (the mastermind behind the Queer Declaration), Joy Masuhara (one of the advocates in the successful battle for same-sex marriage in Canada 10 years ago) and Danilo Manzano (a local Ecuadorian LGBTQ activist), I presented at an event entitled “LGBTI* and Cities: A Youth Declaration for Habitat lll”. We each shared our personal experiences as queer people and reflected on how the work we are doing represents small steps towards safety and inclusion of LGBTQ/2S communities in urban environments.

20161015_131324-1024x576Caption: the presenters at YouthHAB; Danilo Manzano, our translator Andrea and a friend, Joy Masuhara, Cicely-Belle Blain, Ellen Woodsworth and Andrew Robert Martin of SCARP UBC.

Representing Canada on an international stage presented challenges I hadn’t prepared for. It was a complicated experience to present Canada as wholly progressive and inclusive because I wanted to steer away from the narrative of ‘perfect and peaceful’ Canada and recognize the ongoing discrimination, violence and settler colonialism that still occurs within our borders. I wanted to explain the nuances of living as a queer, Black, non-binary person in this country, especially considering the lack of PoC, queer and Indigenous representation within the delegation chosen to represent Canada in Quito. However, it was still important to recognize the privileges that I experience, especially in comparison to countries where homosexuality is still criminalized and punishable by life imprisonment and even death. From this lens, Canada stands out as beacon of safety for LGBTQ/2S folks so juggling this dynamic was complicated.     

image3Caption: Canadian delegation memorabilia and some members of the 163-delegate strong Canadian team.

Ultimately, I was really proud to share the work that QMUNITY does and particularly our Youth Program. I felt excited that I was able to use our organization as an example of community work done well and provide testimonies from clients and community members who have been impacted by the work that we do. It was great to see many people feel inspired by our organization and ask for advice on providing similar resources to youth in their cities. I practically ran out of business cards!

I reminded people that no country is perfect, and still many LGBTQ/2S communities within Canada, especially youth, people of colour and trans folks, are isolated and at risk. However, it was an important responsibility to share with Ecuadorian youth, and later with UN officials and foreign ministers, some of the ways in which cities can strive to be more inclusive and accessible.

The following day was filled with further excitement. I was invited by the United Nations Association of Canada to meet the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Head of the Canadian Delegation and the Minister for Children, Youth and Social Development and Marianick Tremblay, the Canadian Ambassador to Ecuador at the Canadian Embassy. The youth of the Canadian Delegation had an opportunity to share their thoughts on how the Canadian government can better address the needs and opinions of young people.

pasted-image-0-3-1024x559 Caption: the youth delegation after a round table with Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Marianick Tremblay, the Canadian Ambassador in Quito.

I took this opportunity to share the Queer Declaration with the Minister and the group. I was excited to hear that the Minister and his committee, on behalf of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, had advocated for LGBTQ/2S inclusive language within the United Nations in the lead up to this conference. Other countries such as the USA and Mexico as well as the European Union had also shown support but unfortunately, several countries with notoriously homophobic policies had shut down the idea in favour of “family values”. The rhetoric that queer and trans inclusions means an undoing of families is sad and completely unfounded, but unfortunately very prevalent, I learned. Seventeen countries including Belarus, Russia, Nigeria and Qatar were fierce opponents of our Queer Declaration and argued that the UN needed to support “mainstream” families.

In order for an amendment or declaration to be agreed upon within the United Nations, there must be no objections to the proposal, Jaques Paquette, Deputy Minister to Jean-Yves Duclos told me. However, on Tuesday, my trip culminated with an incredible event led by the Canadian minister and the head of the United States delegation, Julian Castro. Local Ecuadorian activists Danilo Manzano and Sandra Alvarez Monsalve presented very moving and personal experiences:

Danilo brought many audience members to tears as he said, “every day I dream of being a dad, but I can’t, because in Ecuador, gay people can’t marry or have children”.

image4Caption: Cicely-Belle with Minister Jean-Yves Duclos after he proclaimed his support for the LGBTQ community and the panel at the Urban Stage: the Ministers from Canada, USA and Mexico, two Ecuadorian LGBTQ/2S activists and the Mayor of Oakland, California.

The experience had many challenges: the altitude, the 50,000 conference attendees (not fun for someone who has anxiety and hates lining up), the scorching sun followed by torrential rain and juggling the responsibilities of promoting the Queer Declaration within a huge global bureaucratic system. While we were not able to change the wording of the New Urban Agenda, we did manage to convince many government officials that the term “inclusion” should explicitly and eternally support and care for LGBTQ/2S communities. Many of them took this message to heart.

We were able to provide tangible solutions to the ongoing problems of discrimination and isolation of queer and trans communities such as creating specific and well-supported spaces for LGBTQ/2S youth to socialize and get support, having accessible gender-neutral washrooms in publics spaces, putting effort and funding into the sexual, mental and physical health of these people and unashamedly celebrating these communities as government officials (like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marching in pride parades across Canada). The United Nations is now moving towards urging all countries to decriminalize homosexuality.

Habitat 4 will take place 20 years from now, and I am confident that by then, queer and trans youth in cities across the world will have access to a ‘Q’munity.

I would like to thank Douglas Ragan and the Urban Economy Branch of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme for making it possible for to me to make QMUNITY’s work international. With their support I was able to go to Quito and they were instrumental in giving me a platform to promote the Queer Declaration by arranging for me to speak at several events. I am also grateful to Ellen Woodsworth for her passion and determination to see the Queer Declaration through. Finally, I am thankful to my friend Urooba Jamal for hosting me and beautifully summarizing the events through her work as a journalist for teleSUR English. To QMUNITY, I am always grateful and fortunate to be doing this work with you.

*LGBTQ/2S is the language used by QMUNITY to reflect the diversity of our community and be inclusive of Two-Spirit communities, a term specific to Indigenous people of Turtle Island. LGBTI is the official language the United Nations uses, hence the disparity in this blog post.