The countdown is on! Since the adoption of the New Urban Agenda in Quito in October 2016, we’ve been working with our partners, AIESEC International, to develop a global campaign and a game to spark the real action of young people in their cities that will contribute towards achievement of Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda.
To celebrate that young people were recognized as key stakeholders in the drafting process of the New Urban Agenda as well as in its implementation, we want to put them in the front line of action to turn NUA from paper to reality. The power of 1.8 billion is not just in its volume! Young people’s potential, capacity, passion and drive are the reasons we believe they can be the first ones to act! Unlike governments, they have the freedom and flexibility to start working immediately and we want to ensure that every young person out there feels the same way.
At the occasion of UN-Habitat’s 26th Governing Council, Ms. Tanya Landysheva from AIESEC International paid us a visit in Nairobi to help us launch this exciting game.
#Urban Action is part of a larger campaign to engage youth on the Road to 2030, Youth 4 Global Goals. To make it all more fun and engaging, we’ve created a game around the process and results. The game revolves around all SDGs and their relation to SDG 11. The main mission is to create better cities while fighting typical urban challenges along the way. 16 challenges posted weekly shall contribute to creating nicer, safer, more resilient, and more sustainable cities, thus not only hitting SDG 11. targets but also significantly contributing to implementing the New Urban Agenda.
APUFY has been a great success, to large extent thanks to our partners that put a lot of effort in organizing and running 12 parallel sessions throughout the day! While they were all amazing, have a look at the highlights of one of the sessions that focused on the importance of data innovation and participatory design in urban planning, through the lens of Lalitia Apsari and Kautsar Anggakara from Pulse Lab Jakarta:
Pimping Your City
The session highlighted the emergence of bottom-up data capture and participatory design processes that are empowering communities and better informing urban planning. But to attract the attention of the youthful forum participants we transformed Creating Cities for Everyone with Data Innovation and Participatory Design into #PimpMyCity.
The session was structured as discussion between the five diverse speakers with the audience raising questions through the hashtag on social media. We were graced by the company of:
When speaking of creating a city for everyone, there is a tendency for a ‘planning elite’ to take the lead. In a collaborative process, we shift from ‘designing a city for everyone’ to ‘creating a city with everyone’, combining both top-down and bottom-up approaches to understand the complex and evolving city system.
Mizah highlighted the complementarity of ethnography and data innovation, adding that stories offer meaning and context to the trends captured by the data. But, alas, it is not always easy to combine datasets, because, as Dr. Ying highlighted, big data is rarely open and open data is rarely big.
Gugun pointed out that open source and affordable technologies are empowering communities to develop highly relevant and granular data on their shared spaces and lived experiences. This is helping to address the data quality issues afflicting governments which was highlighted by Oshean.
Ahmad added that the validity of ‘bottom-up’ data collection processes is time and time again being demonstrated by urban communities, but that regulatory regimes make it difficult for governments to use the data. The audience agreed.
Empowerment is Key
Alas, it is hard to capture the depth of the discussion in a blog and we have certainly not done the speakers justice. But the questions and ideas flowing on Twitter was evidence that youth are more than ready to be engaged in collaborative processes of urban development.
The key point of the session was to highlight that while many different approaches to blending data innovation and participatory design exist within this space, the objective is the same: creating informed and empowered citizens and communities, both capable of better understanding themselves and of influencing decision-making processes.
Habitat III will be the UN’s first urbanization conference in 20 years – and some countries are trying to prevent cities from participating. Yet from the global economy to climate change, cities offer our best hope for solutions.
UN conferences on urbanization occur just once every 20 years. The third, Habitat III, will convene in Quito, Ecuador late next year. It is a unique opportunity for the world’s nations to debate the future of their cities, as urbanization becomes the defining social phenomenon of our time.
There’s just one problem. It remains possible that the cities of the world – from small metropolises to New York and London and Tokyo – may not get a seat at the table. Even in a world that is now majority urban for the first time in history, the issues of city economies, slums and climate crises may well be discussed without a single mayor or city councilperson able to speak.
It’s not just Habitat III where this is happening. Roughly three-quarters of all carbon emissions are generated in cities, or for the benefit of urban dwellers – but cities were effectively excluded from the global climate negotiations in Lima last year. They fear the same may happen at the next, potentially decisive round of negotiations in Paris this December. In preparatory documents for the conference, cities weren’t even mentioned.
Yet while they’re the prime polluters, cities are also on the forefront of climate solutions – and not just by setting goals. Some are cutting their carbon emissions already. A recent UN-Habitat study shows that at least 19 cities – among them Berlin, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Mexico City, New York and Toronto – can prove they’ve reduced their annual CO2 emissions.
Some nation-state leaders do recognize the importance of cities in the battle for a safer environment. US Secretary of State John Kerry, expressing concern that the Paris negotiations would set unambitious goals, recently told the Washington Post that it’s time to bring the weight of global civil society to bear, starting with cities and mayors. And in a dramatic broadside issued 30 June, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced they would co-host the Climate Summit for Local Leaders in Paris on 4 December, timed to coincide with the climate negotiations there.
With all this organized experience, it’s not always clear why nation-states are so reluctant to welcome cities into their official sessions. Some national delegations may simply consider local and regional governments inferior. Politics can play a role as well: national leaders may be reluctant to give a stage to big-city mayors, who are sometimes their political rivals. Or it could just be indifference. In the recent debate over the UN’s sustainable development goals, it took a concerted campaign by urban strategists to get a specific goal related to urbanization.
“The more the world is urbanized, the more difficult it becomes for nations to accept this,” said Yunus Arikan, head of global advocacy for ICLEI. “If nations don’t get the point that they have to work with local and subnational governments, they’ll not just miss a huge opportunity. They’ll be on track for failure.”
The quandary is that opening the UN’s door to cities as real players depends not just on heavily urbanised states such as the US, Brazil, India and China. Tiny, rural nations such as Burundi and Tonga have equal votes in the General Assembly. That may have made sense back in 1945, when a much more rural world founded the UN. But does it make sense now that we’re close to 55% urban, and headed for 70% or higher by mid-century? From climate talks to Habitat III and a host of other pressing issues, that’s the question.