The New Urban Agenda, non-legally binding framework that will guide global urban development over the next two decades, has been adapted by national governments in the Habitat III Conference. (See attached for the complete document)
While setting global standards of achievement in sustainable urban development, the Agenda also underlines the importance of public space. It calls for an increase in safe, inclusive, accessible, green and quality public spaces through many different commitments as such:
- We commit to promote safe, inclusive, accessible, green, and quality public spaces, including streets, sidewalks, and cycling lanes, squares, waterfront areas, gardens, and parks that are multi-functional areas for social interaction and inclusion, human health and well-being, economic exchange, and cultural expression and dialogue among a wide diversity of people and cultures, and which are designed and managed to ensure human development, to build peaceful, inclusive, and participatory societies, as well as to promote living together, connectivity, and social inclusion.
- We commit to promote safe, inclusive, accessible, green, and quality public spaces as drivers of social and economic development, sustainably leveraging their potential to generate increased social and economic value, including property value, and to facilitate business, public and private investments, and livelihood opportunities for all.
- We commit to promote the creation and maintenance of well-connected and well-distributed networks of open, multi-purpose, safe, inclusive, accessible, green, and quality public spaces to improve the resilience of cities to disasters and climate change, reducing flood and drought risks and heat waves, improving food security and nutrition, physical and mental health, household and ambient air quality, reducing noise, and promoting attractive and livable cities and human settlements and urban landscapes, prioritizing the conservation of endemic species.
- We will support the provision of well-designed networks of safe, inclusive for all inhabitants, accessible, green, and quality public spaces and streets, free from crime and violence, including sexual harassment and gender-based violence, considering the human-scale and measures that allow for the best possible commercial use of street-level floors, fostering local markets and commerce, both formal and informal, as well as not-for-profit community initiatives, bringing people into the public spaces, promoting walkability and cycling towards improving health and well-being.
More on public spaces
On the way towards Habitat III several meetings were held by international organizations to offer recommendations on the New Urban Agenda. Public space was one of themes discussed in these meetings, on different platforms:
- An issue paper on public spaces is published as one of the first major output of the Habitat III. It proposes that 45% of land should be allocated to streets and public space in a city. This can be broken down into 30% for streets and sidewalks and 15% for open spaces, green spaces and public facilities.
- Public Space in the new Urban Agenda report is released as a result of Urban Thinkers Campus forum. Seven new values proposed in report. These are; (1) A people-centered approach to planning; (2) Inclusive public space for all, particularly vulnerable groups; (3) Public space that respects human scale and behavior; (4) A citywide network of connected streets and public spaces; (5) Economic productivity of public space; (6) Access to public space – public and private spheres; (7) Sustainable public spaces that are healthy, safe, resilient, energy-conserving, and resource efficient; (8) Culture and context of public space.
- Urban spatial strategies: Land markets and segregation policy paper defined “inadequate and uneven provision and distribution of good green and public space” as one of the current challenges in urban spatial strategies. In that sense some of the related recommendations stated in the paper are; (1) Letting public space define buildings, and not the other way around; (2) Designing public space grids capable of guaranteeing optimal proportions between open space and built space; (3) Enhancing “street life” by allowing for the maximum possible commercial use of street-level floors so as to offer viable alternatives to automobile-driven shopping; (4) Envisaging procedures for the future maintenance and management of public spaces as an integral part of the design process
- The thematic meeting on public space defined more fundamental dimensions of the public space: “In order for the public space to respond to its true purpose and be at the service of the people and achieve the democratization of our cities, it should be tackled from an integrated logic which goes beyond its own physical boundaries and address fundamental dimensions such as; (1) “Agora” (its social and political dimension); (2) Mobility; (3) Economy; (4) Housing.”