Nine principles to get the City we need

In 2012, the World Urban Campaign.org published a Manifesto for Cities in which it declared: “the battle for a more sustainable future will be won or lost in cities”  thereby positioning our urban environments as key to planetary well-being.  In 2014, this operational arm of UN-Habitat, followed up with a manual that it titled The City We Need in which it outlined nine principles that could guide peaceful, prosperous urban development. Briefly, these are:

  1. The city we need is socially inclusive – where all segments and ages can take part in its culture; and all abilities have access to its spaces.
  2. The city we need is walk-able and transit-friendly – with schools, workplaces, shopping and open recreation spaces are within walking, biking or a few transit stops from homes.
  3. The city we need is regenerative – energy efficient, low-carbon, using renewable energy sources. It replenishes, recycles and reuses wisely using water and land to suport urban and peri-urban agriculture.
  4. The city we need is economically vibrant and inclusive – providing licenses and other services that support the informal (non-moneyed) economic sector and the smallest entrepreneur to the largest corporations and employers.
  5. The city we  need  has  a  singular  identity  and  sense  of  place – recognizing  culture  as  key  to  human  dignity  and  well-being, unlocking the  creative  contribution  of  all  citizens and strengthening  the bonds between a city and its hinterland.
  6. The city we need is a safe city –  welcoming both night and day, inviting  all  people  to  use  the  streets,  parks,  and  transit  without  fear. Public services (police, fire, health, welfare, transit, and environmental) speak frequently with residents and support each other’s service.
  7. The city we need is a healthy city – having public parks and gardens that are havens of peace, tranquility and biodiversity.  All entities providing public services have public  and  environmental  health  as  a  common performance indicator.
  8. The city we need is affordable and equitable – because land, infrastructure, housing, and  basic  services  are  planned  with  low  income  groups  in mind.  Public services are planned together with vulnerable populations.
  9.  The city we need is managed at the metropolitan level – coordinating all policies and services in a coherent local framework. Neighborhoods actively participate in metropolitan decision making and do their part to support a common agenda.

As you prepare to become an active urban citizen, it will be helpful to contemplate how each of these indicators of success apply to your current city.  After all, our “home town” is not only the one where we began, but also the one we choose to build.

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