The New Urban Agenda
At the Habitat III Conference, held in Quito in October 2016, 193 member countries of the United Nations agreed on the New Urban Agenda (NUA) — the outcome document to guide policy and action addressing urbanisation and development and to realise these processes sustainably. At the ninth World Urban Forum (WUF9) held in Kuala Lumpur in February 2018, the NUA has been adopted as the thematic focus for the first time. A non-legislative, technical forum organised by the UN Habitat, the World Urban Forum is an open gathering that provides a platform to diverse stakeholders to share and address urban experiences and challenges.
YUVA and the NUA
YUVA was an active participant in the preparatory sessions leading to the NUA and also at the Habitat III Conference where the final draft was released. As part of the follow up process, a delegation of eight from YUVA participated in the WUF9 along with 22,000 participants from 165 countries. The representing group was selected to reflect the diversity of YUVA’s work in the urban space with a focus on habitat, planning, labour, children and youth.
The multiplicity of the group’s shared experiences reflected in the depth of YUVA’s intervention in the proceedings of the forum. As participants, speakers and audience, we engaged in showcasing our work, building alliances and influencing confluences both at the micro grassroots level and at the macro policy informing level — sharing India’s urbanisation concerns and its action towards the NUA as well as learning from experiences of fellow nations.
Engaging in WUF9
As panelists on the Children and Youth Assemblies, representing YUVA and UN-MGCY, we put forward challenges of unequal urbanisation, discriminatory opportunities, forceful employment and exclusive policies that are shrinking urban space for children and youth.The importance of evidence from children and youth themselves was discussed.
The youth panel at the Roundtable! #children #youth #WUF9 #cities2030 @OfficialYUVA , @PlanUK @wagggs_world @WAGGGS @unhabitatyouth Youth Advisory Board 🙂 pic.twitter.com/Eqdvc9z7Qn
— MGCY (@UNMGCY) February 12, 2018
Drawing from these observations, we spoke at the Children and Youth Roundtable for increasing the scope of discourse on youth beyond employment and skill development to include education, empowerment and participation. We pushed for a reimagination of participation to include critical thinking and safe environments that can protect these processes.
At an event organised by Cities Alliance on forced evictions, YUVA drew from its work with communities before and after evictions. We insisted on criminalising evictions and problematising current forms of accountability to move beyond simplistic knee-jerk reactions of blaming local governments and bring the larger, often hidden groups into account.
Addressing access to basic services at an event organised by the UN Habitat, YUVA clarified that only by de-linking access from legal status and tenure security of urban residents shall the vision of #LeaveNoOneBehind be realised. Moving the dialogue a step ahead, we also spoke of service appropriation as a more sustainable goal than service delivery and access alone.
Thanks @HardeepSPuri Sir for your meeting today with #civilsociety groups at #wuf9kl. Your insights were refreshing and we have hope for your continued support on issues of urban housing, gender, and livelihoods. pic.twitter.com/iQ2txn62O1
— Roshni Nuggehalli (@roshnugg) February 9, 2018
YUVA’s work found resonance with organisations and institutions at WUF9 with whom we discussed our work and built networks for future partnerships. We learnt from new tools and technology at workshops and launches, including those related to planning, data and monitoring.
Alongside engagements with delegates representing countries and UN groups, we had the opportunity to speak to India’s Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs and express the urgent need to review the current affordable housing models and push for rental housing, in situ upgradation and tenure security to meet the goals set for 2022.
Emergent focus areas
@Marina_Bombay of @OfficialYUVA: Evictions do uproot houses + livelihoods. They end development for the affected in the name of Development. pic.twitter.com/fQDLzhnWzf
— Almuth Schauber (@AlmuthSchauber) February 9, 2018
Issues of forced evictions in cities globally has emerged as a key factor for increasing inequalities amongst urban poor. Displacement coupled with lack of access to basic services impacts children, youth and women the most. YUVA will continue to engage in this space through resistance on the ground and advocacy at domestic and international forums.
The need to establish linkages between climate change mitigation and adaptation projects and vulnerability of urban poor emerged through several conversations at WUF9. In India, engaging with the national, state and city climate change action plans to ensure an urban poor focus is an important area for capacity building and networking.
A lot of effort is going into strengthening children’s and young people’s participation in evidence generation about their own communities and cities. Technology plays a crucial role in these efforts and in contextualising data collection and linking it with local level advocacy.
Some insightful visits
The city of Kuala Lumpur had as many lessons on urbanisation to offer as the forum. Navigating the city through its skyscrapers, historic mosques and tropical rain, we came across a few that showed us the city through a lens we were familiar with.
Project Cafe: A visit to cafe Project B — eat with dignity, managed and operated entirely by youth and supported by the Dignity for Children Foundation, helped us imagine newer prospects in skill training that is rooted in education. We were able to discuss with them our limitations for a similar approach related to identity of youth, legality of the method and its acceptance. Learning from their enterprise model and mode of operation we were able to visualise the concept in our context.
The People’s Housing Project (PPR): On the 35km drive into Kuala Lumpur from the airport, we were constantly on the lookout for different housing typologies, guessing what each one might be. During our stay we had the opportunity to visit Jinjang Utara Longhouse Settlement and the corresponding housing rehabilitation site, PPR and interact with the stakeholders. This visit helped us compare this site with public housing in India and draw linkages with standards of living and culture in both countries that resulted in the respective models which are similar as well as distinct in various aspects.
On our many walking expeditions we stumbled upon other stories unravelling Kuala Lumpur layer by layer. The living landscape from the central Petronas Towers to the historic Central Market, to the celebrations at China Town and the quiet working class neighborhood of Brickfieds will accompany us on similar explorations in our cities back home. The curiosity and discussions will be kept alive to generate a new dialogue on cities, their challenges and prospects.
With this stimulating and sometimes overwhelming experience of eight days, we look forward to implementing the new possibilities it pushed us to imagine, strengthen the networks we have built and appropriate the new methods and tools we brought back with us.
Associate — Architect Planner