Friday, December 30, 2016

Cities opportunities

“Cities are the world’s engines for business and innovation. With good management they can provide jobs, hope and growth, while building sustainability.” With sixty percent of their area still to be built before 2030, cities represent unparalleled opportunity to forge a new urban era where people can find freedom, inspiration, prosperity, health and security. They represent a unique chance to make the right infrastructure and planning choices to overcome many of the mistakes of the past and to make our cities and communities truly regenerative and resilient.

We see emerging trends of public, private, and civil society organizations working together to improve quality of life and livelihoods. We see these organizations leveraging resources to improve urban services. These and other efforts undoubtedly improve the lives of the people they touch. But, in the end, these approaches do not address basic structural problems nor do they offer answers appropriately scaled for tomorrow’s challenges. To do so requires rethinking the very organization of a city and envisioning its future. For this reason we need to forge a new urban paradigm for the city we need.

While the city we need must recognize local contexts, cultures, and customs, it is founded on two key conditions: the respect of public and private uses of land, and a well-coordinated system of systems. If a city is to function properly, it needs to coordinate very diverse agendas related to land use, housing, energy, water, waste, mobility, health and education, economic development, and the promotion of gender equality, cultural vitality and social inclusion.

● New predictive planning and modeling tools based on systems approaches provide an unprecedented means for all stakeholder groups and city authorities to better understand the complex social, economic and political interconnections inherent in urban systems. These tools and approaches enable decision makers and  urban inhabitants to use systems thinking and systems-based approaches to avoid unintended consequences of policy actions, to greatly enhance the effectiveness of decision making and achieve efficiencies in resource allocation and use;

● Systems approaches can further help realize a heretofore impossible dream: that of bridging short-term economic goals with longer-term policies and strategies that focus on shared prosperity and better health, safety and wellbeing of all of a city’s inhabitants;

● New understanding and awareness of the importance of place making and building a sense of identity that places public space at the forefront of urban development, as a means of greening the city, strengthening a sense of security and providing opportunities for enhanced social interaction and diverse forms of expression;

● The digital revolution offers new opportunities for the efficiency and responsiveness of urban services. It offers new ways and means for the inhabitants of the city to engage with public authorities in decisions affecting their quality of life and livelihoods. It helps avoid mistakes of the past in, for example, the failure to consider gender and age-sensitive needs and priorities in urban planning and design. It provides opportunities for innovative and collaborative economic models and social contracts that enhance social solidarity and social cohesion;

● An important opportunity lies in changing the paradigm from a centralized production approach, in which citizens are only users of a provided service, to participative and collaborative models of production that empower people and communities to become coproducers of energy, public goods and services.

● Participatory models of production of public goods and services also offer new opportunities for cities to take full advantage of the “green economy” by creating new business models, new industries at all scales and new employment opportunities and decent work.

● Growing awareness of the risks of climate change and the unsustainable models of production, consumption and development offer new prospects for the regenerative city and the circular economy. This goes beyond the concepts of reusing and recycling to restoring and replenishing the natural systems that support urban life. It allows for a different relationship between urban and rural areas and offers a new prospect for urban and peri-urban agriculture and the foundations for the truly ecological and resilient city.

To build The City We Need in the 21st century, our new urban paradigm will be guided by a set of principles. These principles are presented below and are accompanied by key drivers of change.

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