As urbanisation gathers pace globally, cities are becoming not only centres for commerce, industry and political power but also havens for increasingly diverse communities, requiring more inclusive planning to ensure no one is left behind. With more than one billion people living in slums and informal settlements, there is urgent need to align master plans with existing legislation, localise plans to ensure they respond to specific needs of affected communities, ensure financial viability of plans, and incorporate viable models of public-private-people partnerships.
The 2018 World Cities Summit was held from July 8 to 12 in Singapore on the theme “Liveable and Sustainable Cities: Embracing the Future through Innovation and Collaboration”. It brought together thought leaders and industry giants across urban, water, environment and transport sectors to explore ways of making cities more liveable and resilient through better governance and planning, technology and social innovations and collaboration with various stakeholders and other cities.
UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director and Assistant Secretary-General, Dr. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, noted the need for better disaggregated data “to plan more inclusive cities for migrants, women-headed households and others vulnerable and marginalised groups, and that we must ensure those plans are also implemented.”
“The wealth of knowledge exchanged in meetings such as the World Cities Summit or the World Urban Forum must be transferred to community level dialogues to advance inclusive and sustainable urbanisation,” said Dr. Kacyira, who is a former mayor of Kigali, Rwanda. She urged planners to break down the language of urbanisation, planning and design so that communities can hold leaders accountable within the context of Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Urban Agenda.
Highlighting the importance of inclusive planning, the CEO of the Housing Development Board of Singapore, Dr. Cheong Koon Hean, said HDB plans townships, not just housing, according to a hierarchy of spaces from town centres to precincts, with facilities provided according to this hierarchy.
“To promote inclusiveness even more, we mix people of all income levels, ethnicities and age groups within our housing blocks,” he said. The HDB ethnic integration policy ensures that ethnic enclaves do not develop within a neighbourhood and encourages communities to take ownership of its projects.
“In master planning, remember that you are planning for others, not yourself, and that people’s needs change according to cycles in their lives, so your plans must be flexible enough to accommodate such changes,” said Dr. Hean.
“We need to get the public and private sectors to work with entire communities to drive inclusiveness. It’s now a must, not a maybe. We can harness virtual reality (VR) to help everyone see for themselves how every change they make affects everyone and everything around them, and why certain changes can, and cannot, be made if everyone is to live in harmony. Technology is neither a shortcut to, nor a substitute for, trust. If you do not have inherent trust in a relationship, no amount of cutting-edge technology or innovation will help you achieve inclusiveness in a community,” he added.
Abhishek Lodha, Managing Director, Lodha Group, said that in developing Palava, a 25 square kilometre greenfield city near Mumbai, the master plan focused on reducing transportation time and costs by concentrating on job centres as the main nodes of the public transportation network; improving disposable income of the weakest members of our community; creating high-quality, low-cost housing across all districts to make sure that the weakest and poorest in society can also own their homes; and ensuring that the city is safe for all by having well-designed, well-lit and ever-vibrant streets.
Over 20,000 city movers participated in the World Cities’ Summit 2018, among them over 120 mayors and city leaders and 70 industry leaders. As the designated United Nations system wide focal point for sustainable urbanisation and human settlements development, UN-Habitat is a key Strategic Partner of the World Cities’ Summit 2018.