Transforming Cities for Inclusion

Inclusion of all citizens is a challenge to rapidly urbanising societies. Federico Batista Poitier outlines how the Global Compact on Inclusive and Accessible Cities is an important tool in this regard, providing local governments with a framework that allows them to measure inclusion in their municipalities.

With more than half of the population living in cities and towns today, local governments are struggling to reinvent the provisions of public services for their residents, particularly for the most marginalised. Persons with disabilities and older persons face multiple forms of discrimination and exclusion because of inaccessibility in the built, digital, and social environment.

Persons with disabilities and older persons represent diverse communities, comprising over 25 per cent of the global population. More than half of all persons with disabilities and persons 60 or older live in cities and towns, and by 2050 this number is estimated to grow, representing over 2 billion persons worldwide. With these trends and estimates transforming the development agenda, we must ensure that cities guarantee universal access and bridge the development divide so that No One is Left Behind.

A Global Compact for Radical Inclusion

Global investments in and innovations for rapid urbanisation by governments and companies present unprecedented opportunities to improve human rights, ensure good governance, enhance civic engagement, and further inclusive economic growth. As urban areas progressively become hubs of economic prosperity and social inclusion, we must take a human rights-based approach if we are to achieve the ambitious goals of the 2030 Agenda.

On the 3rd of December 2018, the Global Compact and Campaign on Inclusive and Accessible Cities was launched in Berlin by World Enabled, the Global Network on Disability Inclusive and Accessible Urban Development (DIAUD), and cities around the world including Sao Paulo, New York, Amman, Chicago, and Curitiba.

The Compact merges the commitments to universal design and accessibility within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the New Urban Agenda and the World Health Organization’s Age Friendly Cities Framework.

The Compact provides a framework in which to measure inclusion in cities through an assessment of six pillars, namely non-discrimination, accessibility, participation, inclusive urban policies and programmes, capacity building, and data for development. The ultimate goal of the Compact is to mobilise cities and other major urban development actors to create cities that are inclusive and accessible to all.

The Way Forward: The Campaign to Build #Cities4ALL

Building on the framework of the Compact, the #Cities4All campaign aims to influence change makers, develop tools and expertise to implement the Compact, and to ensure direct and active participation of persons with disabilities and older persons.

The other components of the Campaign include the Global Community of Practice and the Global Summit on Inclusive and Accessible Cities, which will be mechanisms for implementation and monitoring of the Compact’s pillars.

The Community of Practice is dedicated to developing the knowledge and tools to realise the Compact. The Global Summit will be the mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the Compact. The first milestone of the Community of Practice and information of the Global Summit will be disseminated in November of 2019 during UCLG’s World Congress and Council.

How Cities Practice Inclusion

How do the Compact’s principles translate into practice and why is inclusion a radical concept? The idea of inclusion as radical represents the shift in how we design our environments: by removing barriers, to create universally accessible spaces where all persons can exercise their human agency and contribute their talents.

Universal design and accessibility are not solely concerned with removal of barriers, but also with indicators of urban resilience, measuring how cities can adapt to diversity over a lifetime of change.

Cities around the world are utilising accessibility to progressively achieve universally designed spaces in all environments. In employment, New York City is facilitating accessibility and connecting persons with disabilities to the mainstream job market through the NYC at Work initiative. These jobs foster independence and facilitate access to socioeconomic opportunities for hundreds of New Yorkers.

The City of Sao Paulo has focussed on access to information and has developed a digital accessibility seal, which is utilised to certify that websites and internet portals comply with the international accessibility standards. To date, the city has certified 68 websites, including municipal and public websites.

These are only two examples of the leadership of local governments and their commitment to inclusion. Many cities are championing accessibility, to ensure not only disability inclusion but also inclusion of other groups including older, displaced, and indigenous populations.

Through the Compact and Community of Practice, cities will be able to communicate with each other and other urban stakeholders to share good practices and further develop tools for radical inclusion and resilience towards an inclusive 2030 Agenda.

Ensuring the Voices of Civil Society in Urban Transformation

An important aspect of the Campaign is the active engagement of organisations of persons with disabilities and older persons. Prior to #Cities4ALL, the work on inclusive urban development was pioneered by a network known as the DIAUD Network. As a global influencer of inclusive urbanisation, DIAUD will be an important mechanism for developing the knowledge and tools to support local governments and organisations in the implementation of the Compact.

Join the Campaign

Accessibility and universal design must be mainstreamed in the development agenda, particularly at the local level, if we are to realise the 2030 Agenda and Leave No One Behind . Stronger and more effective partnerships between national and local governments, industry, civil society organisations and academia are key in further developing the tools and data to support municipalities and development practitioners in turning accessible strategies into action.

If you’d like to learn more about Cities for All, and how to be involved in the Campaign please visit Cities4all.org. Together, we can ensure that our cities Leave No One Behind!

Federico Batista Poitier

Director of External Affairs and Partnerships at World Enabled
Federico Batista Poitier’s background is in International Development with a focus on International, Regional and National Disability Policy, International Human Rights Law, Education, and Disability Inclusive Urban Development, Grassroots & Community Development, Gender Equality and Human Rights Advocacy. He holds a M.A. in Human Rights and Democratization from the European Inter-University Centre (EIUC) for Human Rights and Democratization.
Federico Batista Poitier

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