Great Cities Institute attends Habitat III, Taking Place in Quito, Ecuador

Workers prepare an event venue before the Habitat III conference begins in Quito, 13 October. (Habitat III Secretariat)

Workers prepare an event venue before the Habitat III conference begins in Quito, 13 October. (Habitat III Secretariat)

Great Cities Institute Director Teresa Córdova and Timothy Imeokparia traveled to Quito, Ecuador to attend the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, known as Habitat III, along with 45,000 other registrants from around the world. Heads of State, ministers and high level representatives along with participants from local government, civil society, indigenous groups, academia and scientific community, private sector, professionals and practitioners, and other stakeholders have gathered to address the pressing housing and sustainability issues related to rapid urbanization around the world.

Habitat III Village is the location for plenaries, side panels and other events and also includes a wide array of exhibits and activities. The sharing of information and ideas is plentiful.

At each of the previous two UN Conferences on Human Settlements, declarations were adopted. Habitat I took place in Vancouver, Canada, May 31-June 11 1976. Twenty years later, Habitat II occurred in Istanbul, Turkey, June 3-14.

Foremost in the Habitat III agenda is the adoption of the Quito Declaration, named the New Urban Agenda. While the document is non-binding, it establishes a set of principles and priorities related to growing urban areas across the globe. Contained in the document is a statement of the issues, a shared vision, principles, a call for action, implementation plan and sections on “Sustainable and Inclusive Urban Prosperity and Opportunity for all,” “Environmentally Sustainable and Resilient Urban Development,” “Effective Implementation,” and “Building Urban Governance Structures.” Among the document’s many powerful statements, we highlight a couple:

We recognize that sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, with full and productive employment and decent work for all, is a key element of sustainable urban and territorial development and that cities and human settlements should be places of equal opportunities allowing people to live healthy, productive, prosperous, and fulfilling lives.

We will anchor the effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda in inclusive, implementable, and participatory urban policies, as appropriate, to mainstream sustainable urban and territorial development as part of integrated development strategies and plans, supported, as appropriate, by national, sub-national, and local institutional and regulatory frameworks, ensuring that they are adequately linked to transparent and accountable finance mechanisms.

Among the many interesting events and panels, we attended a panel sponsored by El Ministerio de Inclusión Económica y Social, Lídice Larrea. Our friend, Diego Auelstia, presented on Economia Poplar y Solidaría y Exportaciones ¿Imposible Conciliación? This very interesting panel explored strategies on building inclusive economies.

Parallel to Habitat III, there are conferences taking place. Both Teresa and Tim are making presentations at Pontifica Católica Universidad de Ecuador (PUCE). Teresa is presenting on building an inclusive economy for young people and Tim is participating on a panel on the urban economy, moderated by Diego Aulestia.

With so many people here concerned about the future of urban areas, we can be optimistic about the possibilities, even while we are aware of the difficulties of implementation. The sense of urgency permeates.

Quito itself is an amazing place and the people are wonderfully warm. We hope to bring back some chocolate and coffee with us.