PART 2: The Transformative Commitments for Sustainable Urban Development

March 24, 2017

This discussion is now closed. Thank you for your participation.


  • Claudio Torres Slum Upgrading Consultant, Housing and Slum Upgrading Branch. UN-Habitat
  • Pireh Otieno Human Settlements Officer, Urban Basic Services Branch - UN-Habitat
  • Kulwant Singh Regional Advisor - UN-Habitat
  • Marcus Mayr Urban Planner, Climate Change Planning Unit, UN-Habitat
  • Edmundo Werna Head of Unit at Sectoral Policies Dept. ILO

PART 2: The Transformative Commitments for Sustainable Urban Development

In advance of the Informal Hearings with Stakeholders in New York on (6-7 June) and Informal Intergovernmental Meetings (8-10 June), we invite you to review the following sections of the Zero Draft of the New Urban Agenda and share your feedback below. Please indicate which sub-topic/s you are addressing in your response. The forum is now closed. Part 3 will open on Monday, 20 June 2016.

Main Topic A: The Transformative Commitments for Sustainable Urban Development

Featured Comment ()
Ed Werna – Discussion Moderator from
Tue, June 14, 2016 at 08.26 am


Dear Participants,

This is  my last set of remarks in the second round, and I want to thank you very much for your valuable contributions during this round.

It was a very interesting discussion, with a wide range of inputs which aimed to contribute to the Agenda both in breadth and depth. The extent of the contributions and the engagement of the contributors were great.

Among the comments received I would like to recap some general points (it is not possible in my short / last remark to do justice to all points and details, and I hope that they would be picked up again in the next round of the debate):   

–          The idea of a ‘Habitat Agenda’ as opposed to a ‘Urban Agenda’ (the former would be broader and solidly connecting cities with the natural environment (and social groups outside cities), on a lets say planetary dimension). 

– Rehabilitation and resilience of the existing built environment (as opposed to (mainly) new products) 

– Competitive cities, on the one side, and solidarity on the other. 

– A focus on the Transformative Commitments – what is really transformative. 

– What has been – or should be – the progress from Habitat II to Habitat III 

In most cases, contributors have highlighted – and rightly so – the importance of a given topic. This leads to the question about how such topics could be specifically inserted in the Agenda. A challenge for the Agenda is how to integrate all the specific issues in a comprehensive and coherent way.A number of points made by participants build upon other points. Other times, points reveal different perspectives. It would be very interesting if participants could elaborate on their points vis-a-vis what other participants wrote. Therefore, I suggest more debate in the next round. 

We need to bear in mind the whole organizational structure of the Agenda, to have doable implementation. Should we have integrated urban sub-systems, and how? Or something else? For example, the food system, as the name indicates, is already a system. Which needs of course integration with other systems, at the same time has its internal structure.

From a particular perspective of promoting prosperity and opportunities via better urban livelihoods, it is important to bear in mind that the generation of decent work is not a passive action, dependent only on the expansion of the economy. Also, but not only. It also depends on social dialogue between enterprises, workers and government; on the organization and training of workers, on the implementation of labour-intensive techniques, and more. These actions also need to be financially supported, and they will generate returns.

Thanks again for your contributions. I am sure that they will be of value to the Agenda. 

Featured Comment ()
Ed Werna – Discussion Moderator from
Tue, June 14, 2016 at 08.21 am
This is the last batch of comments in the second round. I wish to thank Patricia, , Benjamin, Arjan, Diego HIC and IHC for your respective inputs, thus completing the second round. (With a kind reminder that HIC and IHC are different organisations) 
One interesting recurring point is the reference to a broader ‘Habitat Agenda’ as opposed to a narrower ‘Urban Agenda’. This was mentioned in previous interventions, reiterated now by HIC, and Benjamin seems to go in the same direction by bringing on water planning. 
HIC also makes a critical historical reference, by comparing Habitat III to Habitat II. At some point, it will be very important to have an in-depth and clear comparison. 
Arjan makes an interesting connection between transformative commitments and transformative resilience. If the Agenda is about transformative commitments then the resilience (widely mentioned) should also be transformative. Good point, and in principle also applicable to other parts of the text. 
Along related lines, Patricia suggests that the three transformative commitments be 
reconsidered with cultural assets and inherited common wealth in mind.

Benjamin highlights the creative economy, and it would be interesting if he elaborates on what he means by this (and in the context of the Agenda). 
HIC also mentions human rights, which is understandable, at the same time the Agenda seems to be already well embedded in such rights, actually extending the idea of the right to housing to a broader right to the city. 
IHC, in turn, made a number of points, which important as they are, seem to reiterate issues already included in the Agenda. It would be interesting if IHC could elaborate. 
Patricia ODonnell Urban Design/ Landscape Architect, Heritage Preservation from United States
Tue, June 14, 2016 at 01.34 am

The Zero Draft Transformative commitments offer a succinct summary of three key points, however the voice is a future one, subtly assuming that the slate is blank. The urban future is built on our shared and inherited urban past, with respect for this commonwealth of inheritance from prior generations, as assets and the resources embodied in our cites from those urban shaping efforts as a value. Cities are vessels of diverse cultural practices, traditions, techniques and technologies. I suggest that the voice of the three transformative commitments be reconsidered with these cultural assets and inherited common wealth in mind.

Thank you for the excellent work

Patricia ODonnell Urban Design/ Landscape Architect, Heritage Preservation from United States
Tue, June 14, 2016 at 01.32 am

The Zero Draft Transformative commentments offer a succinct summary of three key points, however the voice is a future one, subtley assuming that the stlate is blank. The urban future is built on our shared yuand inherited urban past, with respect for this commonwelth of inheritance from prior generations, as assets and the resources embodied in our ciites from those urban shaping efforts as a value. Cities are vessels of diverse cultural practices, traditions, techniques and technnologies. I suggest that the voice of the thrre transfromative commitments be recondsidered with these cultural assets and inherited  common wealth in mind.

Thank you foir the excellent work.

Benjamin Architect/Urban Planner & PhD Student at Institute of Geography, University of Cologne from Germany
Mon, June 13, 2016 at 12.51 pm

First of all I welcome the overall range of topics included in the New Urban Agenda.

I research in the field of urban morphology, complex adaptive systems and spatial resilience in the context of a more sustainable living with water in amphibious contexts (e.g. Urban Deltas).

I refer to

sub-topic 1, paragraph 36:  Rivers and canals are largely understood to be necessary spaces for transport and drainage. Yet they offer much more to a habitable city (see for example the attached Interreg IVB report & The Benefits of Inland Waterways).

Therefore please include in the first sentence the “watercourses” or “waterways” as a public space. In many cultures and regions it is of course a contested space, but includes multiple cross-cutting urban issues, such as urban transport, urban health, space for leisure, sanitation, drinking and washing water supply, flooding, inundation of fields, tourism, formal and informal economic activities (likewise to the space of streets, but inducing another speed, another adoption of space and demanding and allowing multifunctional spatial flexibility).

In sentence three, please add “blue” to the “Green public spaces”

sub-topic 2, paragraph 50: I found it particularly diffuse to write about “a new set of standards”. It can mean anything and will not help to define social spaces within or outside of building (groups/blocks/quarters/…) or does it refer to an annex to the Agenda?  The forming of the negative space (with the buildings forming the positive space) is a crucial and basic property of the urban built landscape to encourage inclusive, gender-orientated, safe and healthy places.

Please add: “recognizing the genius loci” or “recognizing and including the place-specific characteristics, such as its history, embeddedness in the urban-fabric, and socio-spatial meaning for the local inhabitants”

sub-topic 2, paragraph 56: please add “, blue,” after “…well-equipped green…”

sub-topic 3, paragraph 68: In a sense of an inclusive agenda, please include “and water” after “The Agenda reiterates the ecological and social function of land…”

sub-topic 3, paragraph 71: please add  “/blue ” after “The provision of a well-connected network of open and green…”. It fits well into the subject of Ecosystems and Cities, especially when reading in the paragraph about leisure and physical activity, urban ecosystems, climate change risks and urban heat island.

sub-topic 3, paragraph 75: It is particularly important that the Agenda stresses the importance of Water Planning. Yet it seems to be “reduced” here again to a perspective of a water-cycle, means: An infrastructural component that can help minimize conflicts and ecological risks, but does not include issues such as social cohesion by projects along watercourses, water-sensitive urban design (see attached PDF). The “integrated system of water planning” needs to be understood beyond its infrastructural function and be included within human senses in public space.

Please add: “complementary to urban and landscape planning, urban design and architecture” after “…water planning and management…”

Best regards,

Benjamin Casper

Habitat International Coalition – Housing and Land Rights Network
Mon, June 13, 2016 at 12.13 pm

The consistent position of Habitat International Coalition (HIC) articulated in HIC President Lorena Zárate’s presentation at the 7th World Urban Forum (Medellín, 2014), Civil Society Roundtable, expresses three Habitat III basic expectations:

1.  Integrity of the Habitat Agenda, not reducing it to merely an “urban agenda”;

2.  Maintaining the core Habitat II human rights commitments, in particular states’ obligation to the full and progressive realization of the human right to adequate housing”;

3.  Participation criteria and modalities equal to, or more inclusive than those at Habitat II.

As a matter of strategic principle, HIC operates both inside and outside of the official Habitat III process and conference, but its message in both dimensions are consistent. More specifically, HIC calls for:

(1) preserving the positive commitments of the Habitat Agenda in 1996, at Habitat II, and

(2) improving on the previous iteration of the Habitat Agenda by filling gaps, addressing new and emerging priorities and continuing unfinished business, in order to have more-progressive commitments and a serious monitoring-and-evaluation plan in the Habitat III outcome document.

In summary, the positive commitments enshrined in Habitat II (1 above) were: (A) an affirmation of the centrality of human rights, in particular the progressive realization of the human right to adequate housing in human settlements and (B) a commitment to the principles of good governance, including broad partnerships, in balanced rural and urban development.

The improvements (2 above) involve a faithful evaluation of Habitat II implementation as an indispensable first step. HIC and HLRN variously have advocated this evaluative approach (in reporting, PrepComs, etc.) and/or carried it out in practice (parallel reports, disseminating models of reporting methodologies, etc.), insisting that these steps are indispensable prerequisites for the needed New Habitat Agenda to be relevant and credible.

What does HIC want and demand in the Zero Draft?

HIC supports several positive elements in the Zero Draft, including:

  1. Recognition of the existence of the term “right to the city,” and some of its constituent principles, even though the constituent principles are incomplete and scattered throughout the text;

  2. Recognition of the social function of land, but it would be better if that recognition extended also to property and the city (human settlement);

  3. A departure from the Habitat II commitment to “strive for full-cost recovery for urban services”;

  4. Recognition of, and respect for the informal economy and its participants;

  5. Participatory, transparent, citizen-based monitoring of the New Agenda’s implementation progress at the international, national and local levels that will be achieved through collection of data that is openly accessible and appropriately disaggregated (to capture existing inequalities and to promote inclusive development) and evaluated against essential indicators so as to make decisions about adjustments to implementation strategies.

HIC analysis of the Zero Draft contents:

Despite the Zero Draft’s stated claim that it the represents a “radical paradigm shift” in the way cities and human settlements are planned, developed, managed and governed, the only discernable shift is an obvious disassociation with previous and still-valid core Habitat commitments.

The Zero Draft also makes other claims not substantiated in its contents:

  • “The New Urban Agenda promotes people-centred urban development and the realization of human rights of all” (para. 22), but makes no mention of state obligations, no mention of violations, except one obligatory-but-weak suggestion to “address” forced evictions. It doesn’t even rise to the language of compliance with international law found in the 2030 Agenda. It makes no reference to any international law instruments, except the general, unmonitored and unenforceable Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (The Habitat Agenda of Habitat II cited seven treaties relevant to human settlements.)

  • The Draft contains the words “inclusive” and “comprehensive” throughout, but any “urban agenda,” narrowed down from the far more-holistic vision of the Habitat Agendas, cannot possibly be either inclusive or comprehensive. No matter how the authors of this notion try to explain their myopia, after committing to this unfortunate branding of it, a NUA is not what the world needs. The world—not just the urbanite half—needs something more embracing and less divisive, less narrow and more operational in line with best practices as developed.

We still need:

  • People-centred human settlements development, not only good practice limited to urban agglomerations.*

  • A “habitat” approach that “treats cities and villages as points on a spectrum within a common ecosystem”* and a continued commitment to “balanced rural and urban development.”*

  • Recognition of states’ individual, collective, domestic and extraterritorial human rights obligations, among other international law-bound duties.

  • Maintaining the human right to adequate housing* at the heart of the Agenda, which, in itself, constitutes a well-developed methodology.

  • Also maintaining the commitment to policies and practices that ensure the actual production and availability and accessibility of affordable adequate housing (although those elements are already inherent in the human right to adequate housing).

  • Recognition of social production of housing/habitat as part of a reconsideration of the informal economy in Habitat Agenda implementation and a commitment to state-supported social production of habitat/housing and explicit recognition of public-private-popular partnerships (see Barcelona UTC “Housing in the City We Need”).

  • Actually addressing, with commitments to act on the root causes of wealth disparity, gender discrimination, homelessness, slums, etc. (Apparently, the drafters’ only concern for addressing root causes is for “changing the root causes of prevailing perception [sic] of cities as a significant source of negative ecological impacts” (para. 68).

  • Committing to policy coherence among short-term relief interventions and longer-term institutional-building development approaches, while applying the over-arching frame of human rights, with their dual preventive-and-remedial effect. (This integrated approach is already-pledged in other, more-progressive global policy instruments.)

  • A specific commitment to reparations for victims of gross violations of their human right to adequate housing* (e.g., forced evictions,* displacement, population transfer, etc.), as already defined in GA resolution A/RES/60/147 (2006).

  • A promise to apply international law, including human rights criteria, diligently in international cooperation, including development cooperation and assistance.

  • At least an acknowledgment of the current and ongoing scourge of conflict, occupation and war on human habitat, if not also a promise to reform foreign policies in order to end such scourges.

  • Some continuation of the repeated promises of Habitat II to maintain a fair and just macroeconomic order,* not least acknowledging and applying lessons of the mortgage/financial/sovereign debt crises of recent years and the rampant privatization of everything, including social housing.

  • Treating municipalities and local administrations as an organic part of the state, with its various spheres—not “tiers,” “layers” or “levels”—of government (as we have learned from UCLG), so that our “closest partners* in Habitat Agenda implementation assume their equally binding obligations under international law and human rights treaties, while also bearing certain rights vis-à-vis the state (“rights of the city).

  • More-committed language for ending corruption* and speculation than just “We also recognize the value of anticorruption programs…” (para. 60).

Augusto Carvalho civil engineer from Brazil
Sun, June 12, 2016 at 06.37 pm

Dear All,

This is a very rich discussion. I would like to make a comment and suggestion on Sub-topic 2 ‘Sustainable and Inclusive Urban Prosperity and Opportunities for all’, as requested by Mr. Werna.

Creating opportunities for all is a topic that is worth to be discussed. I believe that rather than viewing energy efficiency as a strategy for achieving sustainable consumption and create more jobs, as described in par. 78, it is necessary to view the implementation of such strategies as feasible in all the countries. Yet, to achieve a sustainable way of living, strategies such as solar panels and rainwater harvesting should be empowered. This empowerment, however, should not come with the idea of having a company that sells and installs the product for a “cheap and accessible” price. No person should have to choose between buying food and harvesting solar energy and rainwater. The learning of DIY solutions implemented in Brazil, such as PVC-made solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems, should be empowered and considered. Rather than creating a different market for capitalism, allowing people to learn how to deal with the environmental issues themselves, giving them accessibility to this learning process, should be a thing to be discussed and that I believe is worth to have in the agenda.

Diego Maciel Blum da Silva Community Engagement from Brazil
Sun, June 12, 2016 at 12.01 pm


In my opinion, creative economy and cooperation should have special attention under sub-topic 2. These patterns of working are very helpful to persons in vulnerable situations. Also regulation and promoting sustainable and local food production through organic gardens may increase the work opportunities and food security.


Arjan Wardekker Sr. Researcher Urban Resilience & Climate Adaptation (Utrecht University & Earth System Governance Project) from Netherlands
Thu, June 9, 2016 at 11.04 pm

My comment is specific to: Sub-topic 3. Foster ecological & resilient cities & human settlements

I’m happy to read that Habitat III will focus much attention on building urban resilience. In the corresponding text (subtopic 3, particularly articles 79-83), however, the attention seems very strongly on disaster resilience, which is only one among several aspects of urban resilience. The section title refers to the broader issue of climate change, and “other shocks and stresses”, but there are few references to this in the text.

A possible result, is that the focus is placed heavily on short term ‘static & incremental resilience’. Recent scientific studies on different ways of framing urban resilience, indicate that there are several diverging perspectives on resilience. Two important ones are:

  • ‘static & incremental’ resilience (focus on quick return to status-quo, and modest adaptations following shocks, e.g. ‘build back better’; often near-term view)
  • ‘dynamic & transformative’ resilience (focus on a continually shifting status-quo, uncertain future trends, and building flexibility, adaptability, adaptive & transformative capacity; often long term view)

Both have their value. However: (a) Habitat III is examining “Transformative Commitments”, (b) the dynamic, long-term perspective is sometimes neglected in urban adaptation practice (e.g., it is more difficult to ‘engineer’ and it challenges the status-quo), and (c) cities face multiple problematic trends that are highly uncertain, complex, and interacting with the other trends (environmental, but also economic, demographic, technological, political, social, etc.). Therefore, I would suggest placing more emphasis on the need to build ‘dynamic and transformative’ resilience.

A quick way to do this is, is to add to article 79: a line on the multiple, uncertain and interacting trends that cities will need to face while developing into the future (not only shocks, but also stresses), and a line on the resulting need for a long term perspective and enhancing flexibility and adaptive & transformative capacity.

Thu, June 9, 2016 at 08.55 pm

Thank you for the opportunity to comment and participate in the dialogue on the New Urban Agenda Zero Draft.  IHC Global — a global coalition for inclusive housing and sustainable cities — is posting its statement with the hope that it will be helpful input.  We believe strongly in the principle of equitable urban development and believe that housing and other programs and policies designed to ensure greater equity can spearhead the paradigm shift envisioned in the New Urban Agenda.   IHC Global’s statement is attached.

Ed Werna – Discussion Moderator from
Thu, June 9, 2016 at 01.35 pm
Thanks, Filippo, Knut / Joseph / Cesare  and CISDP / UCLG for your extensive comments and suggestions.  
Filippo’s point regarding regeneration reiterates a line of arguments about such topic, such as for example a previous comment made by Uni. of Texas Austin about housing renewal. Filippo approaches regeneration at a very large scale, combining the built environment with the natural environment. I agree with this argument at the same time it is my view that the draft Agenda already covers this – perhaps not to the extent suggested by Filippo. A following question (to be reiterated below) is to which extent the Agenda is able to include given issues in detail. 
The idea of the circular economy is also well noted. It is also my view that the Agenda is on this line, yet again perhaps it could had been more explicit. 
Knut / Joseph / Cesare gave an comprehensive contribution specially on the social aspects. The overall idea of more emphasis to a grassroots approach to housing and urban development certainly deserves attention. The idea of a ‘Habitat Agenda’ as opposed to an ‘Urban Agenda’ is also interesting, and in a way links to Filippo’s point, as the concept of ‘Habitat’ is all-encompassing. 
While I also fully appreciate the other points regarding wars, distortions in the macroeconomic system, austerity rules in all spheres of government in many states, and global governance, I think that these issues, fundamental as they are, may be beyond the specific scope of Habitat III. I understand that they are crucial, at the same time they are also crucial to any other global agenda. So how can we provide a specific contribution via Habitat III? 

The point about human rights is also well taken, yet, it is my view that the Agenda is already strong – within the limitations of its scope – on this. CISDP / UCLG also argues along these lines. I invite the two sets of participants to further debate your different views. 
Highlighting employment opportunities for women is crucial. 
On gender and minority groups in general, yes I agree with the comments, yet again the Agenda already includes this and the issue is how much more the Agenda can take in. 
I have a comment on CISDP / UCLG’s references to “competitive cities”, on the one hand and “social and solidarity economy”, on the other. These seem contradictory concepts: competition and solidarity. I welcome CISDP / UCLG to elaborate on how to have competition with solidarity. 
Tue, June 7, 2016 at 10.12 am

Dear all,

Here some general thoughts from the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rights on the zero draft of the New Urban Agenda. They are rooted in the Right to the City -which should be, from the Committee point of view, the main basis of the New Urban Agenda Transformative Commitments.

The New Urban Agenda (NUA) zero draft’s main strengths are:

1. Reference (although relativized) to the Right to the City at the beginning of the Declaration, and inclusion of its core principals in the Agenda’s draft: right to housing, to water, polycentric and inclusive cities, etc.

2. Acknowledgment of Human Rights in the city, and NUA framework within the international mechanisms for the protection of human rights.

3. The issue of the right to housing is especially present in the draft:

  • Commitment to implement sound public policies, articulated among national and local governments, to guarantee the right to adequate housing (including access to basic services and infrastructures) and to prevent evictions and to guarantee the security of tenure.
  • Acknowledgement of the social function of land, of tenure forms other than ownership, and of community-based solutions.

4. Acknowledgement of local governments’ role in guaranteeing inhabitants’ rights, and of the need for a real and effective decentralization.

  • This need is especially emphasized regarding the issue of local finances: the draft calls for the decentralization to local governments of the 20% of national resources, and for the development of fair and equitable fiscal systems.

5. Strong and transversal gender approach –especially on the field of access to services, right to housing, fighting against gender-based violence, urban planning and labour equality.

6. Call to strengthen metropolitan governance and to deeply democratize it.

7. Acknowledgement of the existence of urban social segregation and of the need to work for polycentric and inclusive cities. Commitment to fight against such segregation and against urban gentrification processes.

  • Commitment to guarantee free access to public spaces, without any physical, legal, economic or architectural barrier that may prevent citizens (especially most vulnerable collectives, like homeless people) from accessing to it.

 8. Commitment to acknowledge and to support informal sector –both at the employment and habitat levels.

 9. Commitment to guarantee access to water, energy, food security, health, air quality and liveable and attractive urban landscapes.

On the other side, the main weaknesses of the draft are:

1. No reference to democracy as essential political system –neither to local democracy.

  • Civil society and citizens’ role is limited to the monitoring and the evaluation of public policy and to urban planning. No mention to their participation to the real decision-making and to the co-production of public policies.
  • Few mentions to citizen empowerment and the need for supporting it.

2. Call to keep building competitive cities, oriented to financial investments and aiming at the economic growth –although it is called “inclusive and sustainable economic growth”.

  • The draft includes precise policies and actions to create business-friendly cities, but it is far less concrete regarding policies to ensure the inclusiveness of economic growth.
  • No reference to social and solidary economy –which also enters in contradiction with calling for an inclusive economy.
  • No reference to the need for framing public-private partnerships as part of a system to guarantee human rights and the general interest.

3.  No acknowledgement of urban common goods as such, either of their democratic governance. Even if there are mentions to urban goods (public spaces, air, landscapes, gardens, green spaces, water, energy…), they are not recognized as “common goods” and, thus, they are not framed within a democratic governance system aiming at ensuring that there is decided according to general interest.

 4. No recognition of some discriminated collectives –especially LGBTI and racialized people.

 5. No mention to the growth of racism –especially from institutions, in the form urban and police violence, either to the stigmatization of neighbourhoods with a high concentration of minorities. We strongly recommend framing police interventions within a legal framework according to human rights, to guarantee the transparency of their actions (through identity control, the implementation of a control committee…) and to reinforce victim’s chances to access to justice.

 6. No reference to the fight against corruption and tax evasion –which diminishes the amount of available resources to set up public policies.

 7. Regarding the gender mainstreaming, it is focused on a legal and normative approach, rather than effective public policies –especially on the issue of employment, in which it is needed support for women that take care of their children and this prevents them to access to labour market.

 8. Absence of recognition of citizens and collectives’ cultural rights in the city.

knut speaker/coordinator
Mon, June 6, 2016 at 11.42 am

Statement on the “Zero Draft of the New Urban Agenda”
for the informal hearings of stakeholders June 6 – 8 in New York

The signatories of this statement are among the authors of the open letter dated 31 January 2016: “Make social regulation of real estate markets an issue at Habitat III” (again attached). Most of the positions expressed in the following have been discussed among the networks that supported that letter. However, the undersigning persons can only speak for themselves and the indicated organization they represent.


We remindthe Habitat IIISecretariat, Bureau and other drafters of the Habitat III outcome document’s Zero Draft, as well as call upon all stakeholdersto take serious notice of the concerns of international and national networks and organizations have addressed in their open letter: “Make social regulation of real estate markets an issue at Habitat III” (again attached). With the exception of two DGs of the European Commission, we are missing any official response to our letter. Neither Habitat III officials nor governments have responded. At the same time, some of our concerns have been reflected in the outcomes of regional and thematic meetings, but not reflected in the Zero Draft.

We still maintain since the beginning of the Habitat III process that what we need is a New Habitat Agenda (not a narrower, divisive and inoperable “urban agenda”). Such a reconsideration of the standing Habitat Agenda must embody a commitment of the world community to global development that does not put profit over people, but builds social rules for governments, property and financial markets.

After reading the Zero Draft, we can acknowledge progress in some principals and proposed recommendations (see point 2 below). However, we are still missing any systematic debate on the role of global financial markets, the consequences of the crisis or the growing role of transnational corporations, private equity funds and securitization in housing and other real estate markets. While we find some general recommendations regarding the regulation of planning, construction and land registration, we do not find any reference to the needed and possible instruments for social regulation of the private real estate, mortgage and land markets. We are missing any specific recommendation for rent control as a means toward ensuring security of tenure, as well as for the protection of consumers and housing rights in loan agreements. While the document recommends “mechanisms to capture the increase in land and property value” and demands “fair taxation,” we would expect a much more-developed strategy toward an effective and fair taxation of property transactions and rental income, in order to reduce speculation and gentrification and, at the same time, redistribute resources into social housing needs.

While we agree to the recommendations toward a public supply of affordable land for housing, we would like to see corresponding recommendations with regard to public finance for housing. While we welcome the addressed need to shift from the total dominance of private homeownership ideology toward an acknowledgement of the role of rental housing and co-op solutions, we are disappointed not to find clear language to support social public housing. What is principally missing as well is a concrete proposal for the improvement of the living conditions in non-authorized settlements, including the rights of tenants in cases of regularization.

It seems that these deficits are the outcome of a principal error, as well as an error of principle. The document generally does not address the centrality of previous Habitat Agenda commitments to human rights and of the corresponding obligations of states. This is particularly true for the human right to adequate housing, which is enshrined in numerous treaties and international instruments. The single, perfunctory mention of “the right to adequate housing” in paragraph 28 is not sufficient.

The Zero Draftdoes recognize the New Agenda as relevant to all the SDGs. This is especially important as at least six of the SDGs relate to land and all involve local authorities and local governments. However, the Draft does not explicitly align with the Sustainable Development Goal target 11.1, which promises “access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade[d] slums by 2030.” It principally fails to adopt the holistic and planetary approach of SDGs, inter alia, the commitment to reduce inequality between countries.

The Zero Draft authors’ retreat from foregoing human rights commitments leaves no wonder that we cannot find clear language prohibiting forced evictions in the text. Also the huge problems of corruption and of autocratic governments, authoritarian and market driven urban transformations, social and ethnical cleansing and many other discriminatory practices apparently are not important enough to make it into the Zero Draft, despite their manifest impediments to the human right to adequate housing and sustainable development of human settlements at any scale. To wit, the Draft does not even recognize the extraordinary challenge to human settlements and their sustainable development posed by violent conflict, occupation and war, which form the escalating reason and context for much destruction of indigenous human settlements and demolitions of homes, confiscation and foreclosing of lands and territorial waters, illegal extraction of natural resources, the plunder of cultural and natural heritage, internal and external displacements, as well the cause for tens of millions of migrants and refugees to seek safe alternatives to live and, thus, heavily increase the housing demands in many countries, foremost among them poor and developing ones.

In light of memorable and cyclical financial crises and other recent revelations, the Zero Draft does not even meet the 20-year-standing Habitat Agenda commitments to maintain just macroeconomic policies [Habitat Agenda, paras. 40(a), 62, 65, 67(b) 115, 186(d), 189(b) and 201(b)]. The pledged support for, and demands upon all spheres of government and public service—under “Building the Urban Structure”—can be met only within a responsible and transparent macroeconomic system that enables all spheres of democratic governance simultaneously to combat corruption, including off-shore tax havens, and properly allocate public resources in a context of international cooperation whereby states fulfill their extraterritorial obligations to each other, as well as to respect and protect the human rights of all. However, the Zero Draft remains silent on these indispensable aspects of the global economic order.

There will be no solution to the housing and urban crisis as long as these distortions in the macroeconomic system prevail, while the dogma of austerity rules in all spheres of government in many states. The envisaged solutions to overcome the housing shortage remain dreamy without good global governance, while requiring massive public funding and popular participation.

The “radical” paradigm shift claimed in the Zero Draft does not manifest in the current version. In some respects, it reads like a document “out of time,” without acknowledging major impediments to sustainable human settlement development witnessed in our daily news. The dominant macroeconomic order and the impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity remain two main challenges for a social and sustainable spatial development that call for effective measures in Habitat III.


Nonetheless, in the Zero Draft of the mistitled “New Urban Agenda,” we welcome, in particular, the following points:

It is an indicator of progress that the commitment to “leave no one behind” (para. 6) now is expressed with respect to the global effort to overcome poverty and urban inequity. However, the Zero Draft still misses an opportunity to make the New Habitat Agenda relevant to the implementation of all SDGs. The second principle “achieve sustainable and inclusive urban prosperity and opportunities for all” is a questionable outcome of the narrowing of the Habitat Agenda, because the “prosperity” objective here is reduced to only the “urban” half of humanity and obviously purveys a problematic economic vision of growth, especially in connection with “competitiveness.”

Other principles in section A are welcome; however, the recommendations on implementation in section B generally could be more concrete.

We share the view that decision making and planning processes need to be more participatory and democratic (7g, 8a, 9b, 23, 30, 44, 87, 102, etc.). We also share the view that strategic urban planning is a must (104). However, urban planning is a public good and service integral to realization of the human right to adequate housing. We would expect similar recognition and more solid and specific commitments in the New Habitat Agenda.

We welcome some of the points in the statement on land (105–107), in particular:

  • The combination of fiscal, urban planning, and urban management tools, including land market regulations to ensure the capture and distribution of the value created as a result of the process of urbanization and avoid speculative practices (105).
  • The enhancement of the public supply of affordable land for housing, including land in the center and consolidated areas of cities, and encourage mixed-income development to offset segregation, to secure land tenure in informal settlements, and to introduce efficient legal and technical systems to capture part of the land value increment accruing from public investment (106).
  • Strong land management institutions that deal with land registration and governance, implementing a transparent and efficient land use, property registration, and sound financial system. (107).

However, we are worried that the protection of the commons and of traditional land rights against commodification and land grabbing are hardly mentioned.

We welcome the aim to put housing at the center of development strategies (109) and the mentioning of participatory planning (108) in this regard. However, it should be clarified that the human right to adequate housing should be at the centre of the devlopment of human settlments. Much more should be said on implementation.

It is encouraging that the Draft seems to overcome the totally discredited private home ownership fetish, and addresses rental and cooperative housing, as well as community land trusts in 110: “We will consider policies that promote a wide range of alternative housing options, considering shifting from a predominantly private ownership  to other rental and tenure options, including cooperatives solutions such as co-housing and community land trust, in order to improve the supply of affordable housing, as well as to adopt policies that support incremental housing and slum/informal settlements upgrading programs.“ This denotes real progress, even compared to Habitat II, but it must be followed with lively and concrete action.

We are gratified to find language on the regulation of housing in 111: “We will promote regulations within the housing sector, including building codes, standards, development permits, land use by-laws and ordinances, and planning regulations, ensuring quality and habitability. In this regard, planning initiatives should avoid peripheral and isolated mass housing schemes detached from the urban system.” It is disappointing, however, that the regulation of financialized markets such as mortgage, securitization, property transaction, corporate landlords and developers is totally missing. Regarding mass housing, we propose more-positive language, like: “guarantee the inclusion of new settlements into existing spatial patterns and the social and physical infrastructure.”

We totally agree about the need to shift from car-orientated policies toward a massive increase in public transport, walking and cycling, as well as the avoidance of transport needs through mixed use and the inclusion of affordable housing (112).

We applaud the mention of the human right to water in 120. We had wished to find more references to human rights, where appropriate, also regarding the human right to adequate housing.

We welcome also the aim to “implement specific mechanisms to capture the increase in land and property value generated by public investments, including the increased value of residential and commercial buildings brought about by provision of economic and social infrastructure and quality public space. Measures will be put in place to prevent its solely private capture as well as land speculations, by introducing fair taxation and site and city-wide redistribution of gains with the aim to ensuring the contribution of land owners to a more equitable urban development.”


We demand/expect:

The New Habitat Agenda (not “Urban Agenda”) must propose a commitment of the world community to the idea of a global development that does not put profit over people, but builds social rules for governments, property and financial markets that guarantee the human right to adequate housing and to all other services and infrastructures necessary for an adequate standard of living and well-being. This in particular requires social regulation of real estate markets at all levels and a provision of relevant social alternatives to private home ownership, private landlords and private finance. If the HIII process does not address the fundamental causes of segregation, exclusion and inequality in human settlements or include corrective measures, the subsequent Agenda will be another failure, squandering so many precious resources.

The three transformative principles should be specified as:

(a)   Social human rights as the driver of change toward cities for all, which must stop exclusion and guarantee equal access to resources;

(b)   Well-being, human rights and an adequate standard of living for all as international aims that result in state obligations toward social regulation of markets and the provision of needed services and infrastructures the markets do not provide;

(c)   Sustainable, resilient and social human settlements as a binding commitment for integrated policies at all levels. We acknowledge also that resilience, though a laudable pursuit, is not sufficient to prevent or remedy the crises and their effects as addressed in the Zero Draft. While we all share responsibility for sustainable development in the face of disaster risk, many human-made crises and disasters demand accountability and liability for harm caused by the commission or omission of responsible parties. In such cases, resistance, reparations and remedy are the required measures to avoid, resolve and deter the consequences of such crises and disasters of both cyclical and protracted nature.

The New Habitat Agenda must include a clear commitment to the right to stay put, which requires a principal of strengthening security of tenancy and tenure in its diverse forms in all countries. The global community must call for a ban on evictions without proper established safeguards, relocation in the same neighbourhood and respect all the human rights. The New Habitat Agenda should remind all stakeholders that forced eviction is a “gross violation of human rights, in particular the human right to adequate housing” and subject to prosecution of perpetrators and reparation for victims. It should include recommendations for the implemention of policies for concrete alternatives.

Rent control must be implemented for all tenants, for new rental agreements, as well as for sitting tenants.

Enforceable rights to adequate housing must be guaranteed by public institutions at different levels, which implies concrete policies in order to empower public institutions to uphold this human right in their relations to real estate and financial markets. This applies in both urban and rural areas, since we observe the same unfair trends affecting peasants and indigenous people, and not only city dwellers.

In all countries, we need effective taxation of real estate transactions to reduce gentrification and speculation, and to generate revenue for public-housing support. Vacant buildings should be subject to special tax and penalty. Public requisition of empty buildings and squats should be considered as legitimate for meeting social needs.

The New Habitat Agenda should express commitments to social and collective (not only private-property-based) solutions for the regularisation of non-authorized “spontaneous” neighbourhoods. Tenants in “informal” neighbourhoods and in the regularization processes must be respected as citizens with equal human rights, not least the human right to adequate housing.

Social housing needs never can be met by private markets alone. People with low and medium income in all countries and cities need structures of housing provision that do not pursue profit maximization, but are directly dedicated to a social purpose. Therefore, the ongoing privatizations of public and social housing, publically regulated housing finance, urban planning and development must be stopped and reversed.

There will be no solution to the housing and urban crisis as long as the dogma of austerity rules policies at all levels. We need massive public funding in order to overcome housing shortage. Mindful that popular housing solutions, by actual number of units, far outstrip both private and public sector production combined, we urge the recognition of “state-supported social production” that the Barcelona UTC on “Housing in the City We Need” has proposed.

Essential to the New Habitat Agenda are firm commitments with respect to the rights of all workers, as well as inhabitants, to express, organize, strike and collectively bargain and negotiate in order to achieve collective solutions. The New Habitat Agenda should recognize squatting, rent strikes and other forms of peaceful protest and self-help as elements of rights-based spatial development. This approach does not question, but underlines and supports both the authority and obligation of constitutional states to prevent and remedy all violations of the human right to housing.

signatories (drafting team) and contacts:

Knut Unger, 
MieterInnenverein Witten (Witten Tenant Association) – Habitat Netz, Germany
Schillerstr. 13 – D-58452 Witten – Germany  – Fax.
+49(0)2302-77310  – Cell: +49-(0)157-58067500

Joseph Schechla,
Housing and Land Rights Network – Habitat International Coalition
Cairo/Geneva/New Delhi
Telefax: +20 (0)2 3748–6379 –  Cell:  +20 (0)122 347–5203

Cesare Ottolini,
global coordinator International Alliance of Inhabitants

Filippo Boselli Policy Officer
Mon, June 6, 2016 at 12.18 pm

The City We Need is a Regenerative City 

In the section Foster Ecological and Resilient Cities and Human Settlements, more emphasis should be placed on the need to move towards a regenerative type of urban development, whose focus shifts from simply minimizing the impact of urban development onto the environment to a understand cities and urban settlements as much more integrated systems that can actually prosper symbiotically with their surrounding natural environment. Instead of being parasitic, consuming and polluting entities cities can and should actively contribute to the regeneration of the ecosystem services from which they depend. 

This means moving beyond the concept of preserving, sustaining something which is already damaged and compromised, to the concept of active regeneration and renewal of urban ecosystems and natural resources. A Regenerative type of urban development is able to transform cities from systems that only deplete resources and damage ecosystems to dynamic entities that restore a positive, symbiotic relationship with the surrounding environment. This conceptual distinction between sustaining and regenerating is important to emphasize the need to understand human settlements and nature in a much more dynamic, integrated, mutually interdependent way instead of seeing human settlement and nature as two separate, fragmented, clashing systems. Cities can be designed and planned to thrive and co-evolve with natural systems in a way that generates mutual benefits and a greater expression of life and resilience.

Lastly, an extra point should be added emphasizing the need to move from a linear economy to a circular economy. A systemic shift in the way cities and urban settlements deal with resources is needed. Given an ever increasing demand for material goods on a planet of finite resources, this will require a switch in paradigm away from the old linear, wasteful metabolism (produce, use and discard) to a new circular metabolism (produce, use, re-use). As such, cities need to mimic the circular metabolic model found in nature where all waste becomes organic nutrients for new growth. This will mean finding value in outputs that are conventionally regarded as waste and using them as resource inputs in local and regional production systems.

 For more detailed comments to the text of the Zero Draft, please see attached the PDF file with the World Future Council comments. 

Ed Werna – Discussion Moderator from
Sat, June 4, 2016 at 08.58 pm
Thanks to all who already contributed, kick-starting the discussion in an exciting pace with a wide range of issues including democratic immplementation, local government empowerment, e-governance, territorial occupation, housing rehabilitation, rental housing, cycling, environmental assessment methods.
All these themes are relevant, and a challenge for the Agenda is how to integrate them in a comprehensive and coherent way. I hereby ask this question to the contributors and would like to hear your views.
While some contributions included detailed suggestions on how to link up a given theme with the Agenda in general, others focused on highlighting that a given theme would need more prominence. To the extent possible, please highlight how each topic could be inserted in the Agenda, and, following, which actor should do what for the transformative committments. 
Some reactions on specific contributions: 
. Local government empowerment: while there is room for improvement,I think that the Agenda already advocates this amply. 
. Housing (rehabilitation and rental): also important points, and well argued with references et al. The overall framework on housing in the Agenda already includes these issues, perhaps not with the relevance they deserve, and a question would be how to balance this in the text. 
. How does the ‘cycling economy’ relate to the urban economy? How can cycling be ‘an important tool for more efficient supply chain in urban logistics’? 
Professor K K Pandey
Fri, June 3, 2016 at 05.16 pm

The Zero draft does not give adequate attention on e-governance using GIS,GPS and mobile governance and the need for Big data.This has to be seen in terms of emerging scope for poor and marginalised groups who need to be suitably educated along with proper development of userfriendly devices.

Further the draft does not give due attention on local government empowerment and capacity building in the context of verticle and horizental coordination.The long list of actions as elaborated in the draft can not be implemented without a capable local governance system.The option of alternatives including Special Purpose Vehicles can not be used without an empowered local government .therefore local government empowerment need due attention.

JP Amaral Co-founder of Bike Anjo from Brazil
Thu, June 2, 2016 at 01.44 pm

The potential of cycling in the New Urban Agenda – Zero Draft Analysis

Dear Edmundo Werna, Dear colleagues for a sustainable urban development,

I am JP Amaral, co-founder of the Brazilian NGO Bike Anjo, and I am posting this comment in behalf of European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) and World Cycling Alliance (WCA)First, we would like to congratulate everyone involved in the development of the Zero Draft. We believe that the New Urban Agenda is on the right track and we are really grateful for seeing the presence of active mobility in its Zero Draft. ECF, WCA and its members will continue to cooperate with this process and show that cycling delivers towards sustainable urban development.

We analysed the Zero Draft of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) and gathered where and how cycling is referred to, and what is still lacking in the vision of how cycling can contribute to sustainable urban development. Please find below a general analysis followed by specific comments regarding the Main Topic A “THE TRANSFORMATIVE COMMITMENTS FOR SUSTAINABLE URBAN DEVELOPMENT” and the Sub-Topic 2 “SUSTAINABLE AND INCLUSIVE URBAN PROSPERITY AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL”.

Especifically on this subject matter and on Livelihoods, we believe cycling logistics must be enhanced in order to reduce heavy traffic in cities and to promote local economy. By promoting cycling, we also have seen in many cities that the local economy grows rapidly because you give more visibility to local commerce and facilities to shop during your commute. Let’s also not forget that “reduce travel demands” and “reduce car usage” must be present.

Our complete analysis and our work around Habitat III is available at:

General analysis of cycling in the New Urban Agenda:

  • Cycling is present and there is no turning back. The work done by many organisations around the globe on cycling promotion is definitely reflected on the Zero Draft and we are happy for that.

  • Cycling is so much more than transport and this should be translated into the New Urban Agenda, linking to basic rights to the city, local economy, health, environment,  social inclusion, among other benefits of cycling.

  • People-oriented cities is key in the New Urban Agenda, guaranteeing that we are not talking about cars, buses and bicycles, but drivers, passengers and cyclists.

  • “Sustainable transport” should always be emphasised instead of just “transport”, so as to not confuse with old models of transport policies, such as road infrastructure for cars.

  • New Urban Agenda has to enhance the reduction of car usage and establishing the necessary tools for that, such as reducing parking space, congestion charge schemes, pedestrian streets, among others.

  • Road and public space safety needs to be more present if we want to guarantee quality of life for people and a healthy environment in cities.


  • Paras. 45, 47-49, 53, 61 and 64 – Cycling is good for economic growth and local economy, as it can improve connectivity and strengthen territorial linkages for more job opportunities, gives easy access to local services and goods, can contribute strongly to tourism and is an important tool for more efficient supply chain in urban logistics.

  • Paras. 47-49 – In section about “Inclusive and sustainable urban economies” include “cycling logistics as a form of inclusive and local economy and for reducing travel demand”.

  • Para 51 – This paragraph is quite important and mentions public transport 2 times in a confusing way and then brings walking and cycling. We should make the connectivity of “reduce travel needs” with “more sustainable modes of travelling, such as walking and bicycling” and integrating this with a cost-effective public transport system.

  • Para 53 – Emphasise that this “transport needs of the poor” should be 1) sustainable means of transportation; 2) seeking to reduce the distances and need of transport.

  • Para. 55 – Include promotion of active mobility “Availability and universal access to adequate and quality social infrastructure and facilities, such as health and education facilities and promotion of active mobility, among others, is fundamental to building a healthy society …”

  • Para 61 – Include “Promoting local economy and cycling economy, public spaces and cyclelogistics”

  • Para 64 – Include “Promoting local economy, cycling economy, cyclelogistics (often informal sector)”

issa samandar Director from Palestine (State of) *
Thu, June 2, 2016 at 06.53 am

htis is connected with paragraph 12…tackling cases of people under occupation…. or in conflict sitaution……my proposal would suggest adding that all activtits , planing by the occuping power is deemed illegal internationaly….. as house demolitions…transfer …and using urban planning to transfer people from their homeland….state parties should uphold international conventions to boycott such actions and give support for the people under occupation…. the sentence in which occupation has been mentioned is weak and not clear…the case of Palestine is a very clear case…. to stand with the oprressed….

Vera Architect and Urban Planner from Brazil
Thu, June 2, 2016 at 01.09 am

I am very pleased with the breath of topics and strategies included in the proposed agenda. Congratulations to the team! May society be able to identify and estabish processes and means to enable its circulation among policy makers and leaders, its observation and democratic implementation.

The University of Texas at Austin
Wed, June 1, 2016 at 06.26 pm

Having participated in two of the regional conferences and the meetings in NYC  in April, and now after revieweing the zero draft document I am surprised that two important issues in housing have not received sufficient focus. The first is the issue of housing rehabilitation which has been the focus of a major comparative study of older consolidated self-built settlements in 9 Latin American Countries (  The formally informal neighborhoods are now prime locations for densification and do not require policies of upgrading and :regularization” as much as housing and community rehab (infrastructure retrofits), dwelling redesign etc.  See our recent volume (in English and Spanish on the subject)  Housing Policy in Latin American Cities: A New Generation of Strategies and Approaches for 2016 UN-Habitat III.  Se also my paper in Habitat International  Vol 50 (2015) 373-384.  In fact the only mention of rehab that I have come across came from the UN delagate from Spain who discussed it the context of older social interest housing of 20-30 years ago.  Also relevant of course, but our focus is on the older consolidated informal settlements. 

The second issue area is that of rental housing policy which is still a neglected area of housing policy even though it has featured in much research (UNCHS) and elsewhere in recent years.  See the recent book edited by Andres Blanco at the IADB.

Fencas Real Estate Development Company
Wed, June 1, 2016 at 03.03 pm

My Response is to the sub topic 3 which is fostering ecological and resilient cities and human settlement.

In keeping with the climate agreement signed in paris in 2015, and lowering our carbon footprint,there must be an increase in the use of environmental assessment method such as BREEAM and LEED in The planning and development of new human settlement. The use of the method should equally be adapted in the other sectors such as agriculture particularly in Sub -Saharan  Africa where unemployment is very high as a mechanism for driving Economic resilience and new job creation. New Communities must address the economic,social and environmental while  communities can be designed in such a way that the mainstay of that community will be anchored on a particular industry. This way we can be seen to be adding value within the wider context of climate change,foster ecological  and economic resilient cities and human settlement.

“Edmundo Werna – Discussion Moderator / Head of Unit, Sectoral Policies Department, ILO, Geneva” from Switzerland
Wed, June 1, 2016 at 10.25 am
Dear Participants, 

Welcome to the second round of the online discussion seeking feedback on the Zero Draft of the Habitat III Outcome document. I am delighted to be moderating this discussion and look forward to hearing from you.

While having an interest in the Agenda as a whole, I also have a particular interest in Sub-topic 2 ‘Sustainable and Inclusive Urban Prosperity and Opportunities for all’ and I look forward to receiving your comments on this area. Let me start the discussion by saying that the theme of livelihoods is a fundamental part of the Summit. Habitat III emphasizes the need for sustainability. Labour cuts-across its three pillars: social, economic and ecological. Cities and towns will not be sustainable if the livelihoods of their residents are not properly addressed. Initiatives such as infrastructure provision, slum upgrading and inner-city regeneration will be viable and will lead to growth when employment-generation and working conditions come into the equation. Well-trained entrepreneurs and labour force, working in adequate conditions, constitute a crucial asset for promoting housing and urban development.

I look forward to a useful discussion.