World Enabled convenes experts at the UN who say “Inclusive Innovation will shape the future of cities”
I am one of a billion people in the world who live with a disability. A disability is not just a medical condition, but rather a failure of design, a failure to consider human difference in the way we build our products, services, and even cities. Nearly 55% of people with disabilities or older persons currently live in cities and towns, and our cities and towns are failing us, big time.
The world becoming increasingly urban and persons with disabilities, as well as older persons continue to face exclusion, inequality, and multiple forms of discrimination when applying to a job, using transportation, or simply paying their utilities online. In a lot of cases, this is not intentional, but rather systemic neglect.
As a result of this negligence, we experience lower outcomes in education, employment and health than our non-disabled peers. We struggle to gain equitable access to the basic services available to people without disabilities.
To challenge exclusion and ensure that we leave no one behind, World Enabled, UCLG, and the Federal German Government launched the Global Compact on Inclusive and Accessible Cities. The Compact expands the pathbreaking work we have done with G3ict on Smart Cities, and generates new momentum and commitments in broader and more inclusive approaches to urban development. Together with our partners at the Ford Foundation, World Economic Forum, the Inclusive Cities Lab at the University of California Berkeley, G3ict, and the UN Special Envoy on Accessibility we will continue to develop tools that will help cities harness new innovations and develop ecosystems that will build a more inclusive cities for us all.
Because of this, I was delighted to co-host a side event at the 12th Conference of the State Parties with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The side-event entitled Inclusive Innovation: Connecting Minds, Building Future Cities addresses the future of urban design. We gathered ministers and senior level government leaders from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Ecuador, to demonstrate how cities can leverage innovative technologies to build more equitable cities. We also worked with our partners at UN Habitat, the World Expo 2020, the NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, World Blind Union and with staff from World Enabled, the World Economic Forum, G3ict, Steelcase and other partners, we have begun to design practical solutions that we are already piloting in cities around the world.
It seems like just yesterday that I was helping to draft the CRPD, and now here it is in its second decade, recognized as one of the most consequential global agreements of our era. The CRPD requires states and all cities within these cates to commit to building accessible cities, accessible transportation system, accessible housing, and all physical and digital infrastructure using the principles of universal design. The CRPD is not just meant to protect the rights of people with disabilities, but everyone, especially other marginalized groups like older persons, people living in chronic poverty, migrants, refugees, and people fleeing from natural and man made disasters. New technology is making it possible for cities to do better and leverage innovation to bring about more inclusive outcomes.
Our event illustrates the challenges and solutions that cities are facing with regards to inclusive urban innovation. Through our Cities for All Global Compact and Campaign we are developing a coordinated mechanism of partners to share best practices, develop new solutions, be recognized for their commitment to inclusion, and influence the political debates and outcomes of upcoming global development forums including the United Cities and Local Governments World Congress and Council, the World Urban Forum 10 and the World Expo 2020.
I look forward to building on the outcomes of this timely meeting of global leaders and bringing the partners present today into a community of practice that can create the tools that work. We will be convening a Global Council on Inclusive Cities with the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Accessibility, Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes, to accelerate partnerships with governments to realize a truly inclusive 2030 Agenda that is universally accessible, inclusive and leaves no one behind. Visionary city leaders understand that economic vitality flourishes where inclusive innovation thrives and where all persons can exercise their human potential and contribute their talents to a more equitable urban future for us all.