The Shift Toward a New Urban Agenda

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On October 20th, leaders from around the globe gathered in the city of Quito, Ecuador for the 3rd installment of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development. Dubbed, Habitat III, the conference ratified the ‘New Urban Agenda’ which outlines a contemporary progressive model for city planning in the years to come.

The new agenda, which focuses heavily on sustainability measures for energy, transportation and housing in urban areas, has been long anticipated by mayors worldwide. The agenda from the previous Habitat summit in 1996 (the conference is held only once every 20 years) has been criticized for not anticipating or providing measures for the profound influx in population which cities around the globe have experienced. Currently, an estimated 54% of the world’s population lives in cities, with that number expected to rise well over 60% by the next Habitat conference.

In order to respond to the demands of rapidly growing populations among a host of other pressing challenges, cities must be properly funded, argues Ada Calau, the first female mayor of Barcelona. In Spain, municipalities like Barcelona, Madrid and many others have combined access to only 13% of total public revenues. Cities in the United States face similar issues of underfunding, leaving them ill-equipped to properly address challenges of education, health care, transportation, food sourcing, climate change and many others.

As Habitat III sets the stage for urban planning over the next 2 decades, sufficient funding from state and federal governments will play a crucial role in enabling cities and municipalities to innovate and respond to ever changing and multiplying urban challenges.


Kinver, Mark. “UN Habitat III Summit Aims to Shape Future Urban Living.” BBC Science & Environment (BBC News), October 21, 2016.

Colau, Ada. “After Habitat III: A Stronger Urban Future Must Be Based on the Right to the City.” The Guardian (The Guardian), October 20, 2016.

Amin, Adnan Z. “Sustainable Cities: 3 Ways Cities Can Contribute to a Renewable Energy Future.” Huffington Post (The Huffington Post), October 19, 2016.

Accessed October 22, 2016.