The UN has published the first draft of New Urban Agenda for the Globe. US/ICOMOS wants to know what you think?

Last week, the 10 U. N. member countries that are helping to organize the monumental UN Habitat 3 conference occurring later this year issued the Zero Draft (i.e. the first draft) of the proposed outcome document for the meeting.  This document, known as the New Urban Agenda, is meant to be a roadmap reflecting a global consensus on the path to sustainable cities and towns in the 21st century.  It also may well prove to be one of the most consequential steps ever taken in terms of establishing the role of historic preservation and culture in global efforts to achieve safe, inclusive, sustainable and resilient cities. US/ICOMOS wants to know what you think about the Zero Draft?  We’ll be collecting your feedback to help shape our comments on the document.  Have a read and then leave your thoughts in the comments section for this post (see below).

Twenty years ago, the countries of the world produced the Habitat Agenda: Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements, the outcome document agreed upon in 1996 at the global Habitat II conference. Its call for adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements in an urbanizing world resonated mightily with historic preservationists, but many lamented its failure to acknowledge the linkages between these objectives and cultural heritage. These frustrations  were amplified when the fifteen-year Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted in 2000. The MDGs marked a historic global mobilization to achieve a set of important social priorities worldwide but yet again, neither culture nor heritage were explicitly mentioned.
By 2010, with the 2015 target date of the MDGs approaching, it was clear the world would be embarking on a debate over a new post-MDG international development framework. The so-called Post-2015 Development Agenda was born.  The process kicked off in earnest in 2011 when 192 UN Member states agreed at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012 (known as the Rio+20 process), to start a process of designing successor goals to the MDGs, dubbed the “sustainable development goals” or “SDGs”.  This time, ICOMOS was ready.  Working with UNESCO and partners in the #Agenda21Culture movement, heritage mobilized to assure its role as a driver and enabler of development would be fully embraced when the world set new goals.
On 25 September 2015, after years of dialogue, the countries of the world adopted the successor to the MDGs.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets — is arguably the most ambitious and holistic development framework ever conceived. Amidst much history that was made in its adoption, not to be overlooked is the unprecedented, explicit recognition given in the document to the fundamental role that heritage and culture play in human development.  “The new SDGs reflect a hard-learned global realization that heritage is a necessary enabler and a powerful driver of sustainable development,” said Gustavo Araoz, President of ICOMOS.
Unlike their predecessors, the MDGs, the SDGs speak boldly about heritage. Of the 7 targets making up the groundbreaking new Urban Goal, Target 11.4 calls for “making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable by strengthening efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage.”   The adoption of the SDGs has been accompanied by several parallel Post-2015 agenda settings processes. Because of the work of ICOMOS and partners, these also include groundbreaking references to Heritage, most notably the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Now, twenty years after 1996, the next Habitat conference, which takes place in October in Quito, Ecuador, is just around the corner.  The conference will mark the culmination of now five years of intensive global advocacy by ICOMOS on the Post-2015 Agenda.    The New Urban Agenda is the name given to the Habitat 3 outcome document. It’s expected to guide the efforts around urbanization of a wide range of actors — nation states, city and regional leaders, international development funders, United Nations programs and civil society — for the next 20 years. Inevitably, this agenda will also lay the groundwork for policies and approaches that will extend, and impact, far into the future.
With so many global goals and targets being set over a short period, it’s more important than ever that the heritage community remain mobilized to ensure that the work of the past five years and the promise of the SDGs and Target 11.4 are realized.   The SDGs reflect the critical role culture and cultural heritage/landscape in the emerging need for a paradigm shift to a concept of development that view sustainability in more humanistic and ecological terms.  As Gustavo Araoz put it, “The SDGs show that the World has a common vision of sustainability and a shared understanding of the tools – including heritage – that make that vision achievable. Now it’s up to all of us to build and re-build that future together.”
The New Urban Agenda is the first major step in this process and for operationalizing sustainable development in an integrated and coordinated way at global, regional, national, sub-national and local levels. By creating an action-oriented roadmap for implementation, the New Urban Agenda will drive the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially SDG Goal 11, of making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. Because the heritage target, 11.4, is located within Goal 11, the elaboration of the role of heritage in Agenda 2030 is necessarily closely linked to the Habitat 3 New Urban Agenda process as well.

Now that the Zero Draft is out, US/ICOMOS wants to know what you think! Now that the Zero Draft of the New Urban Agenda is out, US/ICOMOS wants to know what you think! The nexus between heritage and development has been a fundamental, American concern for decades. It’s even enshrined in the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, which bases US national historic preservation policy on the grounds of cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational, economic, and energy benefits. After 50 years of US experience in these matters, there is a vast network of heritage professionals actively engaged at the intersection of historic preservation and community revitalization. This network holds a tremendous amount of experience, knowledge and learning relevant to the aims of the New Urban Agenda.
So, how well does the Zero Draft capture the role of heritage in Development?  Does it align with the SDGs?  To help with the review process, an ICOMOS Task Force has been developing a Habitat 3 concept note.  The note identifies three major roles for heritage:

  • Cultural Heritage and Creativity as a Driver for Inclusive Economic Development
  • Cultural Heritage as an Enabler for Social Cohesion, Inclusion and Equity
  • Cultural Heritage and Historic quarters of cities as sources to improve livability and sustainability of both older and new urban areas

To be certain, the Zero Draft addresses cultural knowledge, heritage and historic landscapes — itself a major accomplishment.  Most notably is Zero Draft Section 124:

Heritage and Culture
We will place urban culture and heritage as a priority component of urban plans and strategies through the adoption of planning instruments, including master plans, zoning guidelines, and strategic growth policies that safeguard a diverse range of tangible and intangible cultural assets and landscapes and mitigate the disruptive impact of development. We will also conduct a comprehensive inventory and/or mapping of these tangible and intangible assets, utilizing new technologies and techniques and involving local communities, as appropriate.

Other important discussions can be found in Section 38, 47, 61.
Do these references suffice?  The Heritage Target emphasizes the inter-linkages of natural and cultural heritage.  How about the Zero Draft? Does the Zero Draft embrace heritage-based strategies for implementation including land use regulations and financial incentives/disincentives?  These are just a few of the questions people around the world are asking themselves.
Now it’s your turn!  Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.  Comments received by May 20 are especially helpful as they can guide the US/ICOMOS comments provided as part of the Habitat 3 Urban Dialogue on the Zero Draft, which is open until May 23.

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