Habitat III

The United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development

Between October 15-23, 2016 The Vancouver City Planning Commission joined urban leaders from almost 200 countries in Quito Ecuador for Habitat III – the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development. Commission co-chair Nola Kate Seymoar and Commissioner Jennifer Marshall represented the Planning Commission as members of the Canadian delegation to share with the world’s leading urban thinkers and bring back best practices in planning and development to Vancouver.

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Localizing the New Urban Agenda

As the host of the first Habitat In 1976, and a City continuing to be at the forefront of change in many fields, we think Vancouver has a special relationship to Habitat III.

Vancouver - City under the mountains
Photo credit: Tim Shields on Flickr.

The VCPC is looking to Habitat III’s New Urban Agenda (NUA) to help inform our work in 2017 and beyond. The NUA lays out a framework for resilient and sustainable urban development at the local, national and international level for the next 20 years. The NUA has benefited from the highest level of expertise from around the world in its background papers, and a series of extensive consultations (Preparatory Committee meetings) and meetings conducted by partner organizations. The text was adopted at the Habitat III Summit in Quito Ecuador in October 2016. For the best reports on the outcomes and the efforts of cities around the world to implement the New Urban Agenda, please visit Citiscope’s web site.

Ignoring the UN-speak, the document outlines a bold vision to which cities should aspire. The Commission has embraced these aspirations for Vancouver and has adopted the NUA as a framework to guide our work for the next 5 years and beyond. It is clear that Vancouver has already made considerable progress on many of the basic building blocks identified within the NUA and many other cities often look to the City as a model, nationally and internationally. This is a matter of well-deserved pride on behalf of Vancouver’s elected officials and professional staff, businesses, community organizations and citizens.

At the same time, the City is confronting several ‘wicked’ problems–particularly complex issues involving many levels of government and sometimes competing objectives of groups within the City. The growing gap between the rich and poor; affordability in general, and of housing in particular; the credibility gap between public consultation processes and perceived results; the relationship of planning programs to the development of sustainable and healthy neighbourhoods, and concerns related to the sustainability and quality of public space and public amenities; to name a few of Vancouver’s more challenging development-related issues. These highly complex issues might benefit from ideas, tools and techniques gathered at Habitat III and brought home by delegates from the region and also from a framework for designing new approaches, implementing them and reflecting on their successes and failures within an overall participatory learning-city model.

Moving Forward

Using the umbrella of implementing Habitat III’s New Urban Agenda at the Vancouver and/or Metro level, we are working on a series of events throughout late 2016 and early 2017 culminating in a “Local New Urban Agenda Summit”, tentatively planned for November 2017. Our goal is to raise awareness of the relevance of the NUA for our region and to find ways to carry it out locally. The VCPC envisions serving as a convener of a multi-stakeholder process to offer a focal point for activities by us and/or partners to implement the NUA.

The Vancouver Delegation at Habitat III in Quito.

Stay tuned for future updates as the VCPC works with partner organization, including the City of Vancouver, UBC SCARPWomen Transforming Cities, Huairou Commission, and Dudoc Vancouver to “localize” the NUA and lessons from Habitat III to a Vancouver context.