Unlocking Urban Inclusion: The Urban Inclusion Marker by UN-Habitat

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21 September 2023, New York. – In a rapidly urbanizing world, ensuring that cities are inclusive and welcoming to all their inhabitants is paramount. It is in this context that the Urban Inclusion Marker, a groundbreaking tool developed by the Inclusive Cities, Communities of Solidarity project, has emerged as a beacon of hope. This geo-referenced index, based on the principles of the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), serves as a robust measure of a city’s inclusivity, evaluating its potential for spatial, social, economic, and cultural integration of its residents. Let’s delve into the significance of this Urban Inclusion Marker and its three pillars that guide its design.

Pillar 1: Fair Distribution of Resources

At the core of urban inclusion lies the equitable distribution of resources. The first pillar of the Urban Inclusion Marker scrutinizes spatial conditions within cities, including factors like location, proximity, risk factors, and the coverage of essential services and infrastructure. Tangible elements such as housing, health and welfare, education and culture, public spaces, and employment opportunities are meticulously evaluated.

Housing: Adequate housing is a fundamental human right. The Marker assesses housing conditions, affordability, and accessibility to ensure that residents have a safe and comfortable place to call home.

Health and Welfare: Access to healthcare services is crucial. This aspect looks at the availability and affordability of healthcare facilities, aiming to bridge gaps in access to quality healthcare.

Education and Culture: Quality education and cultural enrichment opportunities are essential for personal growth and development. The Marker evaluates the accessibility and inclusivity of educational and cultural institutions.

Public Space: Public spaces are the heart of any city. Their safety, accessibility, and the sense of community they foster are key indicators of urban inclusion.

Employment and Opportunities: Gainful employment and opportunities for advancement are key to social and economic integration. The Marker analyzes unemployment rates and assesses opportunities for career growth.

Pillar 2: Social, Economic, and Cultural Diversity and Equity

Diversity and equity form the bedrock of inclusive societies. The second pillar of the Urban Inclusion Marker dives deep into socioeconomic conditions, considering factors such as affordability, unemployment, access to healthcare and education, and social diversity.

Affordability: Ensuring that basic needs like housing, healthcare, and education are affordable for all income groups is a pivotal aspect of urban inclusion.

Unemployment: High unemployment rates can lead to social disparities. The Marker measures unemployment levels and works to create strategies for job creation and skill development.

Access to Health and Education: Bridging gaps in access to quality healthcare and education is crucial for leveling the playing field and fostering inclusivity.

Social Diversity: A diverse and inclusive society is one where people of all backgrounds can thrive. The Marker assesses the level of social diversity within a city.

Pillar 3: Inclusive Governance

The third pillar of the Urban Inclusion Marker highlights the importance of inclusive governance frameworks. These frameworks play a vital role in improving prosperity and inclusion for all city residents.

Inclusive governance ensures that marginalized communities have a voice in decision-making processes, leading to policies that address their unique needs. It promotes collaboration between the public sector, civil society, and the private sector to create more inclusive cities.

Urban Inclusion Markers in Latin America and the Caribbean

Currently, the Urban Inclusion Marker has been implemented in several cities in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Barranquilla, Cucuta, Bucaramanga, and Villa del Rosario in Colombia, as well as Quito, Ecuador, and Lima, Peru. These cities have taken significant steps towards measuring and enhancing their levels of inclusion, setting a positive example for others to follow.

In summary, the Urban Inclusion Marker represents a promising step towards creating cities that are inclusive, equitable, and welcoming to all their inhabitants. By focusing on fair resource distribution, social, economic, and cultural diversity, and inclusive governance, this innovative tool is helping cities across the world pave the way for a more inclusive urban future. As we continue to urbanize, let us remember that true progress is measured not just in terms of economic growth but also by the level of inclusion and well-being experienced by all residents.

60-year old volunteer community teacher Nelson Pajaro teaching the local children of Bucaramanga, Colombia, the art of photography. (c) UN-Habitat

The Urban Inclusion Marker is a powerful tool that can significantly improve the lives of youth in cities by fostering a more inclusive and supportive urban environment. Here’s how this tool can be used to benefit young people:

Access to Quality Education: The Marker assesses the accessibility and inclusivity of educational institutions. For youth, this means improved access to quality education, including schools and vocational training centers. It can help identify areas where educational resources are lacking, leading to targeted investments in educational infrastructure and programs that benefit young people.

Affordable Housing: Housing affordability is a key concern for many young adults. The Marker’s evaluation of housing conditions and affordability can lead to policies and initiatives that promote affordable housing options for youth, helping them establish stable homes and communities.

Employment Opportunities: High levels of youth unemployment can lead to frustration and social unrest. The Marker’s analysis of employment opportunities can guide cities in creating job training programs, internships, and initiatives aimed at reducing youth unemployment rates. It can also identify areas where there’s a need for youth-focused entrepreneurship support.

Safe Public Spaces: Youth often rely on public spaces for recreation, socialization, and personal development. The Marker’s assessment of public spaces ensures that they are safe and accessible to young people, encouraging healthy social interactions and physical activities.

Healthcare Access: Access to healthcare services, including mental health support, is critical for the well-being of youth. The Marker’s evaluation can highlight gaps in healthcare access, leading to initiatives that prioritize youth-friendly healthcare services and mental health programs.

Social Inclusion: Youth come from diverse backgrounds, and the Marker’s assessment of social diversity can help cities create inclusive communities where young people from all walks of life feel welcome and accepted. This can reduce social exclusion and discrimination, leading to a more cohesive society.

Youth Engagement in Governance: Inclusive governance is crucial for youth to have a voice in shaping their cities. The Marker’s emphasis on inclusive governance frameworks can encourage cities to involve youth in decision-making processes, consult them on policies that affect them, and create youth councils or advisory boards to ensure their perspectives are considered.

Monitoring and Accountability: The Urban Inclusion Marker provides a systematic way to monitor progress and hold cities accountable for their commitments to youth inclusion. By regularly updating the Marker’s data and sharing it with the public, cities can demonstrate their dedication to improving the lives of young people and track the impact of their initiatives over time.

Therefore, the Urban Inclusion Marker can be a catalyst for positive change in cities by addressing the specific needs and challenges faced by youth. It provides a comprehensive framework for assessing urban inclusion and guides policymakers and city planners in creating environments that are conducive to the well-being, growth, and active participation of young residents, ultimately improving their quality of life in cities.

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