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Essay On Sustainable Urbanisation Towards Housing For All

Related Global United Nations Commitments, Resolutions and Intergovernmental Outcomes

a) The Habitat Agenda

Adopted in 1996 in Istanbul by 171 countries at the second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, the Habitat Agenda is a worldwide plan of action for sustainable human settlements. One of its seven commitments is to gender equality.

The Habitat Agenda recognises the human rights of women, including those pertaining to land, housing and property. It promotes greater participation of women in public and political life, and encourages capacity building for women. There are also calls to take into account the special needs of women and to value women's knowledge and contribution in planning and managing towns and cities.

In particular, it is worth noting paragraph 46 of the Habitat Agenda, which states the commitment of UN member states to “integrate gender perspectives in legislation, policies and projects through the application of gender-sensitive analysis.”

The paragraph also highlights the importance of incorporating gender in human settlements planning and monitoring and evaluation, including “collecting, analysing and disseminating sex-disaggregated data and information on human settlements issues.”

»» Click here for an extract from Gender and the Habitat Agenda

b) The Beijing Platform for Action

The Beijing Platform for Action, adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, refers to urbanisation in the context of linkages between the urban and the rural. While it advocates for special attention to the plight of rural women—due to their social marginalisation and low levels of economic development, especially in developing countries5 —it also recognises the rise of rural-to-urban migration and its “unequal consequences for women and men.” 6

The Platform draws attention to the “feminisation of poverty,” one manifestation of which is the rise of female-led households, which are “very often among the poorest.” 7 It describes rural to urban migration as a contributing factor to the rise of these households.

The Platform states that because of gender-based barriers such as wage discrimination and “occupational segregation patterns in the labour market,” 8 female-led households often fare worse than male-led households.

The Platform also suggests that “large movements of refugees or displaced persons in developing countries contribute to rapid urbanisation”. During these times, it notes, family structures are affected and women are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation. 9

c) The Millennium Development Goals

The eight Millennium Development Goals were agreed by the world community in 2000 to tackle the world’s main development challenges. Each goal has elements that can be enhanced through attention to gender and urbanisation.

The first goal on halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, for example, would be more effectively addressed when special attention is given to the plight of impoverished women in slums and helping them to overcome the extra barriers they face, as women, in securing gainful employment.

The third goal is, explicitly, to promote gender equality and empower women. The seventh goal—to ensure environmental sustainability—also has linkages to gender equality and sustainable urbanisation. UN-HABITAT’s State of the World’s Cities 2006/7 report revealed that in many cases, “poverty, poor sanitation and indoor air pollution make children and women living in slums more vulnerable to respiratory illnesses and other infectious diseases than their rural counterparts.” 10

Target 7.d of the seventh goal is to improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. From a gender perspective, part of monitoring this target includes compilation of sex-disaggregated data and a gender-based analysis of how slum life, urban poverty and gender issues are interrelated.

Other Global UN Commitments and Intergovernmental Outcomes Linking Gender Equality and Urban Development


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More than half of the world’s population now live in urban areas. By 2050, that figure will have risen to 6.5 billion people – two-thirds of all humanity. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without significantly transforming the way we build and manage our urban spaces.

The rapid growth of cities in the developing world, coupled with increasing rural to urban migration, has led to a boom in mega-cities. In 1990, there were ten mega-cities with 10 million inhabitants or more. In 2014, there are 28 mega-cities, home to a total 453 million people.

Extreme poverty is often concentrated in urban spaces, and national and city governments struggle to accommodate the rising population in these areas. Making cities safe and sustainable means ensuring access to safe and affordable housing, and upgrading slum settlements. It also involves investment in public transport, creating green public spaces, and improving urban planning and management in a way that is both participatory and inclusive.