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Manifesto launched to guide sustainable development worldwide

Words: Laura Edgar
Freiburg Solar City

To build the cities needed in the 21st century, 10 guiding principles have been laid out in a manifesto by the World Urban Campaign, including the principle that cities should be “well planned, walkable and transit-friendly”.

The report, The City We Need 2.0, will feature at the UN Habitat III conference in Quito in October this year. The first version of the report, The City We Need 1.0  was launched in New York in March 2014.

The 10 principles, which suggest ways to achieve sustainable urban development across the world, were conceived by partners and associate partners of the World Urban Campaign, including the RTPI.

Views were sourced from over 7,500 individuals and 2,250 organisations representing various sectors of society across the world through 26 'Urban Thinkers Campus' events.

Peter Geraghty, chair of the RTPI International Committee, said: “This key document is an important contribution to Habitat III. The fact that we have been able to play a contributory part in its development is testament to the hard work and dedication of our international officer and the commitment of the institute and its international committee to playing a proactive role in international planning issues.

"I am looking forward to seeing how the world urban campaign progresses in the run up to Habitat III. It promises to be an exciting time for international planning".

Past and current trends, the report states, provide “important lessons” about what to “avoid”, including:


  • Poor planning, often using outdated and rigid planning approaches that are surpassed by reality leading to urban sprawl, congestion, pollution and the wasteful use of land, water and energy exacerbating climate change

  • Poorly regulated real estate markets that create speculative bubbles and financial crises and further exacerbate lack of security of tenure and access to affordable housing


In response to the problems identified, the report puts forward 10 guiding principles, which are accompanied by key drivers of change, to achieve a “new urban paradigm".

The principles include:


  • The city we need is affordable accessible and equitable

  • The city we need is collectively managed and democratically governed

  • The city we need is regenerative and resilient

  • The city we need is well planned, walkable and transit-friendly


Planning and design are collectively noted as the “cornerstone” of the 21st century city, helping realise the principles needed for the cities through spatial visioning and strategic planning, supported by policies, tools, institutional and participatory mechanisms and regulatory procedures.

Land, housing and services is also listed as a driver of change. The report suggests a rights-based approach and social justice agenda should be institutionalised. It should ensure “access and commitment to land housing and services to all. Cities should adopt innovative and flexible approaches to extend the delivery of these to all of its inhabitants”.

The environment, the report says, also needs protecting and fostering, while the development of “effective finance and funding models is a prerequisite to the building of The City We Need”.

The Cities We Need 2.0 will be presented to political leaders to agree and adopt as part of the New Urban Agenda at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), in Quito, Ecuador, this October. The RTPI's head of policy, Richard Blyth, described the New Urban Agenda as "a local plan for the world".

Speaking to The Planner, RTPI head of policy Richard Blyth said planners and planning are integral to the way the document has been framed.

RTPI chief executive Trudi Elliott has been credited as a contributor to its drafting process, with the institute securing a number of agreements in relation to the language used in the document to ensure the concepts that underpin planning play a key role.

Blyth said the report is also about looking beyond the once-in-a-generation Quito meeting in October, at a world where the urban population is expected to surpass six billion by 2045. “One of the things that the World Urban Campaign is thinking is what should be the ongoing approach [to urban development]?”

Planners such as Eugénie Birch (head of the World Urban Campaign) had already used "a huge amount of influence to try and get the UN and governments to think about cities", resulting in the inclusion of the pledge to "make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable" as Goal 11 within the UN Sustanable Development Goals agreed earlier this year. 

There has been and continues to be, Blyth explained, “a lot of grassroots effort to involve people from the poorer parts of the world" with many civil society groups and special interest bodies represented to ensure that any agreement takes account of the challenges facing as wide a cross-section of society as possible, both in the developed and developing world.

Talking about the New Urban Agenda – the outcome document to be agreed upon following Habitat III and signed by UN member states - Blyth said there will be many different way in which it will shape cities and their development. But its power will be in the capacity it gives to civil society to "hold governments to account"

He added: “There will be money attached to the New Urban Agenda as well. It will mainly be UN money and this will be spent according to the Agenda.

“One of the things it’s quite important for planners to know about is to be able to say when you are doing bids [for projects, particularly internationally] is refer to the contents of the New Urban Agenda because it will progress [the bid]."

The City We Need 2.0 can be found here (pdf).

Image credit | iStock