Children in Cities


Children  in cities and towns are excluded from vital services. Urbanization leaves hundreds of millions of children deprived of opportunities, facilities, freedom and dignity.

A national level consultation held in New Delhi on June 16,  in which dozens of civil society representatives and children participated called for a comprehensive Children’s Act and detailed child centered plan of action.

The consultation was initiated by  Razia Ismail the Convener of the India Alliance for Child Rights. Karuna Bishnoi,  a well known child right advocate moderated the sessions.

One Comprehensive Law for Children

According to the participants,   cities are burdened by laws that do not match the prevailing urban reality. Worse still, the capacity to enforce laws and regulations that are already in place is often lacking. Municipal authorities often have limited access to specialist legislative expertise, and struggle to respond to these situations.

The multiplicity and rigidity of laws and regulations compel citizens in cities  to pursue informal routes to conduct land and property transactions, to do business, to acquire means of a livelihood, and even to access basic services. As a result, parallel systems flourish and urban legal informality becomes the norm. The worst sufferers are children. Parents have to go from pillar to post to get even a simple thing done.

Greater urbanization is inevitable. In a few years, the majority of children will grow up in towns or cities rather than in rural areas. Children born in cities already account for 60 per cent of the increase in urban population. According to Mr Dhunu Roy of  Hazards Center 40 to 45 per cent of urban children live in slums.

Children and the Silent Emergency

Today, an increasing number of children living in slums and shantytowns are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in the world, deprived of the most basic services and denied the right to thrive. There is a silent emergency hovering over our slums.

Children according to him need planned interventions. The indoor air pollution is as dangerous as outdoor air pollution. “We need to invest in understanding.  Without data how can we plan? We should speak more about smart children than smart cities.

Prof. Dr. Mahaveer Jain wondered whether there was planned move in shifting children from villages to cities. A child labour in cities become eight times more productive than when he is in the village. Throwing often the “family enterprise” for working children then become another excuse for exploiting children.

The young Ms Kanupriya from Bhopal, the editor of Peace Gong spoke about the invisibility of children, and especially children who differently abled. Other  child leaders raised the issue of addiction by children.

Excluding these children in slums not only robs them of the chance to reach their full potential; it robs their societies of the economic benefits of having a well-educated, healthy urban population.

Disparities Galore

Cities offer many children the advantages of urban schools, clinics and playgrounds. Yet the same cities the world over are also the settings for some of the greatest disparities in children’s health, education and opportunities.

Infrastructure and services are not keeping up with urban growth in many regions and children’s basic needs are not being met. Families living in poverty often pay more for substandard services. Water, for instance, can cost 50 times more in poor neighbourhoods where residents have to buy it from private vendors than it costs in wealthier neighbourhoods where households are connected directly to water mains.

The deprivations endured by children in poor urban communities are often obscured by broad statistical averages that lump together all city dwellers – rich and poor alike.

When averages such as these are used in making urban policy and allocating resources, the needs of the poorest can be overlooked.

Smart Cities?  But Not Very Smart Assumptions

Mr Dunu Roy has serious questions on the assumptions of the smart cities.  One assumption is there will be incubators in every city which will churn out 1000 start ups each in all the 100 smart cities  creating a million jobs. Meanwhile in the entire country there has only been 800 start up so far. According to Mr Roy Smart cities displace more people than they will actually employ. Does smart mean cunning or does it mean prudent and efficient, he wanted to know.

What the so called world class cities will do to children is take away their spaces, said, Dr Sudeshna Chatterjee of Action for Children’s Environments ACE. Houses will go vertical. Huts will give way to high rise flats. Lifts will not work, as seen in similar experimental flats in Mumbai. Children will be confide to their flats. Girls will rarely move out. Play will give way to more controlled sports. Garbage will be thrown down from flats above.

Who Lives in Slums?

Mr Nidhin Donald NCDHR (National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights)  wanted the nation to move away from the “binary concept  of urban rich versus urban poor”  to recognize that a large number of dalits, bahujans and Muslim live in the slums. The urban environment allows them to democratize public spaces. He reminded us of the campaigns initiated by Ayyankali in Kerala a hundred years ago and the Wadar Community of mason in Maharashtra who escaped the oppression of Patels in their villages to become a formidable force in the cities and towns of Maharashtra.

Mr Sarabjit Singh dwelt on the issue of resilience required by urban children. He said one third of our districts are affected by  armed conflicts making people flee from their villages to cities. One third of cities are affected by drought and forcing the poor to go to cities. A third of our districts are also frequent sources of migration. It is rural people with the same set of values and beliefs being transplanted to cities.  So child marriage is as rampant in the villages as urban slums.


Making cities fit for children

Making cities fit for children-Augustine Veliath

A focus on equity is crucial – one in which priority is given to the most disadvantaged children wherever they live.

Governments to put children at the heart of urban planning and to extend and improve services for all. To start, more focused, accurate data are needed to help identify disparities among children in urban areas and how to bridge them. The shortage of such data is evidence of the neglect of these issues.

While governments at all levels can do more, community-based action is also a key to success. Effective partnerships with the urban poor including children and adolescents are required. Provide services and create protected areas so children can have the safer and healthier childhoods they deserve. Urbanization is a fact of life and we must invest more in cities, focusing greater attention on providing services to the children in greatest need.

Intervening in the discussions Augustine Veliath, Director Asian Center for Entertainment Education said we need  child friendly law makers. Our MPs, MLAs, and Municipal Corporators need sound footing in the rights and entitlements of children. Many of them are not trainable. Therefore we the citizens must take upon ourselves in making our elected representatives  child  friendly in their attitudes, word and above all actions.

Urban law is the collection of policies, laws, decisions, and practices that govern the management and development of the urban environment. Legal systems are among the major impediments preventing innovative mayors and urban managers from creating reforms and overcoming the pressing challenges of their cities and urban systems.

Land poses a major issue in the urbanization process in both developed and developing countries. On one hand, lack of land policies and clear regulations lead to uncoordinated city growth and the upsurge of informal settlements, while on the other hand, excessive regulations such as strict zoning – the organization of urban space in exclusive residential, commercial, or industrial areas – can result in urban sprawl and horizontal, low density expansion of urban spaces. Both situations inhibit the development of smart cities.

Likewise, neighbourhood redevelopment and slum upgrading programmes can only take place if land ownership and property issues are clarified. Unfortunately, this is not an easy task when dealing with informal human settlements where conventional land administration – the management of land tenure, valuation, use and development – often fails to deliver results and is tainted by questionable practices. Standard land tools and regulations remain inadequate in meeting the land needs of slums, where exact land parcels are difficult to identify, and land and property units often display overlapping and sometimes conflicting interests.

In many developing countries, urban land management is rendered dysfunctional due to fragmented services and institutions, corruption, and lengthy and costly procedures. In addition, many countries still address urban and rural land management through separate jurisdictions. Often city councils, national agencies, and ministries each carry out their land management mandates in an uncoordinated manner, adding layers of complexity in the form of formal, informal, and customary rules and practices.

UN-Habitat has developed Participatory and Inclusive Land Readjustment (PILaR), which emphasizes inclusive community ownership and participation in projects, with the goal of achieving pro-poor results. PILaR also encourages the development of clear benchmarks, and transparent and predictable processes designed to ensure the inclusion of vulnerable groups, such as women, youth, and the poor. These participatory and inclusive priorities help develop appropriate governance, legislative, and regulatory mechanisms. The methodology is currently being tested in a pilot process in Medellin, Colombia.

Urban governance is the software that enables the urban hardware to function. Urban governance can be defined as the many ways that institutions and individuals organize the day-to-day management of a city, and the processes used for effectively realizing the short term and long-term agenda of a city’s development.

Governance is the enabling environment that requires adequate legal frameworks, efficient political, managerial and administrative processes, as well as mechanisms, guidelines and tools to enable the local government response to the needs of citizens. It is in fact a process of decision-making that engages various actors with different priorities to ensure that rules are made and enforced, development is realized and services delivered. It is therefore a continuous process that informs the success of a city system.

Urban governance is inextricably linked to the welfare of the citizenry: it must enable women and men to access the benefits of urban citizenship. Good urban governance, based on the principle of urban citizenship, affirms that no man, woman or child can be denied access to the necessities of urban life, including adequate shelter, security of tenure, safe water, sanitation, a clean environment, health, education and nutrition, employment and public safety and mobility.

Local governments have the proximity, legitimacy and scale, in most countries of the world, of being directly elected by the citizens; becoming the closest sphere of government and the first gate for people´s participation in public affairs. Urban governance mostly rests at the hands of local governments, who have the proximity to translate the principles of good urban governance in order to effectively, manage, govern and develop a city to ensure equitable urban citizenship.

In contexts of fragility and conflict, local governments have also the potential to build positive state-society relations. Local governments must engage with their citizens to ensure that the tenets of urban citizenship are maintained and that governance is effected to meet the demands and needs of urban dwellers. A local government must effect governance that is accountable, sustainable and transparent.

1. Organize a fair distribution of resources and responsibilities for the different spheres of government and to strengthen local governments to enable them to operate as self-governing institutions providing services efficiently and effectively.

2. Provide for an integrated governance framework with transparency and clear lines of authority and accountability to achieve the objectives of ‘good urban governance’

3. Facilitate and promote inclusiveness, civic engagement and effective participation of the civil society in city management.

4. Enable cities to work towards planned and integrated provision and operation and maintenance of infrastructure

5. Develop partnerships with public, private and other sectors for betters provision and delivery of services

6. Extend the canvas of information technology and e–Governance to all aspects of city management for efficient, effective and timely service delivery.

Despite presently hosting more than 60 per cent of the global urban population and experiencing the fastest growth, intermediate cities – areas with a population between 100,000 and 500,000 –tend to be neglected by national and regional authorities, and often lack the financial and technical influence of larger cities to ensure proper planning. Nevertheless, neglecting urban planning today will only create a larger situation that will be even more costly to solve in the future.


Cities are the main creators of economic wealth, generating over 70 per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Most industries and businesses are located in or within immediate vicinity of urban areas, providing city residents with jobs.

Because most employment opportunities are within urban areas, cities attract large parts of a country’s job seeking population. This is especially true in developing countries, where an increasing share of economic activities take place in cities, and the differential between urban and rural wages is growing. This causes rapid rural-to-urban migration.

Today, over 50 per cent of the world’s population is urban dwellers, with this figure expected to rise to over 65 per cent by 2030. If urban economic opportunities do not keep pace with the influx of job-seekers, urban poverty can have dire results for the health and well-being of large shares of the population.

Governments are presented with a set of economic and financial challenges in dealing with growing urban populations:

• They must harness urban population growth to generate economic prosperity.
• They must pay for infrastructure and services to both accommodate new residents and support the existing population.
• They must facilitate economic growth and job creation that is broad-based and inclusive.
• They must leverage the youth dividend to create a new generation of economic vibrancy.

The youth demographic can be an economic strength if youth are empowered to participate in urban life. Globally, there are more people under the age of 25 today than ever before, and it is estimated that as many as 60 percent of all urban dwellers will be under the age of 18 by 2030. Cities of the developing world account for over 90 percent of the world’s urban growth, and consequently youth constitute a large percentage of those inhabitants. In light of these developments, UN-Habitat focuses on the interventions that can maximize the opportunities that are inherent in the youth demographic bulge, and how it is a positive source of development.

What we offer and promote:

We bring technical expertise and experience in participatory and inclusive practices to help engage youth as assets for sustainable urban development and drivers for positive change.

We provide evidence-based policy advice and develop projects jointly with UN agencies, civil society, youth-led organizations, and governmental partners. Drawing on our successful flagship programmes as well as national and local Youth Fund initiatives.

Results to Expect:

• Youth will be given a voice in the development of their communities and serve as drivers of positive change.
• The burgeoning youth workforce will contribute to the productivity and prosperity of their cities and towns.
• Local economies will benefit from the innovation and creativity unleashed by empowered young people.

Water and Sanitation

From an urban perspective, and especially in the developing world, challenges related to water and sanitation will magnify in the future due to an ever growing city population needing to share already insufficient and poorly managed resources. Urban water distribution and sanitation systems are all too often derelict and unable to cope with the growing demographics, and many of the urban poor tend to be excluded from these services anyway. Paradoxically, low-income urban dwellers have to pay high prices for water, sometimes up to 50 times the price paid by higher income groups.


To run their activities, cities require an uninterrupted supply of energy. They consume about 75 per cent of global primary energy and emit between 50 and 60 per cent of the world’s total greenhouse gases. This figure rises to approximately 80 per cent when the indirect emissions generated by urban inhabitants are included. Buildings also consume vast amounts of energy at all stages of their existence.

Energy is needed for the raw materials, construction process, and maintenance and daily operational needs such as lighting, air conditioning, and cleaning. In addition, urban sprawl, increasing distances between destinations, and inefficient public transport systems prompt overall reliance on private motorized transport, such as cars, which have a high energy consumption, mostly of petroleum products.

Mobility is a key dynamic of urbanization, and the associated infrastructure invariably shapes the urban form – the spatial imprint defined by roads, transport systems, spaces, and buildings – of cities. By 2005, approximately 7.5 billion trips were made in cities worldwide each day.  In 2050, there may be three to four times as many passenger-kilometers travelled as in the year 2000 (infrastructure and energy prices permitting). Freight movement could also rise more than threefold during the same period.

Yet, despite the increasing level of urban mobility worldwide, access to places, activities and services has become increasingly difficult. Owing to urban sprawl – the horizontal, low-density growth of cities over vast areas –distances between functional destinations such as workplaces, schools, hospitals, administration offices, or shopping amenities have become longer, leading to a growing dependency on private motorized transport and other car-centred mobility. Consequently, widespread congestion and traffic gridlock have now become the norm in many cities, impacting urban life through negative externalities such as pollution, noise stress, and accidents.

In some cities, the physical separation of residential areas from places of employment, markets, schools, and health services force many urban residents to spend increasing amounts of time, and as much as a third of their income, on transportation. In the developing world, and especially in African cities where walking can account up to 70 per cent of all trips, this low-density horizontal urban development causes further exclusion of the urban poor. Due to transport poverty, many residents cannot afford to travel to the city centres or to areas where businesses and institutions are located, depriving them of the full benefits offered by urbanization.

Because most trips involve a combination of several modes of transport, cities need to provide multi-modal transport systems and address modal integration as a major component of any urban mobility strategy. For example, high-capacity public transport systems  – metro, light rail, or bus rapid transit (BRT) – need to be integrated with other forms of public transport that serve as feeder services to ensure full utilization of their conveyance capacity.

Emphasis is therefore to be placed on “last mile access,” to allow residents easy access to the public transport system. The urban space needs to be rethought in order to optimize flow of traffic, but also to increase and encourage the use of non-motorized transport, such as pedestrian movement or cycling. Streets need to be adapted, with walkways, crossings, and cycling lanes. Transport junctions need to be established to create connection points between different transport modes, thus facilitating access to and extending the range of a public transport system, on both the macro level – the city, the region and beyond – and micro level – the neighbourhood.

The growing violence and feeling of insecurity that city dwellers are facing daily is one of the major challenges around the world. In some countries, crime and violence have been exacerbated by the proliferation of weapons, substance abuse, and youth unemployment. Crime and violence impact the on everyday life of city residents. Women and children are often the most affected, especially when fear hinders their access to services. The impact of crime and insecurity restricts urban social and economic development, and often jeopardizes opportunities and pro-poor policies. Without a deliberate effort to address this issue, the prospects of future development and poverty reduction are limited.

The United Nations five characteristics defining a slum

1. Inadequate access to safe water
2. Inadequate access to sanitation and infrastructure
3. Poor structural quality of housing
4. Overcrowding
5. Insecure residential status

Slum upgrading: key for overall Urban Development

Better housing and slum upgrading will contribute to reducing social inequalities and also improving urban safety through their social and spatial impacts. Indeed, smart and productive cities of the future will be those in which slums are turned into vibrant neighbourhoods that are fully integrated into the city’s fabric and urban management systems, rather than remaining as vast islands of informality, social exclusion, poor housing and underdevelopment.

Physical upgrading of slums with street networks and improved infrastructure makes social and economic sense. Socially, upgraded slums improve the physical living conditions, quality of life, and access to services and opportunities in cities. Economically, upgraded slums trigger local economic development, improve urban mobility and bring in an enormous economically productive sphere into the physical and socioeconomic fabric of the wider city.

In consequence, cities need to improve the housing conditions in slums. To achieve this, local participation can be turned into a powerful instrument to mobilize low income communities around the planning, management and governance issues of their city neighbourhoods, provided that their participation is meaningful, empowers them and improves their daily lives.

For this reason, participation is often most effective when initiated at the neighbourhood level through individual or community projects which are relatively limited in scale and developed progressively with outcomes which are achieved in the short, medium and long terms. The search for solutions should be done by participatory housing design, with a specific focus on the dwelling needs and aspirations of the urban poor and vulnerable groups, including women-headed households.

Likewise, there is an urgent need to develop practical tools, knowledge resources and expertise in designing environmentally sustainable and affordable green building solutions. If new housing stock fails to be sustainable and energy efficient, cities and countries will for decades be confronted with dangerous energy consumption patterns and predatory forms of urbanization. Housing is an opportune and strategic setting with which to achieve the mutually beneficial goals of climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as of sustainable urban development in general. The planning of residential areas, slum upgrading and urban renewal will help reduce the ecological and carbon footprint of cities and the greenhouse gasses of the national building sector.

Natural hazards become disasters when they impact the people and assets that are exposed to their destructive effects. Nowhere is this more significant than in the world’s cities, towns, and villages. Factors such as inappropriate land use, poorly designed and constructed buildings and infrastructure, and an increasingly degraded environment put human settlements at risk. In recent years, the world has witnessed an increasing series of disasters which have resulted in the dramatic loss of human life, the destruction of homes, property, infrastructure, and services, and the displacement of entire communities.

By end of 2011, over 42 million people worldwide were displaced as a result of conflict and persecution. Although many of these people remain displaced years later, all of them needed some form of shelter support. In addition, 336 natural disasters in 2011 affected 209 million people, and created significant short and long term shelter needs. While most of these needs were met by the affected populations themselves, a significant number of people depended upon support from their governments and external organizations.

An increasingly common methodology used by local governments and the international community to build resilience are the UNISDR’s “Ten Essentials.” UN-Habitat’s City Resilience Profiling Programme introduced the following “essentials” in order to further upgrade this framework by making it more rigorous, objective, and fit to conduct quantitative assessment and profiling of city resilience.

Essential 1: Put in place organization and coordination to understand and reduce disaster risk, based on the participation of citizen groups and civil society. Build local alliances. Ensure that all departments understand their role in disaster risk reduction and preparedness.

Essential 2: Assign a budget for disaster risk reduction and provide incentives for homeowners, low-income families, communities, businesses, and public sector to invest in reducing the risks they face.

Essential 3: Maintain up-to-date data on hazards and vulnerabilities, prepare risk assessments, and use these as the basis for urban development plans and decisions. Ensure that this information and the plans for your city’s resilience are readily available to the public and fully discussed with them.

Essential 4: Invest in and maintain critical infrastructure that reduces risk, such as flood drainage, adjusted where needed to cope with climate change.

Essential 5: Assess the safety of all schools and health facilities and upgrade these as necessary.

Essential 6: Apply and enforce realistic risk compliant building regulations and land use planning principles. Identify safe land for low-income citizens and upgrade informal settlements, wherever feasible.

Essential 7: Ensure education programmes and training on disaster risk reduction are in place in schools and local communities.

Essential 8: Protect ecosystems and natural buffers to mitigate floods, storm surges, and other hazards to which your city may be vulnerable. Adapt to climate change by building on good risk reduction practices.

Essential 9: Install early warning systems and emergency management capacities in your city, and hold regular public preparedness drills.

Essential 10: After any disaster, ensure that the needs of the survivors are placed at the centre of reconstruction, while supporting them and their community organizations to design and help implement responses, including rebuilding homes and livelihoods.

More than half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from urban areas. A number of cities around the world have shown farsighted leadership in setting targets and devising and implementing plans to reduce these greenhouse gas emissions. Cities can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously addressing other pressing local environmental problems such as air pollution, waste, and transport, not to mention other challenges such as local economic development.

The challenge therefore is to link climate change to local environmental and other developmental priorities. On the supply side, there are strategies that make certain alternative sources of energy more attractive to users than fossil fuels. On the demand side, a better planned city with reduced urban sprawl, greener buildings, and better public transport can reduce a city’s carbon footprint while at the same time providing a better quality of life for its citizens and an environment that is more attractive for business.

People between the ages of 15-24 comprise a staggering 1.8 billion globally. At the same time, urban areas are home to an increasing number of young people, particularly across the developing world. This brings new issues to the forefront of economic, political and human development, also with regards to gender equality.

Young women face dual discrimination because of their age and gender, and are often among those living with the highest levels of poverty and marginalization in urban settings. Female-headed households, which can reflect and lead to a change in traditional gender roles where young women take a lead role in their communities are not uncommon, particularly in informal settlements. In addition, young women continue to face challenges relating to security and mobility, rights and access to land, freedom of expression, sufficient basic services, educational and economic resources. Moreover, sexual harassment is rampant in many urban public spaces, creating invisible barriers which prevent young women from exercising their right to freedom of movement and fear.

For adolescent girls and young women, gender and age discrimination creates additional barriers where, in lieu of recognition of their key role in cities’ economic, social and political life –an area in which young men also have a key role to play-, they are left even more exposed to the challenges arising from urbanization.

At present, rapid urbanization is challenging both national and local governments in their role to develop compact, inclusive, connected and integrated cities able to achieve spatial equality, job creation, human and community development, strategic infrastructure and environmental sustainability. In this process of fast urbanization, the failure to fully mainstream gender equality into urban planning, legislation and economic development is hindering the inclusiveness of cities and preventing the full integration of women and girls in the economic, social, political and cultural life of cities and therefore the realization of the just city.

Women and men, girls and boys, experience urbanization and cities differently and benefit differently from the opportunities available therein. Compared to rural areas, cities offer more diverse employment opportunities to increase financial independence; greater ease in accessing education at different levels, better access to healthcare; more opportunities to socialize outside the home; more prospects to take up community or political leadership roles and, most notably, more possibilities to redefine the traditional roles of men and women.

Nevertheless, gender inequalities persist, therefore, women and girls benefit less from urbanization and the urban space than men and boys. In fact, women and girls in cities will face a range of specific barriers and vulnerabilities: gender inequality, violence against women, poverty, unpaid care-work, limited control over assets, unequal participation in public and private decision-making, and barriers to education, employment, housing and basic services.

Nowhere are the inequalities facing urban woman more evident than in informal settlements where women account for over half the population. In these settlements, women face the most serious urban challenges: poverty; overcrowding, sexual harassment and assault, and lack of access to security of tenure, water and sanitation, transport and sexual and reproductive health services.

Globally, 85 per cent of the world’s young people live in developing countries, and an ever-increasing number of them are growing up in cities. It is estimated that by 2030, as many as 60% of all urban dwellers will be under the age of 18. All over the world, young people are finding it increasingly difficult to break into the labour market. Youth make up 25% of the global working age population, but account for 43.7% of the unemployed.

This means that almost every other jobless person in the world is between the ages of 15 and 24. The exclusion from the economic, political, and social life of their countries breeds disillusionment, hopelessness, and upheaval. Research has found links between youth unemployment and social exclusion, and suggests that this may lead to political and social instability, and possibly to violence.

Action is required to achieve economic prosperity for, and the inclusion of, the youth. Although evidence shows that governments and cities are making efforts to tackle youth poverty and their lack of engagement in governance, resources to undertake such interventions are very limited. UN-Habitat recognizes the potential of the youth as a major force for creating a better urban future.

The challenges of urbanization, such as rising inequality and the prevalence of slums, are symptoms of a larger deficit to respect human rights in cities, particularly the right to adequate housing and the right to safe drinking water and sanitation. Only when all dimensions of human rights are respected will urbanization realize itself as the transformative force that it is. The human rights dimensions relate to the availability, accessibility, acceptability, adaptability, quality and appropriateness of the rights to adequate housing, safe drinking water and sanitation.

Human Rights, including the rights to adequate housing and safe water and sanitation are contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights instruments, including  the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which have been ratified by most UN Member States. These rights, once so endorsed, do not have a voluntary character. They impose obligations on states and on the international community, they are universal, cannot be waived or taken away, and are legally protected.

The human rights-based approach defines a pattern of human rights relationships between the individual – who is the claim-holder with justified claims on the state – and the state – which is the duty-bearer. This has the effect of removing many decisions from the realms of benevolent or charitable decision-making by the member state, and placing an obligation on it to show evidence of serious efforts to realise the rights it has ratified. The state is held accountable through international governance institutions for making progress in fulfilling the relevant rights. A human rights-based approach involves moving away from assessing the needs of beneficiaries towards empowering and building the capacity of claim-holders in asserting their rights.

How is the Human Rights based approach doing that?

According to the human rights-based approach, the process of urbanization should adhere to the human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination, inclusion and participation, accountability and the rule of law. Concurrently, the city, as the outcome of this process, should meet specified human rights standards, for instance:  adequate housing, access to water and sanitation, health and education services, work, participation in decisions that affect city inhabitants, or any other rights codified in the human rights treaties ratified by the country in question.

The human rights-based approach adds value to urban planning by legitimizing prioritization of the interests on the most marginalized in society and their participation in the planning process.Indeed, the creation and implementation of an appropriate form of urban planning is a precondition in many national contexts for the fulfilment of human rights obligations in the urban context.

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