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How Mexico is Gearing Up for Habitat III

With Habitat III only a year away, Mexico is demonstrating its commitment to creating sustainable cities. (Photo: Armando Aguayo Rivera /Flickr)

It’s been over 19 years since the UN’s last Habitat conference—and with only one year left until Habitat III, countries across the globe are preparing for the UN’s next global conference on human settlements. Habitat III will be in Quito, Ecuador next year from October 17 – 20, where members of the United Nations and representatives of governments, private companies and civil societies will meet to “secure renewed political commitment for sustainable urban development, assess the achievements to date and address new challenges.”

Habitat III presents an exciting opportunity for the world’s cities to commit to change, addressing the challenges of planning and managing cities, towns and villages in order to fulfill their role as engines of sustainable development. Moreover, Habitat III will be one of the first UN summits to take place after the adoption of the Agenda for Development in post-2015, which will create a new global agreement on climate change.

With rapid urbanization rates, Mexico in particular has a lot to gain by participating in Habitat III. Indeed, by 2027, 88 percent of Mexico’s population is projected to live in cities, straining existing road, energy and waste infrastructure. In preparation of its increasing urban population, and to boost the sustainability of its cities, Mexico has been laying the groundwork for a greener future in some big ways.

Mexico’s Progress over the Past Two Decades

“In the last 20 years, Mexico has made significant progress; the federal government now recognizes cities as the center of national life and development engines, so they have undertaken profound changes in policies and programs to address the needs of urban populations,” said Ana Lilia Herrera Anzaldo, Mexican Senator and Chairwoman of the Mexican Parliamentarians on Habitat.

The advancements that Senator Herrera Anzaldo is referring to are the creation of the Department of Agrarian, Land and Urban Development (known as Sedatu) and the establishment of the principles of National Urban Policy in the National Urban Development Program 2014-2018 and the National Program Housing 2014-2018. This new department, coupled with new standards for development and housing programs, will guide Mexico in building more energy efficient, dense and affordable cities.

Explaining how to utilize these news principles, Senator Herrera Anzaldo noted that “The need to reform constitutional and legal frameworks has been an important issue that has been discussed since previous legislatures…since the creation of the Sedatu in 2013, initiatives need to be analyzed, appropriate and processed through this institutional innovation that is much more ambitious.” According to the legislator, the aim of Mexico’s reforms are to “outline strategies and actions for the Sedatu and coordinate the various actors involved in urban development to promote a new model of compact, sustainable and safe cities.”

The Road to Habitat III

For the senator, the Habitat III summit “will be the moment to break away from urban paradigms that still prevail and dare to imagine new, inclusive cities that allow all its inhabitants to achieve a better quality of life.” In short, the summit offers Mexico a change to reorient its cities away from personal vehicles, and focus on cyclists, pedestrians and sustainable transport.

The country’s participation in this summit will influence the reality of millions of people and, she adds, “Mexico will undoubtedly promote agreements and commitments in [urban sustainability].”

“The Mexican government seeks to consolidate a model of urban development that generates welfare for citizens, while ensuring social, economic and environmental sustainability. To achieve that, cities must fulfill their role as centers of development and public welfare,” summarized Ana Lilia Herrera.

This article was originally published in Spanish on TheCityFix Mexico.
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