WBU was represented at the Urban 20 (U20) Mayors Summit side event held virtually on 30th September 2020. U20 brings together cities from G20 member states and additional observer cities to find common ground and advocate for critical urban issues that transcend borders, including climate action, social inclusion and integration, and sustainable economic growth.
The U20 commenced the summit this year with a series of side events hosted by U20 Knowledge partners and/or U20 Cities. Each side event tackled the U20 themes and priorities to discuss policy tools and recommendations pertaining to sustainable urban development.
WBU Program officer/ Bilateral Associate Expert, Global Program for Inclusive and Accessible Urban Development, Mr. Hannes Juhlin Lagrelius was a panelist at a side event co-hosted by Global Smart Cities Alliance, World Enabled and G3ict. The session discussed “Taking Action to Build Inclusive, Accessible Smart Cities”.
Mr. Lagrelius highlighted challenges towards building more inclusive and accessible cities such as implementation of accessibility standards, comprehensive policy actions on disability inclusion, lack of data, awareness, and resources.
He observed that one of the most critical challenges is that representative organisations are rarely fully involved in the planning and designing of cities. “Working broadly with Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) representing diverse groups in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is critical in order to adopt and act upon a holistic approach to accessibility”.
He reiterated that accessibility is a human right and a precondition for inclusion. Results from a recent global survey by WBU on the experiences of persons who are blind and partially sighted during COVID-19 revealed that 50 per cent of visually impaired persons experience challenges in transportation and mobility where accessibility barriers have intensified following imposed measures to fight COVID-19 pandemic. Challenges to uphold independence, autonomy, dignity, and demotivation for not having access to opportunities as others during the pandemic, lack of access to information and communications, as well as consequences to mental health and wellbeing were also identified in the report. The full report is available, in different languages and accessible formats, on the WBU website.
To successfully deliver holistic and comprehensive accessibility, WBU recommends that accessibility should be embedded in organisations’ and cities’ systems, practices and programs across areas such as offices and premises, ICTs, capacity development and knowledge management, programs and services, workplace environment, and procurement.
Mr. Lagrelius further pointed out that it is critical for stakeholders to work together with OPDs towards making cities inclusive of and accessible for all. “Building back better post-COVID-19 to strengthen resiliency should entail working with Organisations of Persons with Disabilities to identify burning issues and solutions moving forward.”
In addition he emphasized the need for cities and urban stakeholders to review or establish accessible and participatory mechanisms, in consultation and collaboration with Organisations of Persons with Disabilities, to work with cities on planning and design, and to foster constructive partnerships towards building accessible and inclusive cities for all.
Participants at the side event discussed the new policy framework from the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance; accessibility measures taken by global cities like New York City and Istanbul and actions to take to have an impact on city services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. After years of pioneering work by organizations like World Enabled and G3ict, the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance will launch its ground-breaking global policy framework for ethical smart cities ahead of the G20 Summit in November.
The Mayor’s Summit Season will conclude with a virtual conference over two short days on 1 to 2 October. On 2 October, the U20 Mayors Summit will present a 27-point consensus-built Communiqué to the G20 following nine months of seminal research and analysis into rebuilding cities in a more sustainable, inclusive and naturally diverse way in a post-pandemic world to achieve equitable, carbon-neutral, inclusive and healthy societies. For more information, go to: https://www.urban20riyadh.org/
This post was written by Terry Mutuku