By Layla McCay, Director, Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health
The New Urban Agenda is an ‘action-oriented document which will set global standards of achievement in sustainable urban development, rethinking the way we build, manage, and live in cities through drawing together cooperation with committed partners, relevant stakeholders, and urban actors at all levels of government as well as the private sector.’ It was adopted at the Habitat III conference in Quito in October 2016 and one of its stated priorities is to improve human health. So what does this mean for mental health?
The Shared Vision for the New Urban Agenda: equal use and enjoyment of cities
The ‘shared vision’ proposes that all inhabitants, without discrimination, are able to inhabit and produce just, safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, resilient and sustainable cities that foster prosperity and quality of life for all. The vision prioritizes people-centered, age and gender-responsive, and integrated approaches to urban development that specifically take into account the needs of women, children and youth, older persons and persons with disabilities, migrants, indigenous peoples and local communities. This is summarised in the document's principles which talk about enhancing liveability, health and wellbeing, safety and public participation, eliminating discrimination, and ‘adopting healthy lifestyles in harmony with nature'.
Where is mental health explicitly mentioned?
Within the implementation plan for the New Urban Agenda, commitment 67 for sustainable urban development states:
“We commit ourselves to promoting the creation and maintenance of well-connected and well-distributed networks of open, multi-purpose, safe, inclusive, accessible, green, and quality public spaces; to improving the resilience of cities to disasters and climate change, including floods, drought risks and heat waves; to improving food security and nutrition, physical and mental health, and household and ambient air quality; to reducing noise and promoting attractive and liveable cities, human settlements and urban landscapes, and to prioritizing the conservation of endemic species.”
What commitments within the New Urban Agenda will specifically help address urban mental health in the context of urban design?
While a wide range of the commitments will benefit population mental health, some of the key commitments include:
The supportive network to deliver the New Urban Agenda: further commitments
With a focus on integrated work between planning, transport, and other departments, clear support for multi-stakeholder partnerships, and an explicit acknowledgment of the impact of cities on mental health, the New Urban Agenda offers interesting potential for investments and action in urban design to improve mental health.
Further Reading: New Urban Agenda
Sanity and Urbanity: