Pledges to Progress: Implementing the New Urban Agenda in Toronto
In August 2017, YDC partnered with UN Habitat and The World Urban Campaign among others to put together the Inclusive Cities Summit.
The vision articulated in the New Urban Agenda is nothing short of transformational. Launched in 2016, the New Urban Agenda calls on the global community to collectively build a future where cities and other human settlements are sustainable, inclusive, safe, prosperous, and healthy. In August 2017, the Inclusive Cities Summit gathered a diverse group of stakeholders from across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) with one overarching question in mind: How do we implement the New Urban Agenda in Toronto? Organized around the Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC) model, the discussions were focused on five key themes: the future of local democracy and governance; accessibility and mobility in a connected city; resilient and sustainable cities for the 21st century; building a healthy and prosperous city; and closing the affordability and fairness gap.
The two days of discussions were directed towards identifying concrete and practical actions and strategies that can help turn the pledges contained in the New Urban Agenda into tangible progress for the GTA and other Canadian cities. This report distills and presents these ideas, highlighting both enduring challenges and ways forward in each of the five themes.
1. Toronto’s diversity is its strength. To effectively implement the New Urban Agenda in Toronto, it is crucial that the City finds more ways to leverage its diversity for better collective outcomes. This can include measures ranging from improving civic engagement processes, to amplifying all of the City’s voices, to increasing accessibility to the City’s amenities and services.
2. Consultations for the sake of consulting are not useful. Toronto needs meaningful consultation processes, which include follow-up mechanisms that inform citizens of what progress has been made using their input, and justifications for why certain decisions were made.
3. Toronto needs people-centered planning. Policies and programs should help Toronto work together as a cohesive unit, while striving to close affordability and fairness gaps and leaving no one behind. Indicators and tools for measuring progress and planning future initiatives should focus primarily on the impact upon residents.
4. The city should leverage all the tools at its disposal to incentivize behaviour changes that increase sustainability and resilience. Using these incentives and other tools, sustainability and resilience programs should, wherever possible, also help deliver on goals of inclusion, poverty reduction, health, and other key objectives.
5. Toronto should set its sights high and use the best cities as benchmarks for performance. To improve in every area from health to transportation to employment to accessibility, Toronto should continuously look to and learn from cities around the world that are performing at the highest level. A complacent or ‘good enough’ attitude is unacceptable and insufficient for securing the best future for the City.