Time to "reimagine" community life in an urbanizing world

Time to "reimagine" community life in an urbanizing world

Quito, Ecuador—14 October 2016

Addressing the UN Habitat III conference, the Baha'i International Community is calling for a holistic approach that will “reimagine” the nature of human settlements in a manner that stresses mutual reliance, trust and interconnection among neighbors.

“Large-scale migration to urban centers has, in many cases, led to social fragmentation, the depletion of limited ecological resources, and profound feelings of isolation and despair,” says the BIC in a statement to Habitat III, which runs 14-17 October.

“The path forward, it becomes clear, is not to be found in simply aggregating larger and larger numbers into smaller spaces. Rather, it calls for a holistic approach to human settlements that enables individuals and communities to thrive in urban and rural settings alike, providing for the needs of both and drawing on the strengths of both.

“Progress in this direction will require conceptions of life in rural and urban settings to be thoroughly reimagined, drawing on the accumulated knowledge of the past, the scientific advances of the present, and a compelling vision of the future,” says the statement, which is titled “New Patterns of Community Life in an Urbanizing World.”

Habitat III, formally known as the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, aims to “reinvigorate” the global political commitment to the sustainable development of towns, cities and other human settlements, both rural and urban, according to the UN.

The conference is expected to produce a fresh set of pledges and obligations, known as the New Urban Agenda, to create a new global strategy around urbanization for the next two decades.

More than 45,000 people – including government leaders, UN officials, and civil society representatives – have signed up to participate in Habitat III, which is the first major UN conference on Human Settlements since Habitat II in Istanbul in 1996.

“Among the main ideas that the Baha'i International Community hopes to bring to the discourse at Habitat III is that efforts to create a greater sense of community among individuals, whether in highly urbanized environments or rural villages, is the key to creating an urban agenda that promotes genuine prosperity and, even, human happiness,” said Serik Tokbolat, a representative of the BIC to the United Nations.

“And one approach to this is to draw on some of the new knowledge about the nature of good human interrelations and how they impact health, productivity, and mental acuity. Such an effort can help national governments, local authorities, and civil society organizations in their search for ways to improve the nature of community life in both urban and rural settings,” he said.

The full BIC statement can be read here.