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Public Spaces

Campaign Art: Block by block for inclusive public spaces

Darejani Markozashvili's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Public spaces have been a place of social interaction from the very early beginnings of the human civilization. Taksim Square in Istanbul, Tahrir Square in Cairo, Maidan Square in Kiev, Tiananmen Square in Beijing, and Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires are among just a few common places around the world that have witnessed the most iconic events of the recent history.

If public spaces are so important to everyday life of citizens, whose responsibility is it to create and maintain them? Should citizens have a say in how they are designed?

UN-Habitat, a United Nations programme working towards a better urban future, partnered up with Mojang, a Swedish video game developer, and Microsoft to involve people— especially youth, women and slum dwellers— in urban design by using the videogame Minecraft. The innovative partnership, known as Block by Block, was set up in 2012 to support the UN-Habitat’s work with public spaces. Take a look at the video below to learn more about this innovative approach.

Block by Block

Why should cities invest in public parks?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Cities are Brazil’s economic powerhouse—they produce almost 90% of the GDP and are the major drivers of the country’s growth and development. Rapid and unplanned urbanization, however, has led to issues such as concentrated poverty, insufficient access to basic services, and a lack of quality public spaces. Public spaces, such as parks, help enhance livability, while also building up resilience to natural disasters, reducing pollution, and enabling inclusive growth.
Fortaleza is a coastal city of 2.6 million in the northeast of Brazil. Its sprawling growth has now given way to stark inequality and major spatial divides. Lack of investment and inadequate planning have also led to environmental degradation.

In an effort to address these challenges, the municipality has partnered with the World Bank through the Fortaleza Sustainable Urban Development Project to improve public spaces and rehabilitate areas of the Vertente Marítima Basin and of the Rachel de Queiroz Park. In January 2017, the project was recognized by UN Habitat for innovative practices for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

In this video, World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez and Project Lead Emanuela Monteiro discuss the initiative and how it aims to make the city more livable, competitive, and resilient.

Também disponível em: Português 

Media (R)evolutions: Citizens are eager to interact with their cities but need greater access to digital platforms

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Digital technologies have been lauded for their ability to set aside social and geographic boundaries, allowing people to communicate with others from different backgrounds in different parts of the world.  They are also known for their capacity to collect and track data on end users that can be used in the aggregate to inform decision-making. This level of engagement and data analysis led some to wonder if digital technologies would democratize communication and service delivery between governments and their citizens. Civic leaders, the argument followed, who embrace new technologies could benefit from deeper community engagement and increased stakeholder awareness on government initiatives and would be equipped with a steady flow of constituent feedback and a transparent track record.  Communities would be rewarded with insights into the functioning of new systems and the demand for city services as well as means to report inconsistencies or problems.
While the dream of proper two-way communication and digital feedback loops has not been realized by most cities, citizens would appreciate direct, real-time interaction with their local governments. While less than one-third of citizens (32%) are currently providing feedback to their local authorities, over one-half say they would like to do so. A large number of citizens (51%) want wider access to digital platforms to enable them to communicate with government or expansion of free wifi in public spaces (50%), perhaps signaling that basics, like access to the Internet and digital literacy skills, may have the greatest impact on citizens’ ability to interact. Many citizens— in both developed and developing countries— still lack broadband access at home and have limited data to use on smartphones. This means that as governments attempt to interact on digital platforms and share information online, they also need to be mindful of the digital divide within communities.


Building sustainable cities starts with smart urban design

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
The Obinju Climate-Smart Farm in Kenya was designed by an agriculture scientist to create solutions to common problems faced by the local farming community, including an unpredictable rainy season.

A museum is probably not the most obvious place to examine global inequality, but something is happening at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City that deserves a good look.

Of tigers and elephants: The rise of cities in Asia

Judy Baker's picture
Rush hour traffic in Mumbai, India. Photo: Adam Cohn/Flickr
Over the next decade and a half the world will add a staggering 1.1 billion people to its towns and cities. About one half of this urbanization will happen in the regions of East and South Asia.
If history is any guide, this growth in urban population will provide tremendous opportunities for increasing prosperity and livability. One can look at the successes of a few Asian cities such as Tokyo, Seoul, and Singapore to demonstrate how, with the assistance of good policies, urbanization and economic development go hand-in-hand. More generally, no major country has ever reached middle-income status without also experiencing substantial urbanization.
Yet cities can grow in different ways that will affect their competitiveness, livability, and sustainability. The more successful cities of Asia have been effective at creating opportunities, increasing productivity, fostering innovation, providing efficient and affordable services for residents, and enhancing public spaces to create vibrant and attractive places to live. But many, many, more cities have neglected fundamental investments in critical infrastructure and basic services, and have mismanaged land, environmental and social policies. This has resulted in traffic congestion, sprawl, slums, pollution, and crime.
Among the many complexities of urban development that have contributed to success, two critical factors stand out – investing in strategic urban planning, and in good urban governance.

How public spaces will help change cities for the better

Gunes Basat's picture
you have some important choices to make on which path to choose ...
you have some important choices to make
on which path to choose ...

In two weeks I'll visit BETT, the London-based event which is sometimes referred to as the 'world's biggest educational technology trade show'. While I don't know if it is in fact the 'biggest' (ISTE's annual event is huge as well), nor how one calculates magnitude in such cases, there is no doubt that it is indeed really, really, really, big.

I attend BETT most years for a number of reasons. Doing so provides me with a chance to see all of the new cool gadgets and applications in one place. It is pretty easy to schedule meetings packed into a few days with lots of groups and people who are also at BETT; 'back home' it would take months to coordinate such meetings.

Conveniently, BETT takes place immediately after the Education World Forum, where scores of education ministers gather together each year to share experiences about challenges and successes related to education in their countries. This 'convenience' is actually no coincidence: Many ministerial delegations, especially those from middle and low income countries, stay on to tour the exhibition halls at BETT, to see the 'latest and greatest' and be (presumably in some cases) wined and dined by various vendors hoping to build relationships and do some business. While I skip the 'hospitality' stuff (not really my scene), I typically find it very educational to attach myself to, and rotate between, a few ministerial delegations each year as they tour the BETT exhibition spaces. Doing so offers me some exposure and insight into what such groups are interested (and not interested) in, and provides me with a 'fly-on-the-wall' view into the various sales pitches that are made to these sorts of government officials by companies eager to ring in the new year with some big contracts – as well as how such officials respond to such marketing.


Just as I find the questions that educational officials ask of vendors when they tour the BETT exhibition spaces to be revealing in many ways, I am often intrigued by the related questions that many of these companies then pose to me.

As a result of my work at the World Bank helping to advise on issues at the intersection of technology use and education in middle- and low-income countries and emerging markets around the world, I am, for example, asked from time to time by companies sets of questions that can be summarized as follows:

What would be the 'ideal' educational technology device for use in schools,
and by teachers and students, in developing countries?

Using green infrastructure to control urban floods: a win-win for cities

Zuzana Stanton-Geddes's picture
Деревня Костешть, Молдова. Фото Елены Продан / Всемирный банк

В период с начала до середины 1990-х годов Правительство Молдовы часто не выплачивало пенсии своевременно: задержки по выплате иногда составляли до двух лет. При этом пенсии зачастую выплачивались в натуральной форме. Данная ситуация отражала те трудности, которые переживала страна в бурный период перехода к рыночной экономике.
В конце 1990-х годов было начато реформирование пенсионной системы в попытке решить некоторые из наиболее неотложных проблем путем балансирования государственных финансов и обеспечения устойчивой траектории пенсионных выплат, что фактически означало, что теперь пенсии выплачиваются не галошами и зонтами, а денежными средствами.
Однако аналогично затяжному переходу Молдовы к свободному рынку, реформирование пенсионной системы страны являет собой по большей части пример «нерешенной проблемы». Это в значительной степени объясняется тем, что пенсионной реформой 1998 года предусматривалось поэтапное увеличение пенсионного возраста как мужчин, так и женщин до 65 лет, а также четкая увязка взносов с заработной платы с пенсионными выплатами. Цель состояла в том, чтобы заинтересовать граждан Молдовы участвовать в пенсионной системе, однако после нескольких лет осуществления реформы поэтапное увеличение пенсионного возраста было приостановлено. А поскольку пенсионный возраст не увеличился, планировавшееся повышение размера пенсий также было отложено.

Can Singapore inspire Laos to build water-smart cities?

Henrike Brecht's picture
Европа испытывает самый значительный наплыв мигрантов за последние десятилетия. Численность беженцев из зон конфликта в Сирии, Ираке и других стран, которые прибывают к южному побережью Европы, растёт с каждым днём. Вследствие резкого роста количества прошений о предоставлении убежища в Европейском Союзе (ЕС), вызванного этими процессами, обозначились расхождения между странами-членами ЕС относительно способов реагирования на эту проблему. Правительства стран Центральной Европы и Балтии отвергли предложения Еврокомиссии, которые предполагали введение системы обязательных квот для распределения беженцев среди всех 28 стран-членов ЕС, и выступили против того, чтобы принимать значительное число беженцев.

Но постойте! Сопротивление миграции – поведение, кажущееся парадоксальным для Европы, которую в перспективе ждёт старение и быстрое сокращение населения. Так, в странах Балтии и в Болгарии с 1990 года численность населения уже сократилась более чем на 15 процентов, в Хорватии – на 10 процентов, в Румынии и Венгрии – более чем на 5 процентов. Доля лиц в возрасте 65 лет и старше в населении стран Центральной Европы и Балтии в период с 1990 по 2010 год выросла больше чем на треть. В отличие от стран Западной Европы, где растёт продолжительность жизни, процессы старения в странах Центральной Европы и Балтии обусловлены массовой эмиграцией, особенно среди молодёжи в детородном возрасте и нередко - в Западную Европу, а также значительным падением рождаемости. Сегодня коэффициент рождаемости в странах Центральной Европы и Балтии, как правило, не выше 1,6. В Польше, Венгрии и Словакии его значение не превышает 1,3, что гораздо ниже необходимого для естественного замещения, которое составляет 2,1. Согласно демографическим прогнозам, процессы старения и сокращения численности народонаселения продолжатся и даже ускорятся. Это создаст риск для экономического роста и ляжет дополнительным бременем на бюджет из-за увеличения спроса на пенсии по старости и услуги здравоохранения.

Singapore: The Pelé of urban design

Abhas Jha's picture
Финансовый кризис 2008 года для многих учителей в США и Канаде стал своего рода «сигналом к действию». По мере того, как семьи теряли свои дома, а родители – работу, люди стали понимать, как важно, чтобы их дети, закончив школу, имели представление о мире финансов. При этом особенно важно, чтобы они понимали, как принимаются личные решения в этой области, и каким образом решения, которые принимает государство, непосредственным образом влияют на их жизнь и перспективы. 

Группа специалистов из Москвы и ещё пяти регионов Российской Федерации недавно посетила Канаду и США с ознакомительным визитом. Целью визита было получить представление об инициативах, осуществляемых в этих странах, и о том, как включить рассмотрение финансовых вопросов непосредственно в программу обучения, - так, чтобы сегодняшние учащиеся выросли активными и ответственными гражданами, способными принимать обоснованные решения, касащиеся их личных финансов, а также участвовать в обсуждениях государственных финансов от своего имени и от имени своих сообществ. 

Campaign Art: How Do You Talk about Sex When it is Taboo?

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

How do you inform young people of the importance of safe sex in Ethiopia, where sex is a taboo subject?

Turns out, the answer lies in the dance group, Addis Beza. 

Addis Beza means "to live for others" in Amharic, and members of the group, aged 15-20, use their vibrant moves to open-up discussions about safe sex. The group regularly performs in front of mobile HIV testing vans and public spaces, encouraging the crowds they draw to practice safe sex with condoms and to get tested free of charge.

Addis Beza