A manifesto for human cities

We believe in the power of a human-centered approach to cities, putting people first.

Meeting the challenges of this urban century requires an understanding of the city as a nexus of environmental context, built systems and infrastructure, and human communities.

In the twentieth-first century, sustainable development increasingly takes place in an urban context. Urbanization impacts air and water quality, alters resource consumption patterns, and poses unique challenges for the environment, energy, and infrastructure. The evolution of cities—particularly in emerging economies, which are experiencing unprecedented rates of urban growth—will prove critical in shaping a greener, more livable future for our planet.

Meeting the challenges of this urban century requires an understanding of the city as a nexus of environmental context, built systems and infrastructure, and human communities. None of these systems operates in isolation; they are deeply interrelated and influence each other on an everyday basis and over the long term.

Recognizing the Local Amid the Global

In today’s hyper-connected world, the design and implementation of an urban vision often requires transnational exchange among diverse disciplines. The model of foreign experts dropping in to dispense advice before jetting away is proving untenable because of rising costs, inherent power imbalances, and the questionable effectiveness of solutions that do not account for local context amid global trends.

While the growing democratization of educational opportunities mirrors the globalization of commerce, decision-making and the locus of recognized "expertise" remains concentrated among the elite. It is unclear whether this arrangement leads to tangible improvements in quality of life for all citizens.

Meanwhile, the current mode of unfettered urbanization results in social dislocation and environmental degradation, particularly impacting the low-income, the under-represented, and the disenfranchised. A new paradigm is needed.

Truly sustainable cities require culturally-appropriate solutions that incorporate international practices, but remain sensitive to local needs and sensibilities.

We therefore welcome the exploration, experimentation, imagination, co-creation, and evaluation of "human cities" — cities that recognize the centrality of human beings and communities, and that place humanity and its well-being at the heart of any urban development strategy.

Evolving Human Cities

Truly sustainable cities require culturally-appropriate solutions that incorporate international practices, but remain sensitive to local needs and sensibilities. We believe the approach of developing and maintaining human cities provides a way forward that connects key stakeholders, advances our understanding of sustainable development, and empowers societies to meet present and future challenges.