WBU statement on World Cities Day 31 October 2019

The World Blind Union (WBU) is observing World Cities Day on Thursday 31 October 2019 as designated by the UN. The Day is expected to promote the international community’s interest in global urbanization, push forward cooperation among countries in meeting opportunities and addressing challenges of urbanization, and contributing to sustainable urban development around the world.

The theme for this year is: Changing the world: innovations and better life for future generations. The general theme of World Cities Day is Better City, Better Life, while each year a different sub-theme is selected, to either promote successes of urbanization, or address specific challenges resulting from urbanization.

Today, over half of the world’s population live in cities, with the number expected to double by 2050. By 2030 it is expected that nearly 1 billion people with disabilities will live in cities and urban settlements. This puts pressure on urban stakeholders to plan and design cities which are inclusive and accessible for all.

On this occasion, the World Blind Union is encouraging national and local governments to include on their agenda the needs and challenges faced by blind and partially sighted persons as obligated by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda (NUA). The governments should develop laws, policies, strategies and programs that enable accessible and affordable housing (CRPD Article 28); build proper infrastructure to allow persons to live independently (CRPD Articles 19 and 20); enable accessible environment, transportation, public facilities, services and information and communication technologies (CRPD article 9) and safety (Articles 5 and 15 of the CRPD). This is also in line with SDG11 which stresses the need to make cities sustainable, resilient, inclusive and safe for all.

The WBU is further urging countries and cities to work towards achieving the urban dimension of the 2030 Agenda and fulfil their commitments in the New Urban Agenda (NUA). NUA was adopted by the UN Member States in 2016 to provide an action-oriented roadmap for cities to be sustainable and inclusive, thereby giving an opportunity for planners to address the structural barriers faced by blind and partially sighted persons in order to ensure no one is left behind.

The World Blind Union is fully committed to raise the voices of our constituency in global urban policy processes. In our Global Initiative for Accessible Smart Cities and Sustainable Urban Development launched in January 2019 we aim to: strengthen global advocacy; empower our members; collaborate with global actors and networks; foster sharing of information on accessibility practices; and to work more closely with the private sector to raise the voices of blind and partially sighted persons in the design of cities and smart technologies.

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