SINCE 2009, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and the number of urban dwellers is set to double in the next several decades. Cities that improve quality of life for its citizens experience higher levels of prosperity; they are also likely to find themselves more advanced in terms of sustainability. One of the ways to achieve that is by improving the use of public space.
There is growing attention for public space. In 2011, at the 23rd Governing Council of UN-Habitat, member states mandated UN-Habitat to consolidate agency-wide work on public space, to develop and promote public space policy, coordination, disseminate knowledge and directly assist cities in public space initiatives.
In Indonesia, UN-Habitat works together with UCLG ASPAC to encourage efforts on public space development and improvement. Surabaya, as one of the top big cities in Indonesia and the second most populated city in the country, is chosen as the first city to implement the Project for Public Space. The city puts a high priority on environment management and has successfully changed its face from dirty and dry to a green and clean city. Surabaya will also be the host for the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) 3 of Habitat III Conference. UCLG ASPAC will collaborate with Surabaya city government to work on the creation and/or improvement of public space as part of the UN-Habitat projects.
Having access to public spaces does not only improve the quality of life but is also a first step toward civic empowerment and greater access to institutional and political spaces. One of the unique qualities of UCLG ASPAC’s collaboration with Surabaya City Government on Public Space improvement project is the youth and community involvement in the process of design, implementation, monitoring. These targeted groups will also be involved as part of the sustainability of the end result of the project where they will be the end user for it.
Another distinct quality of the project is the utilization of a software application at the design phase. At this age of globalization and technological revolution, using a game to create community engagement project to develop public space at the initial phase will draw more interest to the youth and community group. In Surabaya, we will use a Minecraft game in designing the public space plan with the targeted groups. This early stage will also involve local government officials to ensure the bottom-up approach is in line with existing rules and regulations as well as urban and spatial planning of the city.
Meanwhile, UCLG ASPAC, the League of Cities of Philippines (LCP), UN-Habitat and and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council held the Conference on Public Space and Partnerships in the New Urban Agenda. The Conference saw LCP National Vice-Chairman and Balanga City Mayor Joet Garcia, Seberang Perai City Mayor Maimunah Mohd Sharif, city planners, and representatives from the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) signed the Declaration on Philippine Cities Network on Public Space at Hotel Jen in Pasay City on 28 February 2015. The declaration expresses the strong and clear commitment of city mayors and various partners towards the establishment of green, safe, inclusive, accessible, and interconnected public spaces. UCLG ASPAC will facilitate the exchange among cities and local governments of the Philippines with other countries in promoting public space and to connect them with the UCLG Committee on Urban Strategic Planning Committee.