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Addressing inequality through culture and innovation - WUF10 (8-13 February 2020, Abu Dhabi, UAE)
9 Feb 2020 -  The physical manifestations of inequalities and increasing urban poverty are becoming more visible worldwide. With 1 billion people living in slums and another 1.6 billion living in inadequate housing conditions, this figure will grow to 3 billion by 2030 if no action is taken.

UN-Habitat has conducted research globally on success criteria and pre-conditions for sustainable urban transformation through the integration of settlements to reduce urban poverty and inequality. The results will be published in 2020 in a global flagship publication - The Solutions to Slums - a follow - up to The Challenges of Slums published in 2003. 

Urban poverty and inequality can only be addressed by recognizing diversity, respecting human rights and mobilizing the political will to create an enabling environment for inclusive growth and transformation in the transition from rural to urban societies. 

Diversity must be fully embraced in multi-governance frameworks which address cultural, socio-economic and environmental development potentials of the urban poor and respond to their needs without excluding them further through gentrification. 

Through creative and inclusive processes involving all stakeholders, people - centred spatial innovations implemented in partnership with local and national authorities can bring about physical transformation and create economic opportunities for all. 

For 10 years the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme (PSUP) has integrated culture in its urban profiling and city-wide assessments and in community mobilization for development of public spaces and facilities. 

The Government of Fiji has anchored its National Informal Settlement Strategy on sustainable, affordable solutions using indigenous knowledge which will reach the largest possible number of households within the framework of the strategy. 

The Government of Mauritius has anchored its citywide slum upgrading and prevention strategy on culture, while Niger and Mali place protection of indigenous building knowledge at the centre of urban development.  

In Benin the government is providing jobs for women through waste recycling and development of plastic art. 

Prior to the session, UN-Habitat will engage PSUP, SISNet partners and session speakers in identifying diverse case studies, principles, processes and policy recommendations at global level for discussion. 

The case studies will highlight the role of culture and innovation in fostering inclusive growth and a more integrated and equal urban society by transforming slums, informal settlements and deprived urban areas.


This session will explore how culture and innovation provide strategic entry-points for breaking down exclusion and overcoming inequalities. It will demonstrate how culture and innovation can be catalysts of sustainable long-term change in stagnated neighborhoods and excluded communities.

The session will debate four main pillars based on research, case studies and visions implemented around the world:

It will outline principles and processes for scalable solutions that leverage culture and innovation.
It will explore examples of mixed place and people-based strategies that leverage, cultural diversity and local knowledge for sustainable development.
It will showcase innovative scalable solutions which improve quality of life for the urban poor.
It will present partnership models that have delivered innovations and leveraged cultural diversity.

Guiding Questions:

How can culture and innovation be leveraged to overcome urban disparities, exclusion, and discrimination and create job opportunities for the urban poor, provide sustainable livelihoods and improve quality of life for all?
What interventions target the urban poor, narrow the urban inequality gap and integrate urban societies through urban culture and innovation?
How can culture and innovation strengthen social mix, mixed-use and cultural identity in slums, informal settlements and deprived urban areas?
What tangible commitments can be taken forward by the Slums and Informal Settlements Network to leverage culture and innovation to provide a better quality of life for the urban poor?
What are the first steps in strengthening the role of women and youth in sustainable urban development through culture and innovation?