The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Sustainable Urbanisation: Bridging the Green and Brown Agendas


4 November 2011

The World’s development and environmental communities came together for the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. This summit produced a comprehensive vision for the future under the banner of Sustainable Development. Agenda 21, a global action plan designed to implement this vision, was endorsed by more than 160 countries.

Nicholas You
Adriana Allen

Publication Date: 2001

ISBN:1 874502 40 4

It emphasised the importance of the role of local authorities and communities in working towards a more sustainable future, especially through the development of Local Agendas 21. Indeed, the phrase '‘think globally act locally'’ popularised by the earth summit advocates local action as the main path towards sustainability. Four years later, the Habitat Agenda and its political statement – the Istanbul Declaration – endorsed and expanded on Agenda 21 and highlighted the importance to be given to urbanisation and the related issues of land, housing and urban management. It called for effective action to provide adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements in an urbanising world. These two agendas set the stage to bridge the so-called '‘green'’ and '‘brown'’ perspectives on urbanisation, environment and development.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) constitutes a milestone to assess progress in response to Agenda 21. Over the last decade, this Agenda has inspired innumerable global initiatives and local innovations in the search for more sustainable forms of social, economic and environmental development. Since the adoption of the habitat agenda, a systematic effort has also been made to document these initiatives and innovations, providing for a wealth of knowledge and experience from which lessons can be drawn for further reflection, action and consolidation. The objective of this book is to examine some of these lessons and their institutional and policy implications, for it is our belief that more sustainable forms of development will increasingly depend on creating strong linkages between local initiatives and national and international responses.

Sustainable Urbanisation: Bridging the Green and Brown Agendas is a companion of Implementing the Habitat Agenda: In Search of Urban Sustainability, also jointly produced by the Development Planning Unit (DPU) University College London and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN- Habitat) for the special session of the United nations General Assembly, Istanbul +5, in 2001. Both books were produced with financial support from the Infrastructure and Urban Development Department (IUDD) of the UK Department for International Development (DFID). Like its companion, this book is intended for decision-makers at all levels, community leaders and women and men concerned with, and engaged in, environmental and development issues, be it in preserving the global commons or in improving the local living environment.

This book does not claim to be comprehensive in its analysis or representation of the strategies adopted in support of sustainable urbanisation. However, the case studies have been selected with the purpose of offering a geographically wide perspective, illustrating different entry points for more sustainable forms of social, economic and environmental development, thereby complementing other reviews of local action for sustainability. As far as possible, we have drawn on primary sources, placing special emphasis on documenting experiences that have not yet been widely disseminated or revisiting well-known initiatives from a new angle. We hope that the ideas and case studies presented here stimulate further action and debate for a sustainable and urbanised world.