Launched in 2012, UN-Habitat’s Global Public Space Programme (GPSP) supports cities to take actions for safe, inclusive, and accessible public space for all. As a Programme, we promote the crucial role of green and quality public spaces in cities, acting as an enabler for social justice, prosperity, and environmental change. Streets, sidewalks and cycling lanes, squares, parks and waterfronts, gardens and community courtyards, are all part of what we define as public space.
Public space is crucial for sustainable cities and communities: providing ecosystem services, improving health and wellbeing, ensuring social inclusion and economic exchange. It offers an opportunity to enrich the quality of life of all urban dwellers, leaving no one behind. UN-Habitat’s research shows that well-functioning cities have around 50% of the surface area dedicated to public space. Unfortunately, few cities around the world meet this target. Lack of quality public spaces reduces urban quality of life, increasing crime, social tensions, health and congestion.
So far, the GPSP have completed 137 public space upgrading projects in 90 different cities, impacting the life of over 2.3 million people. The public spaces which were implemented has improved the well- being and health of our communities, while boosting social interaction and livelihoods. Building upon the renewed interest of countries and cities, we believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a new urgency and momentum for cities to redefine their agendas and develop a new strategic framework which puts public space as a key driver of change.
The success of UN-Habitat’s public space programme is anchored in our wide network of local government, civil society, academia and private sector partners. Our public space regeneration projects are usually completed in collaboration with the local government and the civil society partners. Through placemaking networks, UN-Habitat engages with and supports communities to take action towards reclaiming and transforming their public spaces. Since almost a decade, we have also organized regular meetings of the UN Public Space Network to encourage other UN agencies to act on public space as a way of achieving sustainable development.
At the occasion of the 10 years anniversary of the Global Public Space Programme, we are inviting the global public space network to discuss the role and place of public space in the next decade. This ongoing dialogue will focus on how innovative approaches to public space are implemented among UN-Habitat country and regional offices, the wider UN agencies and multi-stakeholders that form the global public space network of partners.
This is also the time to reflect on what have been achieved so far and that we are gathering in the Global Public Space Programmes 10 years report and the new interactive digital Dashboard of Projects as well as building capacity in the use of our Public Space Tools.