The Afghanistan Safer Cities Programme, titled as “Afghanistan Urban Peacebuilding Programme (AUPP)-2015-2018” interpreted the concept of safety and security as a holistic one covering all aspects of securing the foundations that allow people to lead dignified, fulfilled lives. Thus, as well as the threat of conflict it considers the socio-economic realm, issues of gender, education, employment, and environment. The programme successfully introduced the concept to urban planning for security to Afghanistan for the first time. It was followed by a second Phase, entitled, “Afghanistan Urban Safety and Security Programme (AUSSP) 2018-2021”. In 2019, as part of AUSSP the first Public Space Safety Audit was undertaken in the country to enable better consideration of safety and security issues through more evidence-based policy planning and implementations.
The pilot project was undertaken in Kabul, which is one of the eight strategic cities within which AUPP and AUSSP have been operating, in order to test the methodologies which have been adjusted to the Afghan context and to better showcase the benefits of the project to the national government and other municipalities. The practical survey covered the areas under Provincial Districts (PDs) number 2, 3, 4, 10 selected based on the set criteria. The Public Space Safety Audit was done to not only understand the gaps in the distribution, quality, safety, accessibility and inclusivity of the public spaces but also to celebrate and support the already ongoing initiatives and programmes of the National Government and UN-Habitat. The survey was also a means to protect existing public spaces, improve the quality of urban spaces, revitalize street life and improve the network of interconnected streets and public spaces especially between the formal and informal areas of the city. Importantly, the results of the audit and assessment have informed policy and strategic recommendations, with a particular emphasis on improving safety and security, accessibility and inclusion for women and girls in future public space upgrading or development.
The tool that was adopted was the Public Space Assessment developed by UN-Habitat Headquarters’ Global Public Space Programme. This is a digital tool that uses a structured questionnaire that can be modified to fit any context as well as lead assessment of the priorities for development or upgrading of public space for any city. Since 2015, UN-Habitat has supported 30 cities to conduct a public space assessment. There has also been a keen interest by other cities to use this tool for their own citywide public space strategy work. The tool is also key in monitoring and reporting on SDG 11.7 as well as toward the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.