The 21st Century Urban Scenario CD-ROM was presented by UN-Habitat and DFID on the occasion of the World Habitat Day 2002.

It was commissioned by Michael Parks then director of the UN-Habitat Liaison Office Brussels and produced under the direction of Michael Mutter, then senior Architectural and Urban Advisor, of the UK Department for International Development (DFID by the Development Planning Unit DPU, University College London.


Since its inception by the UN General Assembly in 1985, World Habitat Day has been celebrated annually on the first Monday in October. On October 7 2002 the event was held at the Palais d'Egmont, Place Petit Sablon 8, Brussels, hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Brussels, Belgium, the European Commission and UN-Habitat in the presence of H.R.H. Prince Philippe.

The 2002 theme, "City-to-City Co-operation" was meant to encourage more co-operation between and among cities as a way of actively encouraging "lesson learned" and of improving the management capacity of cities for sustainable urbanization. As the world is facing a doubling of its urban population, from two to four billion by 2025, Target 11 of the UN Millennium Development Goals aims to "significantly improve the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by 2020".

The work of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen - Development as Freedom - can contribute to city-to-city co-operation by the drafting of an "Urban Freedom" policy framework. Speaking on behalf of Amartya Sen, the UN Advisor Romi Khosla gave a key address on the work he has been leading, Removing Unfreedoms, Citizens as the Agent of Change. The report proposed the crucial need for a shared international development framework with alternative evaluations. The drafting of an urban freedom framework would facilitate and implement coordinated policies to better address the success of the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Central to these policies "Removing Unfreedoms" champions the individual citizen as societies most important component. The process of development is one that removes obstructions and enables the citizen to move closer to the life that he or she values.

The five types of freedoms are: Political Freedoms, Economic Facilities, Social opportunities, Transparency Guarantees and Protective Security. All five are interconnected and equally important. They are like the five equally important sides of a box in which urban investments can be contained. Freedom can be expanded through its five components or instruments that influence the potential of the citizen. These are the instruments that citizens need to enable them to overcome their constraints. More important these are the instruments that inform us of the degrees of unfreedom that are prevalent in a society and hence the degree of underdevelopment.

Romi Khosla emphasized the need to address how we can measure the status of this freedom and hence the degree of development. Central to the work is the need for a system of evaluation, co-ordination and shared policy frameworks. And if cities are going to be pivotal to development changes in the future, some conclusions can be drawn:

  1. We cannot move forward without a common policy framework that is shared between city administrations. It is our contention that this common framework could be based on the 5 freedoms defined by Amartya Sen.

  2. There is a need for city alliances to formulate shared charters of local governance that incorporates the five instruments of freedom as the guiding principles of local governance.

  3. As part of this shared city-to-city project, there is a need to re-evaluate the existing urban environment. By re-evaluating the existing urban environment with additional new indices, one could measure degrees of freedom rather than relying exclusively on measuring degrees of poverty. Additional indices are needed and include a broader Human Freedom Index whose constituent parts are the five instrumental indices each of which provide measures for the degree of instrumental freedom experienced by urban citizens.

" We have an opportunity to introduce change. In the coming century, it is the city that is going to be the crucial instrument of change. If we accept that this change is to be for the better, then let us strengthen and widen our city-to-city co-operation. Let us share the ethical, social, political and economic goals of expanding freedoms across the developed and underdeveloped divide, and let us enshrine these principles in new charters of urban governance."

The setting up of such a shared monitoring mechanism would enable the conclusions of shared evaluation indices to be integrated into common charters. This would be available to governments as well as donors as the basis for identifying policy goals and would enable them to make comparisons across cities. And once we agree to do that, we can re-evaluate the conditions of our cities with new indices that measure the causes and not the symptoms of underdevelopment.


October 2003
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UN-Habitat Discussion Paper
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Michael Mutter and Jane Samuels
speaking to
Dr Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka
Executive Director of UN Habitat
on World Habitat Day

The 21st Century
Urban  Scenario

A CD-Rom was distributed to those attending the UN-World Habitat Day 2002 featuring the Removing Unfreedoms discussion paper by Romi Khosla with contributions by Jane Samuels, Sikandar Hassan and Buddhi Mulyawan. Copies are still available and can be purchased from the  DPU Website

The CD-ROM includes an in-depth filmed interview between Amartya Sen and Romi Khosla discussing the benefits of a freedom approach to international development policy. The second film, Removing Unfreedoms, Citizens as the Agents of Change, has commentary by Sen reviewing a variety of distinct urban experiences within the five-freedom development framework.

Both films illustrate the relationships between community initiatives, removing the constraints to participatory freedoms and Urban Revitalisation. The CD-rom was produced by the Development Planning Unit for the UN-World Habitat Day.

Sikandar Hasan

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