FairShare: Integrating Human Rights in Urban Planning

FairShare /JämtJämlikt/ is a method that helps those who work with urban and societal development to integrate human rights in urban planning. Certification for equality by a third party ensures that the municipalities achieve their goals regarding equality in urban planning. The first public place is now certified – a promenade in Helsingborg. The Raoul Wallenberg Institute, Tengbom, RISE, and Helsingborg developed the tool in collaboration.

When the city building administration in Helsingborg municipality carried out a safety survey in the district Söder in Helsingborg, they found that almost one in four in the area experienced different types of harassment. This is how the project started. The project is about striving for creating places that attract women and make them feel safe.

During the work, we realised two things. Firstly, that we needed to make a major change in our way of working. Secondly, that a person is not just their gender. There are a number of other aspects to take into account when creating an equal and safe place, says Moa Sundberg, Urban Designer at Helsingborg’s city building administration.

Swedish law protects seven grounds of discrimination. These are gender, gender identity and gender expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, functional variation, sexual orientation and age.

The municipality of Helsingborg felt that there was a need for a toolbox that could help those who work with community planning – city planners, architects, property owners, private actors, municipalities and regions – to integrate all of these aspects of discrimination in the work.

We also realised that we would need a new certification for this process, says Moa Sundberg.  This is where the Raoul Wallenberg Institute, RISE and Tengbom came in.

Creating concrete processes for change

Anna Bruce, Senior Researcher at RWI and developer of FairShare, stresses the importance of FairShare providing concrete processes for change, rather than being a mere checklist of what to achieve:

A major pitfall when operationalising human rights standards and Agenda 2030 in urban planning is to focus too much on chiselling out where we need to go, at the expense of innovating about how to get there, says Anna Bruce. The principal contribution of FairShare to the urban planning sector is our routines and methods for systematic human rights and equality analysis and innovation. By tailoring the general parameters known as ‘a human rights based approach’ to the particular realities of city planning, FairShare has real potential for large-scale change in the city planning sector.

Importantly, great care has been taken to make FairShare compatible with the actual working conditions of city planners and the existing city planning process. Anna Bruce, underlines the crucial importance for any system of a realistic picture of the situation of those due to implement it:

 The system works because routines and methods are shaped to hook into the existing city planning process and to make sense and inspire those who are actually doing this work.

Step one is fact collection and background analysis. Here you may need input from various experts and from the research. Step two is to prioritise. When prioritising, the human rights perspective should be guiding and decisions should be transparent. Step three is to formulate an equality commitment that clarifies the benefit you want to achieve and step four is a project plan with activities to find solutions and opportunities to fulfil the commitment. Step five, finally, is about prioritising among the solutions and transferring the requirement to implement these to the next actor in the process.

The main theme for the change in human rights and social sustainability FairShare seeks in the built environment is equality, says Anna Bruce. Equality is achieved when our common space contributes to a fair distribution of conditions for a good life for all, regardless of factors such as gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, skin color, origin, religion, age, health, functioning or economy.

This is far from the case at the moment.

In most municipalities, there is a will to make urban planning accessible and pleasant for everyone. But, unfortunately there is often a lack of knowledge about the importance of design for equality. Even if the ambitions are good, they will not be fully realised. By having a third party come in and do a certification, the municipalities ensure that they achieve their set goals in terms of equality in urban planning, says Ingrid Isaksson, Project Manager at RISE.

The certification has two purposes. It is of course a hallmark of quality, but it is at least as important to ourselves that we open our eyes to the fact that not all places are actually accessible to everyone in society.

It is key to gain more knowledge about these issues, says Moa Sundberg.

Designed to make the elderly feel safe

The first place to be certified is People’s Walk in Helsingborg. The promenade is being built in connection with the city fair H22 City Expo, which will be inaugurated on 31 May.

People’s Walk is designed with the aim of getting older people from different parts of the city, with different financial backgrounds, different beliefs and different sexual orientations to meet and feel safe. The track is designed in accordance with wishes from the elderly that we interviewed – it includes a lot of greenery to get shade, many seats and a boules court, says Moa Sundberg.

Arvika and Ängelholm are two more places that work with urban development projects that will eventually be certified.

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