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What is the Spanish Urban Agenda?


The Spanish Urban Agenda (AUE) is a strategic document of a non-regulatory, and thus voluntary, nature that, according with the criteria set out in the 2030 Agenda, the new United Nations Urban Agenda and the Urban Agenda for the European Union, seeks to achieve sustainability in urban development policies. It is also a working method and a process for all public and private stakeholders involved in cities and seeking for a more equitable, fair and sustainable urban development.

After intensive work and a broad participatory process that lasted almost a year, this integrated urban development strategy offers a Decalogue of Strategic Goals, which features a total of 30 specific goals and 291 lines of action. The result is a veritable "à la carte menu" that can be used by those actors interested in its implementation to draw up their own Action Plans. The strategy is based on a broad vision that includes every town and city, regardless its size and population, and relies on the triple dimension of economic, social and environmental sustainability.

"There is no single prescription for improving urbanization and achieving sustainable urban development, but the New Urban Agenda provides the principles and tested practices to bring its vision to life, off of these pages and into reality. May it inspire and inform the decision-makers and urban inhabitants of the world to take ownership of our shared urban future. At this critical juncture in human history, rethinking the way we plan, build and manage our urban spaces is not an option but an imperative. Our work to realize this vision begins now."
Extract from the Prologue of the United Nations Urban Agenda, adopted at the Habitat III Conference in October 2016. Quito (Ecuador).

International agendas

The Spanish Urban Agenda (AUE) seeks to comply with the international commitments adopted in accordance with the 2030 Agenda, the New Urban Agenda of the United Nations and the European Urban Agenda.

2030 Agenda

"We must take the first determined steps toward a sustainable future with dignity for all. Transformation is our aim. We must transform our economies, our environment and our societies. We must change old mindsets, behaviours and destructive patterns. We must embrace the integrated essential elements of dignity, people, prosperity, planet, justice and partnership."
The road to dignity by 2030. Synthesis report of the Secretary-General on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. United Nations, A/69/700.

In 2015, the UN approved 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, an opportunity for countries and their societies to embark on a new path to improve the lives of everyone, leaving no one behind. The Agenda has 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ranging from eradicating poverty to combating climate change, education, gender equality, environmental protection and the design of our cities. In this regard, SDG 11 pursues cities that are inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

United Nations Urban Agenda

In October 2016, the United Nations Urban Agenda was approved in Quito, "a historic opportunity to leverage the key role of cities and human settlements as drivers of sustainable development in an increasingly urbanized world.
New Urban Agenda

The main objective of the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development - Habitat III - was to identify new challenges and strengthen the political compromise in order to achieve sustainable urban development through the approval of a "New Urban Agenda", which defines the parameters of the cities of the 21st century. This is a voluntary, strategic document that presents urbanisation as a powerful instrument for achieving sustainable development, both in developing countries and in developed countries, including Spain.

Urban Agenda for the European Union

(...) Not addressing urban issues at European level, and not having a common European vision of urban development policies - the so-called European "Urban Acquis" - could undermine the achievement of the objectives of the Lisbon Agenda and the EU's sustainable development strategies.
European Commission, 2009: 11.

The Pact of Amsterdam, approved at the Informal Meeting of Ministers responsible for Urban Development in the EU Member States, held on 30 May 2016, embodies the long-awaited Urban Agenda for the EU. This Urban Agenda proposes a clearly operational approach focused on 3 specific objectives: to improve regulation at EU level (“better regulation”) especially those having a direct impact on urban areas; to strive for a more effective design and simpler management of EU financing instruments (“better funding”); and finally, to promote the exchange of knowledge (“better knowledge”).

Spanish Urban Agenda

In this section you can find information on the Spanish Urban Agenda.

Structure of the AUE

The Agenda is a strategic document, non-regulatory in nature, imbued with pragmatic approaches that are intended to be useful and, of course, consensual. It opts for a desirable urban model for the future and aims to set a new vision of Urban Planning that could be called 1.0. It will undoubtedly require successive improved versions, 2.0, 3.0, etc., and this will be possible as long as the various public and private actors incorporate effective implementation processes and mechanisms.

The Spanish Urban Agenda contains:

  1. A diagnosis of the urban and rural areas in Spain.
  2. A strategic framework structured into a Decalogue of Goals, containing a total of 30 specific goals, with their possible guidelines.
  3. A system of indicators that can be used to evaluate and track the compliance with the strategic goals.
  4. Some fact sheets illustrating how action plans can be drawn up to implement the AUE and
  5. An Action Plan for the National Government with specific proposals that fall under its competence

Territorial Diagnosis and Summary

The Diagnosis document is particularly useful, as it provides an objective analysis of the reality by considering the most varied topics (which range from demographic change and depopulation of rural areas to mobility, including urban metabolism and governance issues) and identifying the main problems that threaten the sustainability of Spanish cities and towns urban model.

Strategic framework and Territorial and Urban Model

The New Urban Agenda of the United Nations illustrates the integrated approaches that the integrated concept (environmental, social and economic) of sustainability requires. They can also be easily extracted when analysing the Action Plans that have emerged during the implementation of the European Union's Urban Agenda. In the same terms, the Spanish Urban Agenda is based on the necessary commitment to a comprehensive vision of the territorial component and to defending the concept of variable geography with respect to strategies, because it is the vector of the strategy itself that defines the territorial scope, not the other way around.

Thus, the goals of this Agenda are broad and ambitious, as evidenced by this strategic framework, which consists of a set of goals to be achieved and a list of possible lines of action to be implemented by each stakeholder wishing to commit to the Agenda.

Tracking and evaluation indicators

The set of tracking and evaluation indicators proposed in the Spanish Urban Agenda are associated with each one of the specific goals for the implementation of the Agenda. These indicators are adapted to the initial situation and the context of each city and urban area, and can be used to establish the level of improvement that is sought through the planned measures and actions.

The aim is to ensure the highest compatibility and coordination with the indicators used in the various urban strategies and projects currently being implemented by Local Authorities in each thematic area linked to the specific goals. They make up a set of comparable and aggregable indicators that will allow Spain to satisfy its reporting requirements under the international Agendas and will also allow an analysis and evaluation at supramunicipal level.

This indicator system will be used to clearly define the results that will be achieved through the application of the Spanish Urban Agenda in terms of improving the quality of life and urban sustainability, and on the preparation of cities to face future challenges.

An Agenda for everyone

The Spanish Urban Agenda was drawn up taking into account the contributions of all the key players in urban development. The long, participatory process lasted over a year and a half and began in June 2017, when a group of independent and multidisciplinary experts was created in order to write a zero draft to provide a basis for starting the work.

The participation was organised around seven different working groups, which in turn led, in some cases, to several sub-groups and even bilateral meetings and contacts.

Synergies with other agendas and strategies

The Spanish Urban Agenda is a policy lever in the Action Plan for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Spain that seeks to comply with the international commitments adopted in accordance with the 2030 Agenda, the New Urban Agenda of the United Nations and the Urban Agenda for the EU.

While drafting the Spanish Urban Agenda (AUE), the idea was to facilitate the work of setting the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda, aligning them with the strategic goals of the AUE. These documents reveal that the goals of the two Agendas are fully compatible one with each other and also with other international commitments signed by Spain.

The Spanish Urban Agenda contributes not only to the achievement of SDG 11 on sustainable and resilient cities, but also to a good number of other SDGs with which it is transversely related. For this reason, during its drafting, the documents were prepared aiming to facilitate the work of locating the relations of each strategic objective of the AUE with the goals of 2030 Agenda SDGs. This works shows the complete alignment of both Agendas with each other and with the rest of the international documents with which Spain is committed.