Dr. Orna Rosenfeld

Dr. Orna Rosenfeld B.Arch. M.A. Ph.D. is an award-winning urban strategist, housing expert and advisor, author and social impact advocate. She brings expertise from social sciences and city planning and architectural engineering, to support international organizations and banks, private investors and developers, governments and cities to advance housing and urban policy, practice and investment in pursuit of inclusive urban futures.

Background: what is an Ex-Ante Assessment (EAA) in the context of the Urban Agenda for the EU?

With the Ljubljana Agreement of November 2021, the Ex-Ante Assessment (EAA) was proposed as a new step towards the creation of ‘Thematic Partnerships’ and ‘Other Forms of Cooperation’ as part of the Urban Agenda for the EU (UAEU). Functioning as an exploratory process, the EAA evaluates the potential for initiating new Thematic Partnerships, aiming to optimise their focus, timing, and activities across multiple governance levels. The first EAAs have been launched in January 2022, and are coordinated by the European Urban Initiative on behalf of the European Commission.

Read Dr. Orna Rosenfeld’s EAA on Cities of Equality here.

 

You conducted the Ex-Ante Assessment of the ‘Cities of Equality’ theme within the Urban Agenda for the EU. Can you briefly describe your task and the reasons for conducting an Ex-Ante Assessment?

In 2021, EU Ministers responsible for Urban Development adopted the Ljubljana Agreement which proposed ‘Cities of Equality’ as one of the four priority themes for the expansion of the Urban Agenda for the EU. The Ex-Ante Assessment was also put forward as a new step towards the creation of partnerships as a part of the Urban Agenda for the EU.  The Ex-Ante Assessment is a significant improvement in the establishment process of new partnerships, as it allows the viability of the theme to be examined in advance to ensure the best results and most significant impact. This is especially important for a theme such as ‘Cities of Equality’, which is both complex and filled with aspirations and ambitions for the future.

How do you see the balance between equity and equality? In terms of targeted interventions benefiting protected groups versus the need to ‘leave no one behind’?

Equality and equity are similar concepts but have important differences. Equality generally refers to equal opportunity, meaning that each individual or group is given the same opportunities and resources. On the other hand, the aim for equity recognises that initial circumstances differ between each person (or protected group). Equity means achieving greater fairness of outcomes by offering varying levels of support depending upon each group’s needs. Finally, the idea of justice should also be considered. Justice can be seen to conceptually crown equality and equity because it implies fixing societal systems to ensure equal opportunities are available to all.

The key question is how to achieve this in practice. ‘Equality’ is the core value of the European Union and so the EU is underpinned by one of the most comprehensive legal frameworks for ‘equality and non-discrimination’ in the world. It protects against discrimination on grounds of age, disability, gender, sexual orientation, religion and belief, race and ethnic origin. The EU laws are transposed to all EU Member States and EU and Member State legal systems have provisions to ensure legal equality principles are elevated to include equity and justice too. However, it is important to note that these equality and non-discrimination laws are used in case of transgressions and so they are reactive rather than proactive.

On the other hand, the ‘Cities of Equality’ theme goes a step further to proactively create environments for equality. While it is good to lean on EU and Member State law to ground our understanding of equality, equity and justice, urban planning and development is ultimately about creating urban futures in which no one is left behind. In order to achieve this ambition whilst creating the environments for equality, we need both targeted interventions that benefit protected groups specifically (as in equity) and holistic thinking aimed at ensuring cities work for all. The key challenge is therefore evolving our urban practices and policies to do so and this is the central task of the future Urban Agenda for the EU partnership on Cities of Equality.

What do you see as the most important intervention areas that can improve equality in urban areas?

The most important intervention is engaging with all people in our cities without prejudice or judgement, learning about barriers they face and their needs, and then updating our urban policies, planning codes and practices to serve them equitably. This is the only way to progress towards inclusive urban futures.

Improving equality is ultimately about continuously learning about the population of our cities across ages, genders, sexual orientation (LGBTIQ), ability or disability, country of origin or socio-economic status. Equality is a process not a destination. Our societies and cities are evolving and our urban interventions should too.

Achieving more equitable outcomes also requires mainstreaming equality across urban policy spheres and elevating capacities to do so across all governance levels. Having the knowledge about the varying levels of support needed for each protected group is vital to achieving greater fairness of outcomes in any urban intervention, be it housing, service provision, safety, urban planning and design, environment, including accessible and safe public spaces or labour market participation. However, this should also be done keeping intersectionality in mind, so that the solutions embody multiple population groups and are tailored to cover those most at risk of exclusion while leaving no one behind.

Clearly, that knowledge needs to be understood and conceptualised within specific urban sphere to achieve concrete goals. However, the people are and always will be the key.

 

"The most important intervention is engaging with all people in our cities without prejudice or judgement, learning about barriers they face and their needs, and then updating our urban policies, planning codes and practices to serve them equitably. This is the only way to progress towards inclusive urban futures"