Inclusion Through Access to Public Space

Definition
A public space refers to an area or place that is open and accessible to all peoples, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age or socio-economic level. These are public gathering spaces such as plazas, squares and parks. Connecting spaces, such as sidewalks and streets, are also public spaces. In the 21st century, some even consider the virtual spaces available through the internet as a new type of public space that develops interaction and social mixing.

Challenges
Through spatial integration measures, the social inclusion of migrants in urban settings can be improved. Public spaces can play a key role in improving migrants' inclusion by acting as places for intercultural dialogue and exchange. Segregated areas can be opened up thanks to careful physical planning interventions. Generally speaking, adequate housing, well-connected public transport and accessible public buildings for cultural and religious practices need to be integrated in inclusive urban planning. Municipal decision-makers need to look carefully at the informal economy in public places and provide space for entrepreneurship.

What can be done?
Well-designed and maintained public space is critical to the health of any city. Such gathering spaces allow for social mixing, civic participation, recreation, and a sense of belonging. It is necessary to fight spatial segregation through actions such as rebuilding districts in an integrated way; providing the most disadvantaged urban areas with quality public spaces and installations; promoting diverse uses of the land; encouraging social mixing in housing selection with the aim of having people from different backgrounds and socio-economic conditions live in the same districts; removing architectural barriers that may isolate certain areas; and, finally, taking the gender variable into account in the urban make-up (UCLG).
Public space can also be used for daily events or seasonal or annual fairs that bring together diverse populations of the city.

Examples of good practice

“Slum to Neighborhood”, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
As it turned impossible to remove the favelas in Brazil, many of the government's policies focus on improving the infrastructure of the favelas. The Inter-American Development Bank funded a US$180 million “slum to neighborhood” project in 1995, which sought to integrate existing favelas into the fabric of the city through infrastructure upgrading and service development. The project involved 253,000 residents in 73 favela neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro. When a favela was selected, a master plan for upgrades was drafted and community organizations were contacted and asked to provide their input. When the final plan was approved, incentive plans were implemented for hiring construction companies that employed local community workers.

Central Park of Nou Barris, Barcelona, Spain
In Barcelona’s Nou Barris district, an award-winning park on the former grounds of the Santa Creu Mental Institute transforms the feeling of isolation created by disjunctive streets, high-density housing, district boundaries and the physical limitation of the site to create a green community for one the city’s more diverse neighbourhoods.

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