The Globalisation of Urban Governance edited by Helmut Philipp Aust and Anél du Plessis (Routledge, 2018).

Chapter 7: Hannah Birkenkötter Ensuring Access to Public Space As A Dimension Of “Safe Cities”: The Role Of UN Entities In Shaping The Global Urban Governance Agenda”

Ensuring Access to Public Space As A Dimension Of “Safe Cities”: The Role Of UN Entities In Shaping The Global Urban Governance Agenda

Safe cities in the 2030 Agenda and the New Urban Agenda are understood as access to public space free of physical violence, to be implemented by a variety of actors through multi-stakeholder partnerships. Placing the substantive content of SDG 11.7 in the wider context of the UN’s human settlements agenda, this contribution argues that the focus on the planning and design of public space is the result of slow normative change that has partly been shaped by operational activities of UN entities and their direct interaction with city governments. An examination of operational activities on safer cities by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the UN Entity on Gender Equality (UN Women) shows that operational activities have an impact on norm evolvement within the UN system. Operational activities might be supervised, but are not primarily guided, by state-composed governing structures. This does not imply that UN entities have replaced states as the main drivers of normative change. But their role is not limited to implementing international standards. Rather, they are important actors in normative interpretation and development. The result is an interplay between interpretation and standard-setting, between executive agencies and their principals, with implications for international institutional law.

About the Author
Hannah Birkenkötter is a research assistant at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin at the Chair for Public Law and Jurisprudence (Prof. Dr. Christoph Möllers, LLM) as part of a research group on overlapping spheres of authority and interface conflicts. She currently pursues a dissertation exploring rule of law discourses within the United Nations system, and was a visiting doctoral researcher at the New York University School of Law (2016–2017) and at Princeton University (2014). She has published several articles on formats of legal research, the role of judicial and quasi-judicial processes in international law, and on comparative constitutional law.