Building Global Active Cities for tomorrow
The world is urbanising at breath-taking speed: by 2050, more than two thirds of the global population and 80% of the European population is expected to live in cities. This brings benefits but also challenges. As the world suffers from a growing epidemic of physical inactivity and related non-communicable diseases (NCDs), urban environments, in many cases, do not promote active and healthy lifestyles.
Jean-Francois Laurent, on behalf of the “Active Well-being Initiative”. Article co-written with Philippe Furrer, Wolfgang Baumann, Gabriel Messmer, Steve Marsden, Rachel Beacher.
Today, cities must re-think the way they address their planning and growth, how they design infrastructure and mobility, and how they operate and integrate their diverse communities, in order to motivate their citizens to be more active and healthy. More investment is required to promote individual and collective well-being, because prevention is a smarter and cheaper choice than cure. Citizens and communities must be educated and empowered to make sustainable healthier choices. Cities need to address such challenges with a new paradigm – and urgently.
But where should cities start? How can mayors and city leaders tackle such challenges in an integrated, cohesive and impactful way? While many worthwhile initiatives are already being undertaken everywhere in the world, in most cases cities start from a blank page and lack the resources or experience to tackle the complexity and multiple dimensions of the issues at stake.
The Active Well-being Initiative model
Conscious of those challenges, The Association For International Sport for All (TAFISA) and Evaleo, with the support of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Liverpool City Council and Liverpool John Moores University, have launched the Active Well-being Initiative (AWI).
By enabling cities to enhance the activity levels and well-being of their populations, while receiving international recognition for their progress through a certification process, the AWI ultimately encourages citizens to make major and long-lasting lifestyle changes. The AWI model provides a systemic, flexible, evolutive approach and tools that can be adapted to each city’s local context. It links decision-makers, key stakeholders and agencies in areas of health, sports, education, urban planning and social development in a cross-sectoral alliance, around a shared vision and a framework of integrated initiatives.
An internationally recognized label
The core element of the Active Well-being Initiative is the Global Active City label, which is awarded to cities which have implemented a physical activity and Sport for All management system, improving governance and efficiency. The label is based on an ISO-compatible standard that was developed over three years by a group of over 70 international experts from various fields. It is compatible with and comes as a great, pragmatic translation of the recommendations and guidelines of WHO, UNESCO, UN Habitat and other international organisations. The Global Active City standard engages cities on a path that leads them to embrace a governance model that meets today’s and tomorrow’s challenges, promoting active well-being for all, through physical activity, sports, healthy lifestyles and sustainable urban living.
A road-tested approach
The AWI model and Global Active City standard and label have been built in cooperation with pilot cities from six continents and with different contexts, challenges and resources: they have provided feedback throughout the process, and tested, in the field, the proposed solution. Today Liverpool (UK), Richmond (Canada), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Lillehammer (Norway), Tampere (Finland), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Lausanne (Switzerland), Karşiyaka (Turkey), Santa Maria (Cape Verde), Gaborone (Botswana), and Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea) constitute live examples that the AWI organic model, involving local strategies and cross-sectorial alliances, works. First results have been measured and many of the city mayors involved have re-stated their commitment towards becoming among the first accredited Global Active Cities.
How does it work?
Cities from all over the world are invited to become Partner Cities and implement the AWI model within their own agendas. Following their commitment, they receive the Global Active City standard, guidelines, supporting tools and training modules, as well as access to regular events, tailored services such as diagnostic visits and lead officer workshops, and an online platform and worldwide network of experts and municipalities. With the support of the AWI team, each city sets out on its own individual pathway that will see the implementation of its unique vision and set of objectives, translating into the establishment of a management system with clear roles and responsibilities among members of the city’s alliance of stakeholder organisations. When ready, the city can apply for an independent evaluation that could result in certification and awarding of the Global Active City label.
Municipalities striving to achieve certification and become Global Active Cities enjoy myriad benefits, including increased levels of participation in physical activity and Sport for All; better access to facilities and knowledge; re-engineered, sustainable and safer urban environments; empowered citizens; enhanced social inclusion; cohesive communities; increased international attractiveness; reduced public health and welfare costs; and efficiency savings in key success areas. Cities become more competitive and appealing, for their own citizens and for investors and prospects. Their residents are more active, healthy and happy in a city that is smart and successful. The result is an evidence-based long-term and positive legacy for future generations.