Urban Journalism Institute

Urban Walks

Understanding the implementation of the New Urban Agenda at the local level

Car free zone in Biryogo neighborhood in Kigali, Rwanda, June 2022 
© Ilija Gubić

An urban walk event encourages participants to explore, learn about, and appreciate their city on foot. These events can take various forms, such as guided tours or self-guided walks using predesigned maps and guidelines. They often focus on specific themes or areas of interest, such as historical sites, architecture, public places and public art, and green spaces – to name a few. The goal of an urban walk event is to encourage people to engage with their community, discover new places and perspectives, and promote physical activity and healthy living for a better urban future. Urban walk events can also be a good way to build community and foster a sense of belonging among residents. 

Some urban walk events also have a mission to promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as promoting walkable and liveable cities, raising awareness about environmental issues, or showcasing sustainable transportation options.

For example, in Rwanda, Urban Walks were organized by the Global Green Growth Institute in partnership with the Ministry of Infrastructure, the Rwanda Housing Authority, local authorities of Kigali, and six secondary cities and the University of Rwanda. The Urban Walks were organized with the intention of highlighting pressing urban issues to residents. One of the Urban Walks, themed around urban forests, routed participants through green areas of Rwanda’s secondary city, Nyagatare, where organisers explained how forestry can support the city by providing environmental services such as air and water purification, wind and noise filtering, micro-climate stabilisation, managing storm water, storing carbon (i.e., removing atmospheric carbon dioxide), and promoting urban biodiversity. The Urban Walks also provided information to citizens on how urban forests contribute in many other ways to the quality of city life: such as attractive sources of shelter and shade with aesthetic qualities that increase property values and therefore tax revenues too.

With well-considered planning and design, urban forests in Nyagatare could be transformed into public spaces hosting recreational and leisure activities – that would be considered as a locally implemented New Urban Agenda initiative. 

The Urban Walks were also organised in Kigali, where the Global Green Growth Institute, along with the University of Rwanda and other partners, introduced participants to the historic business district and the open public spaces in the city. 

Similar walks took place in Huye, secondary city in Rwanda. Every year in October, the Government of Rwanda, alongside other partners, organises a month of activities, events, and discussions around urban sustainability to celebrate Urban October. In 2019, the Ministry of Infrastructure, Global Green Growth Institute, the district of Huye, and the University of Rwanda, organised an Urban Walk in Rwanda’s rapidly urbanising second city: Huye.

Urban Walk in Huye, Rwanda, October 2019 
© Ilija Gubić

The Urban Walk involved the collaboration of 50 participants. Although Huye has remarkable heritage buildings from the beginning of the 20th century, a period when modern architecture was still nascent in the region, mixed Western modernism, along with the local climatic conditions, has produced a well-functioning symbiosis and synthesis between human beings, the environment, and traditions. Such synthesis was being used until the 1960s and continued into the post-colonial period. In particular, the Huye Urban Walk traced the route of nine buildings that were assessed for historical, social, cultural, and aesthetic values. 

Urban Walks were used during the Habitat III process and are continuously being held globally to highlight the importance of localizing and implementing global agendas, such as the New Urban Agenda, in order to achieve SDGs.