Designing and planning inclusive cities have become more important after covid-19. As the world is seeing more globalization than ever before, cities must now be designed to include all kinds of people. An inclusive city should take into account the inclusion of every citizen regardless of their social status or disability along with economic and environmental factors (Inclusive cities). UAE is one of the many countries that are trying to build a city that gives its citizens the right to social inclusion. For the UAE urban development, the government has started steps to completely transform the cities into global cities which will allow healthy, green, and inclusive communities to thrive. Under the Dubai 2040 Urban master plan, the city is to improve its resource utilization along with creating healthy and green environments for its residents (Dubai 2040 urban master plan). 

Rights to the City and Social Inclusion in UAE Urban Development - Sheet1
Smart and Inclusive city_©OmarAlSharif

Why is it important to design an inclusive city?

An inclusive city does not restrict people with disabilities to move and allows movement freely just like any other normal person. Many disabled people universally face difficulty in accessing their basic needs due to how the cities are laid out. The purpose of an inclusive city is to empower people of all backgrounds to move around with ease. Numerous people can benefit from access thanks to universal designs. It enables governmental organizations to develop constructible design solutions that provide accessibility for everyone (Pineda, 2022).

Accessibility is a key aspect of any space. It allows individuals to engage in activities irrespective of their abilities. It also means providing people with satisfactory and inclusive housing solutions as per requirement. Accessibility also calls for all professionals to be on board while in the planning phase. This guarantees that various individuals have the opportunity to fulfill their demands on an individual basis (Pineda, 2022).

Rights to the City and Social Inclusion in UAE Urban Development - Sheet2

Steps taken by the government of UAE : 

The government of UAE started with Dubai as it is already one of the most successful global cities in the world. But it is not just limited to the city of Dubai only. As per the policy council of Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government, the following steps are taken to ensure the cities within UAE have urban development that provides rights to the city and social inclusion.  

Rights to the City and Social Inclusion in UAE Urban Development - Sheet3
Dubai in talks of making its street disability-inclusive_©Hotelier

The first step is to abolish any kind of discrimination. The city should be friendly and no one must be left behind. The principle of “Leave No One Behind” should be followed. The urban development policies should include priorities that ensure that every citizen is provided with inexpensive, safe, accessible, and digital infrastructures. This policy must ensure the right to the city to all regardless of their gender, age, and disabilities in any environment inclusive of all services and market spaces. The second step towards an inclusive city is participation. The local bodies of all the cities must ensure that various citizens of different backgrounds take part in surveys and have the voice to raise their concerns. This also includes the stakeholders and beneficiaries of the program. Through inclusive urban development policies, there can be socio-economic equality. This will enhance the living quality through education, health, legal and decent employment (Zakzak et al., 2019). 

The next step is one of the most important steps which ensures accessibility throughout the urban development of UAE. All services must be accessible to everyone, rather than limited to a selective group. Any barriers that limit people with disabilities from attaining their rights, whether it is any services or facilities, or information on a website, must be removed. The fourth step is where the local governments work with international, regional, and national bodies to build standard inclusive urban policies and programs. These need to be confirmed with the community at large, which involves senior citizens and individuals with impairments (Zakzak et al., 2019). 

Local governments are required to encourage the citizens to take part in building the city’s future. Direct community engagement can help to improve the standard and access to spaces and services which will promote building the capacity of the city. This will help the authorities to protect human rights and ensure an inclusive society. Programs like collaborative research can take place in universities and NGOs where citizens are motivated to be a part. This step is named as capacity building. The following step, known as “Data for development,” makes use of all evidence-based information as well as data that can be used to identify the limits and obstacles to inclusion and accessibility. The information is broken down by gender, income, type of disability, location, etc. The data gathered serves as the future’s starting point. The local government must make use of the available information and seek to develop universal designs for older persons and individuals with disabilities.  (Zakzak et al., 2019).    

Image 4_The 2040 Urban master plan of Dubai envisioned_©EmiratesNewsAgency

To make sure that all of the cities in the 2040 master urban planning are developing in the same direction, the authorities must take several actions. The policies must be consistent. This is a crucial consideration for creating an inclusive atmosphere for everyone. Everything about budgeting is challenging, from providing services to organizing urban planning. Urban development needs to involve the community and the city for it to be effective. The government should ensure proper training of all those who are or will be involved such as policymakers, service people, etc. This allows the scope of having different perspectives and capacity building (Zakzak et al., 2019).  

The government has lined up policies specifically for disabled people. Just like any other basic right, the right to the city and social inclusion is a basic necessity for disabled people. Therefore the following recommendations have become a priority for UAE’s urban development. Proper legislative laws that guarantee the inclusion of disabled people also help in avoiding segregation. Inclusive urban development should allow its citizens to have an equal say while noting down the policies. To promote active participation of all is necessary as the accessibility of transportation be it public or private, education, cultural and civic engagement will all lead to a successful transformation of the society (Zakzak et al., 2019).

One of the most important aspects of inclusive urban planning is providing health, education, services, and housing. This is to be made accessible for all. Programs like this will ensure the upliftment of people spiritually, mentally, socially, and emotionally. Local authorities must create policies that make the above accessible to all along with their safety and provide them with security and independence. Human rights are a top priority in the inclusive urban development of the UAE. Local authorities should assess potential bodies that will help implement these policies for development. Inclusive measures should also be seen in communities and not just in policies. The collection of evidence-based data will help the authorities monitor the barriers to an inclusive policy (Zakzak et al., 2019). 

References : 

  1. Zakzak, L., Willis, S. and Pineda, V.S. (2019) Inclusive Urban Development: Strategic policy directions. Available at: (Accessed: 10 August 2023). 
  2. Inclusive cities (no date) Arup. Available at: (Accessed: 12 August 2023). 
  3. Pineda, V. (2022) What does it mean to design an inclusive city?, Ciudades Sostenibles. Available at: (Accessed: 11 August 2023). 
  4. Dubai 2040 urban master plan: The Official Portal of the UAE government (no date) Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan | The Official Portal of the UAE Government. Available at: (Accessed: 10 August 2023). 
  5. Sharif, O.A. (no date) Smart Cities, digital poverty and inclusive growth., LinkedIn. Available at: (Accessed: 13 August 2023). 
  6. (No date a) Dubai’s new disability-inclusive tourism team … – hotelier Middle East. Available at: (Accessed: 13 August 2023). 
  7. Mohammed bin Rashid Launches Dubai 2040 urban master plan (no date) wam. Available at: (Accessed: 13 August 2023). 

Asma is a fresh graduate, eager to learn more about the architectural industry. Apart from her interest in architecture, she enjoys exploring new languages and culture as she believes both of them have a strong impact on architecture. She loves to write and has a poetic outlook on life.