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HABITAT III Conference - a Presentation perspective

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18/10/2016

All roads lead to Quito……
one world in dialogue at
HABITAT III

17th – 20th October 2016




In 1976, the United Nations convened the Habitat 1 conference in Vancouver, Canada, sparking an international conversation on urban issues as the world was starting to witness the greatest and fastest migration in history of people into cities and towns.

Twenty years later in 1996, at the Habitat 2 Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, world leaders adopted the Habitat Agenda as a global action plan to create adequate shelter for all.

In 2016, Habitat 3 in Quito, Ecuador is designed to reinvigorate the global commitment on the implementation of a New Urban Agenda that addresses 21st century urban challenges and harnesses the tremendous potential of cities to promote sustainable development globally.

The world is a map of connectivity these days in this city as people from 193 countries begin to arrive and discuss together how to shape the cities of the future. Up to now the story of metropolis has been one of expensive infrastructure and the unilateral vision of the expert - but the voices of those who occupy public spaces and places have been largely absent. What people do in cities, how our shared experience drives both competition and collaboration and how citizens participate are all key components in making our settlements thrive.

The New Urban Agenda is framed as a convening of minds seeking to provide solutions to the complexity of urbanization in the modern world. All current estimates tell us that four out of five people will be living in towns and cities by the middle of this century.

This New Urban Agenda must fit into a SDG (Sustainable Development Goals)  framework that is to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Thus, much creative energy will have to be present these days to look at transport, housing, air quality, the relation between urban and rural living, green and public spaces,  mitigation and adaptation to climate change, preparation for disasters and the protection of cultural and natural heritage.

As I glance through the program I recall the witty saying of one person as he refers to the agenda: “There are enough good proposals and formulations (145 in all) to sink a ship”

However cities are central to all our lives at the present day. They are where people of different histories, cultures and languages intersect; they are rich with possibility but are also the places where the challenges of income inequality, economic and racial segregation, homelessness and lack of affordability persist.

Preparations for this meeting have many moments of humour as the length of speeches, documents and proposals are infinite as I have mentioned above and, at this stage, the UN is being asked to deliver a “tweet-length” final statement! 

There are side-events from all over the world but one captures my attention: From Rhetoric to Reality: Cities that respond to the needs of all.

Mary Ivers

 

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