17 Jul 2016
Ethical Cities event, Barcelona

Throughout June and July, RMIT Europe in partnership with the UN Global Compact – Cities Programme and others led a series of international workshops, symposiums, talks and forums as part of the ‘Ethical Cities: Urban Innovation Forum’. The main flagship event, hosted in Barcelona on July 6, attracted over 200 representatives from industry, academia and the public sector, including partners the UN-Habitat City Resilience Profiling Programme, the City of Barcelona, the City of Madrid, Agile Ageing Alliance and Neighbourhoods of the Future.

At the foundation of the event were questions such as what makes cities ethical, who drives sustainable development in cities and how can we enhance urban living through innovative solutions? This Barcelona event carried on from our Ethical Cities: Locking in Liveability Urban Thinkers Campus held in Melbourne earlier this year in collaboration with RMIT and World Vision.

Cities Programme Director Ralph Horne opened his presentation by describing that “cities” as dynamic clusters of people who live together in urban settings and surround themselves with buildings, transport corridors and, if they are able to, wonderful public spaces.

He also spoke about the challenges.

“Cities are rapidly becoming more unequal and self-segregating, as house prices concentrate rich people into middle-ring leafy enclave. Progressively less well-off people are pushed out into distant, unserviced, poorly connected suburbs. The ‘1% society’ is creating the very real threat of social breakdown, as people lose faith in the neoliberal project.

The young, vulnerable, poor, elderly and disadvantaged are becoming poorer, more segregated, and effectively banished to poorly serviced parts of the city that only end up further disadvantaging them.

At the same time, we are witnessing the impacts of climate change, population change, and rapid economic change. These changes affect the size of the workforce, the size of the tax base, the nature of the economy, the ability of social and health systems to cope, and indeed, the ability to staff the running of cities.

The ethical city is, in many ways, a logical next step for human progress in the urban age. As we increasingly live closer together we need shared ethics and a focus on care that will become common ground when our individual interests collide.”

Cities Programme Senior Intern, Carla Traub provided significant support to the Ethical Cities Forum with event promotion, city engagement and the research and development of issue cards which framed the dialogue. Dr Brendan Barrett, developer of the original Ethical Cities dialogue in Australia informed the development of the Barcelona Forum from our Melbourne office.