25 Feb 2016
“Ethical Cities: Locking in Liveability” Urban Thinkers Campus

When we talk about ethical cities we need to think in terms of local solidarity governance! Those were the powerful words of Cézar Busatto, Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) for the City of Porto Alegre.

The ethical city therefore can be understood as the search for synergies between the different interests, objectives, standards, and sympathies that we find in our modern cities.

This was one of the many perspectives on the ethical city that was shared at the “Ethical Cities: Locking in Liveability” event co-hosted by the UN Global Compact – Cities Programme and World Vision International, held at RMIT University in Melbourne on Tuesday, February 16.

Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision, and a keynote speaker, called on leaders to promote equity and liveability for urban dwellers, especially the most vulnerable.

Martin Bean, Vice Chancellor and President of RMIT, reminded the audience that we need a moral compass to guide cities towards just, sustainable and well-governed futures.

The Mayor of Rotorua Lakes Council, Steve Chadwick, articulated the need for local governments to respond to challenging new agendas by engaging with the community and by internal restructuring as priorities evolve.

Robert Doyle, Lord Mayor of the City of Melbourne, explained how he considers public participation to be at the heart of the ethical city.

The event was part of the World Urban Campaign  and one of 28 urban thinkers campuses organised to help develop The City We Need 2.0.  This important document will form the basis of a submission to Secretary-General Dr. Joan Clos and the Habitat III Bureau for consideration in the Zero Draft of the New Urban Agenda – the urban policy guidelines for the next twenty years. The guidelines will be agreed at the Habitat III summit held in Quito, Ecuador in October.

There were over 260 participants from 20 different countries representing a number of key stakeholder groups, including local government, academia, the private sector and civil society.

After the keynote presentations and a panel discussion, the participants joined three Urban Thinkers Sessions around the themes of (1) Resilience, (2) Ethical Urban Development, and (3) Inclusion and the Right to the City.

The participants put together a series of recommendations surrounding the nine principles of The City We Need, the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in moving towards the Ethical City, and the solutions to current urban challenges that the Ethical City concept inspires.

Among the key recommendations put forward to make our cities more ethical were the need for more open and transparent governance; the creation of more socially inclusive urban environments, particular for indigenous populations and recent migrants; and the need to plan for more climate resilient urban forms.

For many of the cities connected to the UN Global Compact – Cities Programme, the idea of the Ethical City is one they are already familiar with. By committing to the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact cities such as Porto Alegre, Rotorua and Melbourne have committed to an ethical framework of urban development and management.

For example, Porto Alegre’s model of participatory budgeting directly includes residents in the municipal budgeting process, resulting in more transparent and responsive budgeting, and has now been implemented in 1500 cities.

In Rotorua, local government has prioritised indigenous participation and ownership in managing their natural assets.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle described the City of Melbourne’s response to the crippling heat wave of 2009, with a council-wide Urban Forest Strategy put in place to reduce the impact of the urban heat island effect.

With such strong examples of cities placing ethics at the centre of their planning and governance, the UN Global Compact – Cities Programme encourages all stakeholders to follow their lead and consider what they can do to contribute to the Ethical City.

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