28 Jun 2014
Medellín shines hosting the 7th World Urban Forum

After many months of preparation and anticipation in Medellín, World Urban Forum 7 has finally happened. Mayor Anibal Gaviria calls it “the biggest event in the history of Medellin”. It is the first time the World Urban Forum has been held in Latin America, and it appears to have had a massive impact.

As this year´s WUF focused on ´Urban Equity in Development – Cities for Life´, it is fitting that this year’s host was the Colombian city of Medellín, who, we are proud to say, is also a leading UN Global Compact city participant.

The event brought together over 37,000 visitors from more than 150 different countries to the Colombian city that has gone from being one of the most dangerous cities in the continent to being named the world’s most innovative city in 2013. It was this type of urban resilience and achievement that took center stage and dominated the two week forum agenda.

Preparing cities for future shock and chronic stresses were key topics, engaging over 60 dedicated panels and discussions on the topic. The forum also discussed the role of sustainable urbanisation within the framework of the Post-2015 Development Goals and the upcoming Habitat III, the Conference of Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, to be held in 2016.

Ricardo José Arango Restrepo, Director of the WUF 7 Local Organizing Committee, and in his acknowledgements, captures the spirit of Medellin’s intent in hosting this hallmark international urban event, stating:

The city of Medellín – with its experience of deep transformation – has become a benchmark for the world in terms of planning, with its relentless pursuit of greater equity, sustainability, social inclusion, innovation and resilience; its vision of ´Cities for Life´makes a major contribution to the fundamental objectives of the urban centers of the future.

The city as a site of learning

Medellín´s battle with social and economic inequity made it a very realistic setting for this important discussion. There were few who missed out on city tours,  in which Medellín generously opened its doors to share its struggles, its philosophy and methodology, and its achievements.

The Cities Programme´s team were fortunate to have had a number of opportunities to participate in urban tours, straddling the city´s mountain edges in four wheel drives, endeavouring to learn as much as possibly could be gained in that short period of time from experts at EDU, other city agencies, NGOs and the community (see photos below).

One of these was being part of the first tour (for WUF7) of the Cinturon Verde (Green Belt). This is an ambitious urban development, or ´transformation´, project which has the dual objectives of setting firm physical limits on development whilst also opening, rejuvenating and conserving some three hundred kilometres of the city´s periphery with its beautiful ‘yellow brick road’ and associated community development initiatives.

We look forward to a long and productive relationship with this key leading city, and with Colombia more broadly. We parted  with a strong collaborative commitment to share knowledge about Medellín´s socially-focused, integrated approach to urban development.

Cities Programme Events

The Cities Programme had the opportunity to host a number of events at WUF 7:  two key networking events; and co-hosting two events with strategic partners. The events focused on urban issues such as city innovation, food security, urban poverty, and social housing.

Ciudades Innovadoras – Conocimientos de América Latina y España or Innovative Cities: Collaboration, Participation and the Importance of of the Social – Learning from Bogotá, Medellín, Barceloná and Porto Alegre.

In these times of rapid city development and growing divides in inequity, the importance of a collaborative approach to our critical urban challenges cannot be overstated. This event centred around socially focused approaches to urban development and societal transformation.

We were honored to have presentations from city leaders in Bogotá, Medellín, Porto Alegre and Barcelona in this networking event which featured practical, participatory and principled approaches to the development of prosperous and inclusive sustainable cities. Drawing on models from these leading Global Compact city participants, the majority of which are in Latin America, the event provided a particular focus on learning from the groundswell of socially focused efforts in that continent.  

A key objective of this event was to increase knowledge of collaborative models of urban development. It is also hoped that bringing these parties together would promote the seeding of a network of cities in Latin America to exchange leading practice and innovation on a continuing basis, of which there is a widespread interest…see more 

Keynote speakers were:

  • Dr. Mauricio Uribe Trujillo, Minister for Information and Communication Technology (TIC), City of Bogotá
  • Cezar Busatto, Minister for Local Governance, City of Porto Alegre, Brazil
  • Margarita María Ángel Bernal, CEO, EDU (Urban Development Agency), City of Medellín, Colombia
  • Mireia Belil, Director General, Foro Universal de Cultures, Barcelona, Spain.
  • Jorge Alberto Pérez Jaramillo, Director of Planning, City of Medellín was scheduled to present but was unfortunately unable to participate.

Fair Food Systems: Networks in Australia and International Perspectives

This Cities Programme-Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance event brought together a large group of World Urban Forum participants with a keen interest in food sovereignty, sustainable food systems and urban agriculture. Its aim was to strengthen the networks and knowledge around this flourishing global movement which is working to redress the critical issue of food security and build social and economic value from healthy food systems. It was led and chaired by Cities Programme Research Associate, Julia Laidlaw who is working to build the international connectedness of Australian food sovereignty and urban agriculture networks and to develop international food networks to support and inform Global Compact Cities Programme participant cities… (more)

The Cities Programme and TECHO – ‘Vivienda Social Definitiva (Permanent Social Housing

This partnership Side Event featured the practices of Latin American NGO, Techo in their permanent social housing area and results of collaborative research between the Cities Programme, Techo and RMIT University around strategies to optimize housing affordability through its lifecycle to the social and economic benefit of residents.

It was led by Cities Programme Research Associate, Sandra Moye who has been conducting field research in two sites in Santiago, Chile and Loretta Fuentes Cabrera, Director of Architecture, Techo, Chile. Sandra has been conducting this research with Professor Ralph Horne, they also took the research findings to Chile, with the support of the Council of Australia Latin America Relations, conducting workshops in Santiago and Concepcion…(more)

World Vision International and the Cities Programme: An Evidence-Based Framework Contributing to Just Cities for Children

This partnership Side Event, hosted by World Vision International and the Cities Programme, explored issues of secure land tenure, child protection, urban livelihoods and youth empowerment, drawing on case study evaluations of World Vision International multi-country urban pilot initiatives across six countries.

Collaborative research between World Vision International´s Centre for Expertise in Urban Programming, the Global Compact Cities Programme and the Global Cities Institute, RMIT University has been working to develop measurable, scalable and flexible research methodology to investigate and assess development programs in urban settings, a challenging task…(more)

United Nations High-level InterAgency meeting on Habitat III

The Cities Programme was represented  at the United Nations High-level InterAgency meeting on Habitat III by Director, Professor Paul James. This meeting was called by the Executive Director of UN Habitat, Dr Joan Clos, as an inter-agency mechanism for Habitat III to prepare briefs on their work in the urban sector in cooperation with their own respective partners. These briefs were to be collated by UN-Habitat for circulation to all participants.

The Medellin meeting was proposed to float the possible principles that will guide inter-agency cooperation up through Habitat III, as well as to reach agreement on the formulation of a common inter-agency position paper on Habitat III and its proposed global plan of action.

United Nations High-level InterAgency Meeting and Roundtable on Indigenous Peoples

The Cities Programme was also represented at the Special Session on the United Nations High-Level InterAgency Meeting and the Roundtable on Indigenous Peoples by Professor Ralph Horne. The Roundtable also included Chandra Roy-Henrikson, UNFPII Secretariat, UNDESA; Mohamed El Soufi, UN Habitat; (Chair) Maria Eugenia Choque Quispe, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and Jaime Erazo Espinosa, Professor in Urban and Environmental Studies, Colegio de México (Colmex). This was the first time the World Urban Forum had hosted a Roundtable on Indigenous Housing. The session attracted a full and lively debate, raising many pressing issues about Indigenous housing rights around the world.

The panel then contributed to the UN Habitat World Urban Forum Medellín Declaration on the status of gender, youth and indigenous equality in cities.  A new UN Habitat declaration was made which views Indigenous equality as a foundation for sustainable urban development.

The World Urban Campaign Steering Committee: ‘A cities and human settlements development goal is critically important in the Post 2015 SDGs’

The Global Compact Cities Programme is one of the Partners in UN Habitat’s World Urban Campaign. The Campaign’s Steering Committee had its 10th meeting at the World Urban Forum. Forty-three participants attended the meeting. The Standing Committee conducted its biannual elections, reviewed progress to date, reconstituted several working groups and discussed future work. Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director, UN-Habitat, addressed the meeting, emphasizing the key role of partners in the Seventh World Urban Forum and in helping shape the Habitat III process. Raf Tuts, Coordinator, Urban Planning and Design Branch, UN-Habitat briefed the committee on the progress of the Framework for a Post 2015 Agenda. The Steering Committee elected a new Chair, Professor Eugenie Birch, Co-Director, University of Pennsylvania IUR, and Co-Chair, Shipra Nanang Suri, Vice President, ISOCARP, as well as Standing Committee members to serve from 2014-2016. Nicholas You was thanked for his Chairmanship.

The discussion included the critically important need for a cities and human settlements development goal – to build inclusive, safe, sustainable cities and human settlements – be included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Post 2015 Agenda. The reasons for this are that:

  • the cities and human settlements SDG is critically important to achieve the success of a transformational agenda — with the world urbanizing at a rapid rate, if we don’t get cities right, it will be very difficult to meet the other sectoral goals;
  • the cities and human settlements SDG will cover the built environment, slums, transport, public space, participatory planning and urban resilience — items that will be left out of the list of SDGs
  • the cities and human settlements SDG encompasses the whole continuum of human settlements – from rural to urban – by recognizing the mutual interdependencies of all.

Steering Committee members committed to lobbying and advocacy around this goal as member states prepare to vote on the final Post -2015 Development Goals. UN subcommittee, the Open Working Group consisting of 30 seats shared by 70 member states, is charged with recommending the Framework to the Secretary General by July 2014 for transmission to the General Assembly in September 2014. The General Assembly will vote on it in September 2015.

New Partnership with FPAA bears fruit

Medellin was also the site for the announcement of a new collaborative partnership with the Pan American Federation of Architects (FPAA) and  the Cities Programme. The FPAA commitment was formalised by President, Joáo Virmond Suplicy Neto (pictured left) who travelled from Curitiba in Brazil for the MOU signing...(more).

International Architecture Competition

The inspiring trip to Medellín, and the partnership with the Cities Programme has already borne fruit. This week FPAA announced an International Architecture Competition focused on the civic centre of Medellín. It is held in partnership with the Mayor of Medellín, and the Cities Programme...(more)