16 May 2017
Melbourne hosts New Urban Agenda Conference

Dr Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, opened the recent New Urban Agenda (NUA) Conference in Melbourne (4 to 5 May 2017). This first gathering for the NUA in the Southern Hemisphere brought together a wide range of stakeholders from government, business, civil society and academia to raise awareness about the New Urban Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals and to build partnerships for collective, coordinated action.

With urban populations continuing to rise globally, the New Urban Agenda aims to shape and direct urban policy and initiatives over the next 20 years within its 167 signatory nations.

From Australia, senior government representation included the Hon. Angus Taylor, Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation and the Hon. Anthony Albanese, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development and the Hon. Richard Wynne, Victorian Minister for Planning.

The two-day conference was headed up by Compass Housing, supported by a number of partners including the UN Global Compact – Cities Programme, RMIT University Centre for Urban Research and the Victorian State government (Liveability Victoria and DELWP). Over 70 experts presented on sustainable urban development challenges, solutions and innovative practices.

In his keynote address, Dr. Clos discussed the need for a collective and persistent effort to overcome the issues related to the world’s rapidly increasing urbanisation.

He highlighted the inequalities caused by what he called a “new form of urbanisation and urban development”.

“We now have urbanisation without industrialisation and employment …. this is ultimately contributing to the increasing inequality within the world”.

Access to housing was a central focus of the conference.

In Dr Clos’s words, “The right to housing is one of the basic human rights. It should become a priority of governments to guarantee it.”

Our Cities Programme was well represented at the NUA conference. Cities Programme Director, Ralph Horne and Research Associate and Internship Programme Coordinator, Shai Diner both presented on housing issues and solutions. Global Advisors, Jago Dodson and Darryn McEvoy were part of a panel focused on the Pacific region and the New Urban Agenda.

Urban Scholar, Dr Nick Rose spoke on food systems and the role of local government and the work of SUSTAIN with Associate Professor, Adrian Hearn University of Melbourne. They were joined by new Urban Scholar, Iain Butterworth who spoke on how the New Urban Agenda can be ” brought to life through government and university engagement”.

Cities Programme Director, Professor Ralph Horne spoke of a “crisis of accountability” and echoed the need for an ethical approach to city governance and urban development. These issues span environmental carrying capacity and sustainability, inequality, and the issue of governance and corruption”.

Our Research Associate and Internship Programme Coordinator, Shai Diner presented the results of his research related to homelessness and supported housing in Melbourne – “Sustainable forms of housing for formerly homeless persons” – emphasising the need for systems that enable the development of community as well as the provision of adequate housing.

Professor Jago Dodson, with Jasmine Ali (also from RMIT) spoke about the role of national urban policy for city-level implementation of the NUA and SDGs via Nation States in the Asia-Pacific.

Professor Darryn McEvoy drew on his experience developing the Climate Action Plans for Honiara and Port Vila with Alexei Trundle, in his presentation on “Understanding the Urban Resilience Context in Melanesia”.

Meeting with Dr Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT whilst in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia for the New Urban Agenda Conference. From left: Elizabeth Ryan, Professor Jago Dodson, Joana Correia, Dr Clos and Professor Ralph Horne. A number of academics and UN Global Compact – Cities Programme staff participated in a closed round table dialogue with Dr Joan Clos on the afternoon of the first day of proceedings. This was coordinated by Professor Jago Dodson and focused on the inter-university collaboration in Melbourne for sustainable urban development.

The New Urban Agenda Conference served as valuable initial platform for multidisciplinary collaboration and dialogue around the NUA and reiterated the need for continued cooperation to more effectively achieve sustainable urban development at a national, regional and city level.

We offer thanks and recognition to Compass Housing for their leadership in spearheading this conference and look forward to working with Compass and others on an expanded partnership platform for NUA implementation across Australia and the Asia Pacific regions in the years to come.

Thank you Greg, David and all the team.