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Asian urban experts root for citywide public space strategies
Kuala Lumpur 17 August 2016– UN-Habitat conducted its’ first international workshop on public spaces titled “Creating safe, inclusive and accessible public spaces for all” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia early thismonth.
Jointly organized by Citynet and Kuala Lumpur Regional Training Center (KLRTC), the workshop attracted a wide range or participants including policy makers, technical experts and city managers from 8 different countries in Asia – Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Philippines, and Sri Lanka.
UN-Habitat’s public space experts from the Global Public Space Programme and guest speakers from the National University of Singapore, Citynet and the World Future Council facilitated the workshop. During his presentation, Professor Mike Douglass of the Asia Research Institute and Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the University of Singapore succinctly stated that “cities need public spaces for their sustainability as well as existence”.
The workshop focused on public space basics and emphasized the importance and benefits of public space for sustainable urban development. The key topics included safety, accessibility, social inclusion and participatory management of public spaces, and several tools and good practices on public space creation and management from the Asia Pacific region were discussed during the workshop.
Public spaces for regenerative cities and for progressive cities were also discussed. Special focus was given to community-led public space improvement and management. UN-Habitat shared its experience of using the Minecraft video game to facilitate community participation in the design of public space, and shared case studies from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Indonesia.
Asian cities need to prioritize public space
Asian city governments have not prioritized public spaces; this was seen as a major drawback for urban planning practice in the region. Thus the experts urged for the development of citywide public space strategies to guide the network of public spaces in cities. UN-Habitat presented a tool for open public space survey that has been tested in Nairobi, Kenya and that can be the key basis for formulating citywide public space strategies.
The workshop culminated in a practical, hands-on session that was based on the different thematic sessions of the meeting. The participants went for a site visit at “Campung Bharu” (Old Settlement) in Kuala Lumpur City, where they participated in preparing a revitalization plan for the site. Divided into different groups, the participants made detailed analysis on: challenges; opportunities; plan and design; financial aspects; supporting regulations; and stakeholder assessment. The group exercise results were presented to the Kuala Lumpur City Hall Physical Planning Department officials who adopted some of the key recommendations.
At the closing ceremony, both Kuala Lumpur Regional Training Center and Citynet made a commitment to continue collaborating with UN-Habitat on public space in the region.
UN-Habitat’s Global Public Space Programme works with local governments, local communities and partners to promote more sustainable urban areas through the creation, design, management and enjoyment of public space. The Programme also develops policies, tools and indicators on public space.