Brussels, 8 June 2015-- The European Development Days, Europe’s leading forum on global development and cooperation, came to a close with a strong emphasis on the linkage between urbanization and economic development of countries.

The event, held in proximity to the European Commission and Parliament in Brussels, brought together around 4000 participants, among them political leaders, development practitioners, the private sector and civil society. Its aim is to find practical solutions for some of the world’s most pressing problems. By doing this, it also shapes the EU’s policies for tackling poverty worldwide. UN-Habitat co-organized several sessions under the headline ‘An urban world: challenges and opportunities’, highlighting the important role of urbanization in development.

Strengthening the positive role of urbanisation
“If cities are well planned and managed, prosperity will follow. We need to harness the potential of urbanisation" UN-Habitat’s Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos stressed out at a panel discussing the question if sustainable cities were only ‘good for the global North, but not for the global South?'. The panel was jointly organised  by UN-Habitat, Cities Alliance, a global partnership for urban poverty reduction and the promotion of the role of cities in sustainable development, the German Corporation for International Cooperation GIZ and the French Agency for Development AFD.

Talking about a strategic approach towards urbanisation, Dr. Clos emphasized that “Legislation, urban planning and financial design are the three main pillars of a successful city development”. This ‘three pronged approach’, as Dr. Clos put it, received a strong backing by Paolo Ciccarelli, Director-General for International Cooperation and Development of the European Commission. Ciccarelli described the three pillars as a “framework” for a beneficial way of urbanisation. Clara Doe Mvogo, Mayor of the City of Monrovia, Liberia, highlighted the importance of inclusive and participatory urban planning: "We must change the idea of going into a community and saying, this is what we will do for you. It should be driven around city dwellers’ priorities and not the agencies".

Sheela Patel, Chair of the Board, Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI), highlighted the growing inequality in cities as a mayor challenge: "We are living in an urban time bomb" while Ivy Langat, participating as a Future Leader at the conference, emphasized the importance of women rights for urban development "We need to advocate for land rights for women". Philippe Orliange, Executive Director for Strategy, Partnership and Communication for the French Development Cooperation AFD, encouraged development agencies to offer more support to cities, as a way forward to successful development: “There are not enough organisations ready to take risks in financing urban programmes”, Orliange said.

The contribution of media to the global debate about urban development
The role of media towards a New Urban Agenda was discussed at the Urban Journalism Academy, organized by UN-Habitat and Cities Alliance in the Press centre. “Many of our daily reports are dealing with urban issues, although they might not always be perceived this way”, stated Simone d’Antonio of Cittalia, urban journalist and representative of the research foundation of the National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI).

The Human Scale of a city

Public space adding ‘the human scale” to a city was discussed at an event organized in cooperation with Bozar, a centre for fine arts in Brussels. Aadel Essaadani, President of the Arterial Network, emphasized that “promoting good public spaces is essential for promoting freedom of expression and democracy”. Essaadani, as well as Ricardo Andreas Marini, Director of Gehl Architects, agreed on the important role public space plays in a society as the place where people live. The economic component would, however, determine the discussion far too often. “If you feel good in a place, you will spend money. However, this component should not lead the discussion on public space."

Find out more on the European Development Days here