November 2020 - UN-Habitat organized an online workshop “Towards Safe, Inclusive and Accessible Public Spaces in the Arab States” in collaboration with Arab towns organization. The training, which took place over four days, was attended by more than 370 participants including urban planners, architects, engineers, city managers, urban researchers, social workers, and policy makers from different cities in the Arab States. The sessions were facilitated by experts from the UN-Habitat Global Public Space Programme (GPSP), the Regional Office for Arab States (ROAS), the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) sub-regional office and Jordan Office, and partners in the region.

The first day was dedicated to “public space in the global agenda and Arab states” reflecting on  public spaces and their importance for cultural development. A specific case study of Muharraq Grand Park, Bahrain and an interactive session was conducted to identify relevant gaps, opportunities, and possible solutions related to public space in the region.

The second day was dedicated to “tools for public space planning and management” focusing on the strength of digital technology to engage communities in the decision-making process for sustainable public space planning and management. The participants also had a chance to gain knowledge on how participatory planning process was used for 7 Hills State park and Nour Al-Barakeh Initiative at Princess Iman garden in Amman and Abdaliya Natural Preserve in Kuwait respectively. The session ended with an interactive dialogue on how these tools could be used efficiently to solve different planning challenges related to public spaces in Arab States.

The third day focused on “public space management and maintenance”. Good practices on public space management from Kuwait (Al Shaheed park) and Jordan (Zaha Cultural Centre) were also presented which helped the participants to understand local issues related to sustainable place management in Arab States. The session also covered the role of public spaces in the age of COVID-19 and how it can promote healthy cities in the region.

On the last day of the workshop the opening remarks were delivered by Erfan Ali (Director, UN-Habitat ROAS) and Ahmad Hamad Alsabih (Secretary General, ATO) amd moderated by Ameera Alhassan (Head, UN-Habitat GCC). The speakers highlighted the importance of promoting regional collaboration and a holistic approach for sustainable public space planning and management in the Arab States.

 Throughout the session experts looked at the importance of having a city-wide public space strategy for sustainable urban development. The facilitators also explained how to develop local public space programmes and laws required for city-wide public space promotion. Good practices on public space policy from Kuwait City, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh were also presented by local experts to share their experiences on the benefits of having specific policy for public space planning and management. The session ended with an interactive session where participants discussed tools for public space policy making, recommendations for public space promotion in the Arab region, and roles of public space to foster regional collaboration in Arab states.