Songyang County, Lishui City, Zhejiang Province, 11 November 2019 - over200 participants from 17 countries and 18 international organizations gathered for the First International Forum on Urban-Rural Linkages. The event was co-hosted and co-organized by UN-Habitat, Zhejiang Provincial Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, Lishui Municipal People’s Government and Songyang County People’s government. The theme "Rural Revitalization through Innovations and Valorisation" focuses on sharing experiences on innovative approaches to rural revitalization and urban-rural linkages through plans, strategies and policies in Songyang County, China at large and other parts of the world.

The event has brought together experts and government officials working in the urban rural continuum. The event was opened by high-level officials from Zhejiang Provincial Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, Lishui Municipal People’s Government, Songyang County People’s Government and with video remarks from the Executive Director of UN-Habitat. In her remarks, Ms. Mahmoud Maimunah Sharif highlighted the global agendas towards ensuring that “no one and no space is left behind”, highlighting the tools that UN-Habitat has developed towards supporting member countries and other stakeholders in ensuring this. The secretary of the CPC Songyang County Committee Mr. Wang Jun introduced the history of rural development in Songyang County and recognised the role of UN-Habitat not only in preparing the forum but also previously in the invitation to the UN-Habitat Assembly in May 2019, where a letter of intent between UN-Habitat and Songyang People’s Government was signed. Mr. Xiang Yongdan the director of Zhejiang Provincial Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, also highlighted that Songyang would be viewed as a specimen of ancient Chinese counties and that the forum would inspire reflections of rural development to advance sustainable urban and rural development elsewhere in the world.

Mr. Lou Zhijian, the deputy mayor of Lishui Municipal People’s Government ,on the other hand, defined Songyang county as a land of photogenic beauty, longevity and recreation with many features that make Songyang County a center of ancient villages. Other keynote speeches were made by participants from China, Africa, Europe, Latin America and international organizations, sharing experiences in projects, strategies, plans and policies relevant to urban-rural linkages. Most of the speakers shared the view that “rural areas shall be a luxury in the future” as urbanization is on the rise especially in developing countries. However, rural areas are vital for cities; and innovations for rural revitalization are urgently required.

Other activities included field visits to the Songyang ancient street, renovated ancient Shimenyu Bridge, Damushan Tea Garden, Brown Sugar Factory, where participants were exposed to creative efforts to integrate culture, technology and architecture towards rural revitalization in Songyang. The forum continued until 13th November 2019 and was comprised of field trips, parallel events and continued sessions of sharing experiences from the different regions in the world.