Caserta, Italy 15 October 2014: Urban Thinkers Campus participants work on a new urban paradigm towards Habitat III. They highlighted the importance of civil society and the private sector.

With high level speakers and attendees discussing a new urban paradigm towards the Habitat III conference, the Urban Thinkers Campus started today in Caserta, Italy. The Campus is a three day conference attended by researchers, professionals, decision-makers, academia, grassroots, women’s groups, youth and children, parliamentarians, local government, civil society, and other key groups. The Campus aims to promote sharing, learning and brainstorming on challenges and possible solutions caused by rapid urbanization.

IMG_3380The speakers at the Welcome Session represented the broad array of organizations at the conference, each of them representing one constituent group, including research and academia, civil society organizations, women, professionals, private sector, children, grassroots, and youth. In their statements, they highlighted the importance of civil society and the private sector on the way to a new urban agenda.

In her opening remarks, Eugenie Birch, Chair of the World Urban Campaign Steering Committee, highlighted the importance of civil society, saying “Our voice is becoming increasingly important. In fact the Habitat II conference in Istanbul was the first major UN conference in which different representatives from civil society were organized into partners’ forums and allowed to present their views to the delegates at the conference. The groups recognized were the same groups that we will welcome today here in Caserta.” Ms. Birch further stressed the importance of an urban Sustainable Development Goal, and encouraged participants to lobby their national governments for it.

IMG_3518Professor Luigi Fusco Girard, representing the University degli studi di Napoli, a WUC partner, highlighted the role of academia and research institutions and gave a clear vision on the outcomes of the Campus: “We need to move towards a consensus document for the new urban paradigm that will influence the Habitat III outcome document. Cities are problems, but cities are also solutions. If we have good principles and effective tools for transforming the existent city organization we can change problems into opportunities. In order to achieve our goals, new partnerships are necessary between all city actors and institutions.”

Jerko Rosin from the Global Parliamentarians on Habitat underscored that parliamentarians are very important partners, as they have to implement the key outputs of the Urban Agenda in national legislation. One task was therefore to provide more urban knowledge to them.

Ismael Fernandez Mejia, Chair of the Habitat Professionals Forum stressed that a new urban paradigm “must be a philosophy and should have an open architecture that can be molded to the needs of each environment. In order to achieve this, the professionals need to have their voices heard.”

???????????????????????????????Lana Finikin, representing the grassroots organization GROOTs International and Huairou Commission, demanded for fast action: “We need to impact the city that we need. We are concerned about ensuring that action results from these discussions.”

Malick Gaye, Executive Director of ENDA Tiers Monde – RUP noted that Habitat II was about identifying problems, and that Habitat III should be about implementing solutions. He further underscored the importance of incorporating human rights in the agenda. “When you discuss human rights, it’s not just about looking at violations, such as forced evictions, but when a government does not consider housing in its plans, that is a violation of human rights.”

Sri Sofjan from the Advisory Group on Gender Issues (AGGI) noted that there are often references to women in the Habitat Agenda, but that the implementation was the “key issue we have to focus on.” She urged all stakeholders to “move from reference to action”.

Dana Podmolikova, European Representative of UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board, stressed that it was their “responsibility to ensure that youth are an equal partner on the way to a new urban Agenda. “ Youth input on Habitat III is vital: “The millions of young people living in the urban areas know the struggles best. They must be heard in decisions that affect them directly”.

???????????????????????????????Aline Rahbany from World Vision International gave examples of how children can make their voices heard and how governments can incorporate their input. She noted that children play an essential role in shaping their communities.

Bert Smolder, Arcadis NV, and Co-Chair of the Urban Private Partners, expressed that the private sector was “willing and eager to work towards Habitat III”. Both – public and private sector, had an important role to play and would need each other: “The private sector cannot flourish if the framework is not set.”

Christine Auclair, representing UN-Habitat, took the podium to present the history of the Habitat conferences and the context for this Campus. “We want partners to have a strong say on the new urban agenda.” The World Urban Campaign, established by UN-Habitat in 2010, is the partners’ platform towards Habitat III, and acts as a think tank, collaboration platform, and advocacy platform towards the Habitat III Conference in 2016.

The Urban Thinkers Campus will present the outcome of its work to the public at its Closing Session on Friday, at 16:30.

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