Quito, 19 October 2016-- – UN Habitat’s Urban Planning and Design Lab, with participation from partners and stakeholders held the premiere of the Urban Labs Movie opening to rave reviews and a full house at the ongoing Habitat III conference.

Two panels of local stakeholders from partner cities of the Urban Labs followed the screening by discussing the role that the Urban Labs played and continue to play in the sustainable development of their cities.

The documentary showcases the network of Urban Lab’s activities across the globe. Specifically, the focus was on five teams funded by Dutch creative industries that have worked for a year on planning projects in Ghana, Myanmar, Gaza, Philippines, Mexico. This process was documented in the film. The creative industries teams contributed to the Global Network of Planning and Design Labs, with the objective of strengthening and extending the impact of the planning lab and creating a global community of practice.

Following the screening, the first panel took to the stage to discuss their experiences with the Urban Labs. The Ghanaian delegation, represented by Sylvanus Kofi Adzornu, the head of the Urban Development Unit in Ghana's Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development identified key interventions of the Urban Labs. He described that the plan has currently been approved at all levels of government and in the national budget for 2017.

The lab’s crucial role in the plan development and in the participatory process in Ghana was highlighted. It was agreed that next steps include rapid phase-by-phase implementation and the establishment of a technical support centre in Ningo-Prampram. Markus Appenzeller of the Urban Labs Ghana team responded to this with a perspective on the unique situation Ghana provided for the Labs both in its political context and socio-economic challenges. Neville Mars from the Urban Labs team working on the Philippines reiterated the adaptability of this approach to communities in disaster-prone areas. Finally, Bert Smolders from Arcadis and partner of UN Habitat with Shelter Program described the efficacy of urban solutions from a rapid-response perspective.

The second roundtable switched gears to Myanmar and Ms Aye Aye Myint, Deputy Director General of the Department of Urban and Housing Development, Ministry of Construction, discussed the importance of guidelines in the finance of such large undertakings and plans as have been developed for Yangon. She identified how capacity building for all stakeholders is a key part of the Urban Labs methodology. In the preparation of the Myanmar guidelines, the emphasis was put not only on a masterplan, but also on what kind of city Yangon wants to be. Echoing this was Jean Paul Hitipeuw of the Urban Labs Myanmar team who reflected on the value of a flexible plan and the capacity building presented through guidelines. Finally for a perspective from the Urban Labs in a post-conflict situation, Naomi Hoogevorst from the Gaza team envisioned a future Gaza where public space was seen as equal if not more important than the simple reconstruction of housing. Addressing also questions of gender and how this was incorporated into the work of the Urban Labs, describing the technical challenges for many in a situation such as Gaza inspire new situations that are sent to new heights.

Summed up with a bilingual Q&A, the session extrapolated the facets of the Urban Lab’s approach that accelerates implementation and builds capacities to fall in line with the New Urban Agenda. Already, the Planning Lab is a tool that supports implementation of the New Urban Agenda in providing integrated planning, participatory process, public space and by providing assistance to Cities and National Governments. Under the neutral banner of the UN, multiple governance levels can begin to tackle challenges together—both as local authorities, and as multiple structural levels. The film sums up these challenges and opportunities to discuss implementation and the further expansion of a Global Network of Urban Planning and Design Labs.

The full-length feature (50 mins.) is to be screened at a variety of international film festivals around the world in the coming months.