Dozens of Urban Thinkers Campuses to discuss implementing the New Urban Agenda

Participants take part in an Urban Thinkers Campus that focused on migration in Mannheim, Germany, in February 2016. (Andreas Henn)

From diplomacy-minded youths in Canada to African architects, dozens of organizations around the world plan to host at least 45 gatherings this year to address implementation of the New Urban Agenda, the global vision on the future of cities adopted in October.

While the agenda offers a broad 20-year road map on planning, building and managing sustainable cities, efforts are now turning to its implementation. Seeing the 24-page document into reality on a rapidly urbanizing planet will now require fresh ideas — which U. N. officials hope will come out of the new series of “Urban Thinkers Campuses.”

Sponsored by the World Urban Campaign, a special advocacy initiative of UN-Habitat, the Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC) is a flexible concept for daylong or multi-day events built around critical exchange of ideas and consensus toward solutions.

Last year, 26 such global events engaged some 7,850 people in conversations, debates and strategy sessions ahead of the Habitat III conference, where the New Urban Agenda was ultimately adopted by 167 countries. Recommendations from the UTCs were combined in a formal document called “The City We Need 2.0” and fed into the global input process for the agenda.

[See: Unified stakeholder vision on sustainable urbanization lauded, critiqued ahead of Habitat III]

The success of that effort prompted UN-Habitat, the U. N.’s lead agency on urban issues, to put out a call for more such campuses in 2017. These will focus on generating action plans and commitments for the New Urban Agenda.

The initial list, released this week, offers up 45 events in over three dozen countries covering a wide range of topics. (Update: In late Feburary, the full list of approved Urban Thinkers Campuses was expanded to 74.)

Among other aims, professors at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands will come up with lesson plans to teach the New Urban Agenda in universities. The African Union of Architects will tackle slum upgrading in Dakar and infrastructure planning in Johannesburg.

Elsewhere, gender rights activists at the Huairou Commission will agitate for women’s access to urban services in Guatemala, Zimbabwe, Peru and Canada. And the World Evangelical Alliance will gather its flock in Indonesia to discuss how faith-based organizations can deliver on the New Urban Agenda.

Many dates are still to be confirmed, and more campuses are expected to be announced. The second round of the call for proposals is open until 10 February.

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Gregory Scruggs is a senior correspondent for Citiscope. Full bio

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