I have spoken to and been interviewed by dozens of journalists who have been tasked by their editors to come to Vancouver to report on the World Urban Forum 3 (WUF3). A formidable challenge every journalist will face is where to start when searching for a newsworthy item or issue. The array of events at WUF3 is awesome, both in the formal program and in numerous side events, tours, special events and festivals.
At the core of everything that will take place In Vancouver is the question: How are cities managed in a global context? By this I mean, where we now in this are rapidly urbanizing world, and how best can we build and manage sustainable cities for the future.
My recommendation to journalist is first go to the UN HABITAT website and look at the HABITAT Debates series. The June issue is an excellent starting point for background information on global cities’ issues. It also provides a framework on how the sustainability issues have been incorporated into the Dialogue Themes and Program for WUF3.
Of particular note is the candid assessment of “thirty years of the urban agenda (1976-2006): what has been achieved?” by the authors of UN-HABITAT’s State of the World’s Cities Report, latest revision of which will be launched at WUF3.
Also of note is Robert Neuwirth’s article “Slums No Longer: Towards Squatter Empowerment”. Neuwirth is the author of “Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters.” He spent two years living in slums and gives voice to our fellow global citizens still living in these conditions.
Another recommendation for pre-WUF3 reading is the just published “Cities in a Globalizing World: Governance, Performance and Sustainability”, edited by Frannie Leautier of World Bank Institute. While I am no economist and ignored most of the data tables, I found this a most useful guide to understanding the challenges of managing the social, economic and environmental transitions to sustainable cities on a world scale.
The authors look particularly at African cities to examine similarities with and difference from cities elsewhere. Their research suggests that Africa faces an enormous challenge in terms of improving the management and governance of its cities to be able to attract foreign investment, while at the same time trying to meet the needs of urban residents.
The guiding principle behind the WUF 3 program and indeed the whole purpose of the event itself is to enable citizens, city managers and “doers” of all stripes to learn from one another on how to design, build and manage sustainable cities.
Start with this view in mind and everything will flow naturally from there!