UN World Habitat Day Links U.S. and Global Urban Futures

9276_WHD-logo_webToo often, there’s a big split — We discuss urban futures in an exclusively U.S. context. Debates about city futures around the rest of the world occur broadly outside the United States, but not here. But look for a big exception in World Habitat Day for 2009, scheduled for October 5 in Washington with a rich melange of related activities spread over an entire week. The contrasts but also parallels between UN-Habitat’s strong focus on developing world cities and a new era of urban policy in America are likely to be the object of unusually focused discussions.

The major World Habitat Day opening ceremony will feature UN-Habitat Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka, but also Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin and top-level Obama administration officials including Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “President Obama,” Donovan notes, “has asked that we become engaged in the global discussion on our shared vision of making socially and environmentally sustainable urban communities.”

Ron Sims

Ron Sims

In a separate October 5 event, at Howard University, the topic will be “Livable Communities” including White House Office of Urban Affairs Director Adolfo Carrion, HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims, Tibaijuka, and Deputy Washington, D.C. Mayor Valerie Santos Young.

On October 6, the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, in coordination with the Rockefeller Foundation, will host a major public discussion on creating sustainable global cities including metropolitan models for managing climate change. Participants will include Brookings’ Bruce Katz, Darren Walker (vice president for foundation initiatives for Rockefeller), Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels (president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors), and New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, joined by international metropolitan leaders.

On October 7, the International Housing Coalition (with support from the Aspen Institute and Habitat for Humanity), will host a major discussion on “Urbanization, Slums and U.S. Foreign Assistance.” And on October 8, there’ll be a major discussion on “Bridging the Urban Divide”, hosted by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars with assistance from the Rockefeller Foundation and CHF International. It’s advertised a start to a series on “The Road to Rio” — UN Habitat’s World Urban Forum 5 in Rio de Janeiro in March 2010.

Other Habitat Day events — one might well say “Habitat Week” events — include forums sponsored by the Urban Land Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, the American Planning Association, and Grassroots Women and Affordable Housing.

The overall theme of the Habitat events – “Planning Our Urban Future” – is intended to raise awareness of the need to improve urban planning to help the world’s cities deal with the major challenges the economic crisis, climate disruption, and alarming levels of urban poverty around the world.

Related – Peirce Among Scroll of Honour Awardees

Scroll of Honour

Scroll of Honour award

Neal Peirce

Neal Peirce

Citistates chair Neal Peirce will be among the 11 organizations and individuals from around the world to receive UN Habitat’s Scroll of Honour Award — “considered the most significant prize in the field of human settlements” –at the October 5 event. His citation: “For a lifetime of journalism dedicated to reporting on cities for a better urban future.”