An inconvenient urban future
Written by 5 June 2014on
Eurbanlab Community Director, Brian Kilkelly was invited to participate in the 9th Global Conference gathering to share perspectives on sustainable urban development trends and issues with experts from around the world. Under the honorable patronage of Mr. François Hollande , President of the French Republic, the conference drew people from a diverse spectrum of specialism and geographies. The theme was ‘Time to make a choice’.
'From the old continent to emerging and developing countries, a certain number of social movements; political, geopolitical and economical trends, let us point out the end of a development model and the challenging of our way of life and consuming which have become unsustainable.
In the mean time, new projects for society are on the verge of emerging all around the world, redefining the relationship between man and nature, inventing new economic models and imagining a new social order based on new values. But how can society position itself on what it is willing to accept or not? How can we define together a new project for society more respectful of man and its environment, provided that we cannot brush away our past and history?'
Kilkelly participated in the session ‘An inconvenient urban future: Social change builders versus big metropolitan plans and investments’. Joining him was the acclaimed urban ‘activist’ Tita Larasati from Bandung Creative City Forum, Indonesia. The session was moderated by Nicolas Buchoud, President, The Grand Paris Alliance for Sustainable Investment.
Buchoud set the scene by posing the question “how to build the conditions of joining two agendas that are usually floating around separately, when they are not openly conflicting: social change, social innovation on the one hand (design, arts, civic engagement associated...), infrastructure and plans on the other hand (investments, long term frameworks, institutional arrangements associated). How can we overcome the divide? How can start ups and geeks be engaged in plans and how can plans nurture the civil society better?”
Kilkelly opened his remarks with the message that there was no ‘time to make a choice’ and that urgent action was required. He sited the impact of Hurricane Sandy on New York city and the situation in London just before the Olympic Games when the city almost ran out of water due to a prolonged drought.
Kilkelly was able to reflect the Eurbanlab approach (and his own experience through World Cities Network) of the planning and development of urban developments. He shared examples of how municipalities such as the City of Barcelona are encouraging citizens to take more control of their communities as part of their ‘Barcelona 5.0’ strategy. He also highlighted that citizen engagement was important to build political buy-in to support major investment decisions or controversial changes to the way we live in cities.
Larasati shared how the community in Bandung decided to take urban development into their own hands because of lack of action from the city government. She shared the extraordinary tale of how public action helped create a new public park. Since 2008, a community of volunteers has formed over 250 programmes to help transform the city. Larasati explained how citizens felt quick action was required to deal with congestion, flooding, and other issues in the city.