By Rufael Tsegay, RMIT University
The day began with a proud moment when Sadman successfully (in Spanish) asked the security guards when the buses were arriving. We then headed to the conference, swiftly entered, and all went our separate ways. Riley and I attended a seminar on the legitimisation of informal settlements through financial arrangements like community savings and microfinance programs. I was happy to hear the perspective of grassroots organisations and their ground-level impact, a pleasant surprise at a global conference.
After an enthralling morning of events and networking we went to meet Australian Ambassador to the United Nations, Gillian Bird. We discussed Australia’s involvement at the UN including its role in negotiations, its operations in the Security Council and our recent campaign to join the United Nations Human Rights Council. We also talked about working in in foreign affairs and the nature of starting a career as a young diplomat. Second Secretary, Julian Simpson, then told us about how he began his career in foreign affairs from a media background, as well as offering some tips and tricks of the trade.
Later in the day Sadman and I went to an academic, intergovernmental discussion on cities and their contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A recurring theme here was the use of data and the importance of multi-stakeholder development, a key principle of the SDGs as well as Habitat III. The session brought together concepts from the first seminar and brought them to the global context. This helped consolidate the impact of grassroots movements on a much larger international scale.
Our final meeting of the day was with Mia Davison, Principal Planner for the Victorian Government and Jane Stanley, President of the Eastern Regional Organisation for Planning and Housing (EAROPH). Mia talked about her role and unique view of city planning and development. What I enjoyed most was her holistic approach to urban development, using global examples and international conferences to better inform how the Victorian Government plans its cities.
To end the day we had dinner with scholars from the University of Melbourne. Amongst many things, we discussed the conference’s specialities and our experiences in Habitat III and in Quito as a whole. It was an incredibly rewarding experience gaining knowledge and understanding pertaining to how industry leaders view the sector and its changing nature. A major takeaway from the day was the comprehensiveness of the conference and the role grassroots organisations play on a global scale. Also, the small youth presence gave me an added sense of empowerment. Knowing that as some of the youngest attendees we are the generation with a future say, and the exciting responsibility that this brings.
A second day filled with experiences and insights I would have not received if it not were for this conference. From a new appreciation for bottom-up development to the role us young people play, I am excited to know that through summits like Habitat III we are headed in the right direction. I am eager for the next two days and looking forward to engage and connect with this exciting conference. Thank you Habitat III, thank you Quito, and thank you Global Voices!