By Sadman Shafiq, Swinburne University.
Our third day in Quito started off bright and early with unexpected sunshine. We arrived at the conference ready for another full day of events.
First off was the Inclusive Cities Special Session, where the powerhouse of the speakers included the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore, whose parting words were truly awe-inspiring. Her thoughts on fragmented cities facing discrimination, holding governments and all levels of municipality accountable, and encouraging active participation of all citizens as right holders, resounded throughout the whole discussion. The questions raised by the public were thought provoking and created the space for a higher level of discourse.
Next up was a High Level Round Table discussing integrated strategic planning and management. I took Australia’s seat at the Round Table alongside Victorian State Government Representative, Mia Davison. I found the Panel very informative regarding Sweden, Finland, and South Africa’s approaches in order to create an integrated, long-term plan for sustainable management.
The panel’s debate was cut short due to our next meeting with UN Human Settlements Officer, Bernhard Berth, based in the Asia Pacific Region. He shared his insights working with communities in Laos and in the Philippines and discussed how disaster risk prevention and rebuilding efforts are developed in these areas. His insight into the UN Internship Program also provided essential information about writing applications for internships and developing a career at the UN.
After a quick get together with the Canada Youth Delegate we went inside the Plenary to hear Australia’s response to the New Urban Agenda (NUA). Australian Ambassador to the UN, Gillian Bird, acknowledged Australia’s urban problems, pledging to implement the NUA within Australia. Along with the initiative to create a Ministry for Cities, and the launch of the Government’s Smart Cities Plan, Australia’s position firmly supports the NUA.
We left for lunch and took a taxi to Universidad de los Hemisferios where we met with the experts of Ecuadorian think tank T-Cubo for a youth workshop. I was blown away by the formality and the number of students that showed up to work with us on broad questions related to the NUA. We were divided up along with experts and students in order to brainstorm policies. It was refreshing to find that the topics we discussed had both local and international parallels that ended up creating a strong link between us. With help from the T-Cubo experts, we presented what we perceived to be problems or issues and our recommendations for action. The two-hour session flew by and was followed by a well-deserved round of drinks.
Finally, we met with the Brazilian delegates from Instituto Global Attitude and the New Zealand delegates from Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute. We discussed many topics and bonded over our experiences in Habitat.
It was an amazing day: Bernhard’s outlook over Urban Planning in the Asia Pacific and UN Internships was enlightening, the Habitat III sessions continue to provide thoughtful discussion around the implementation of the NUA, and the scale and generosity of the students and the experts in the University workshop were both impressive and humbling.
Our final day wrapped up the Global Voices Habitat III experience perfectly. We were honoured to witness the adoption of the New Urban Agenda in Quito, which maps the future of urban development over the next 20 years. Thanks to RMIT, Swinburne and Griffith for supporting our delegation during this once in a life time experience.
Muchas Gracias por todo Habitat III and Global Voices!