Habitat III Delegate Cassandra Cohen featured in Quarterly Access Journal

Cassandra attended the 2016 Habitat III Conference in Quito, representing RMIT University. You can read her policy paper here or by copying the following URL into your browser: http://www.internationalaffairs.org.au/collaborate-or-compete-opportunities-to-adapt-australias-smart-cities-plan-to-develop-a-stronger-pathway-to-achieving-sdg11-by-2030/ 

Habitat III: Final Wrap-Up

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.

Global Voices delegates with students and experts of T-Cubo think tank

Global Voices delegates with students and experts of T-Cubo think tank

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! 


Habitat III: Day 2 Wrap-Up

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!