Universities and Urban Sustainability: The Millennium City University
Organized in cooperation with the Centre for Human Settlements and Schoolof
Community and Regional Planning, The University of British Columbia; Faculty f
Architecture, University of San Paulo; and Centro Studi Urbanistici per i Paesi in via di Sviluppo of DIPTU, Universita’ degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”
The round-table discussions were chaired by Professor Anthony Dorcey, Director, Centre for Human Settlements and School of Community and Regional Planning, University of British Columbia, Canada; Professor Erminia Maricato, Faculty of Architecture, University of São Paulo, Brazil; and Professor Pietro Garau, Director, Centre for Urban Studies for the Developing Countries, of La Sapienza University, Rome.
The round table was divided into two sessions. The first related to current status and the second to the way forward.
To date: guiding principles for partnering and examples
It was noted that universities were not being used to their full potential, one of the reasons being a lack of resources. It was also noted that funding was often available on a project-to-project basis, and that the lack of both resources and their continuity prevented universities from contributing fully to change and development. National governments, donor agencies and other actors also failed to recognize the potential of universities. The different objectives of those actors were also seen as a barrier to partnerships, as was a lack of trust between the different types of institution. Where they were not bound by time and resource constraints, however, as well as by different political agendas, universities were freer to explore issues and new areas of thought.
Exchange of knowledge and experiences through twinning universities and other centres of learning was strongly recommended. It was noted that that type of exchange should occur at both the international and local levels. It was stressed that universities needed to be actors in their local communities and to engage in partnerships with civil society and the private sector. By being actors within their local communities, universities could disseminate knowledge as well as listen and cater to the demands and needs of those communities, thus becoming relevant to their surrounding environments. It was further noted that students had the potential of becoming agents of change, able to link research to service and engagement, as well as connecting theory and practice.
Future: learning and diffusion initiatives
The role of universities as critics was discussed, and it was stated that not only did universities need to examine the world around them critically, they must also examine the accepted model of what a university was “supposed” to be. Universities were often seen to back away from taking action on the results of their research, thus refraining from being actors in the political field. Similarly, the existing knowledge base needed to be examined, and it was also noted that there was a lack of up-to-date knowledge on land issues, informal settlements and the urban sphere as a whole.
While universities needed to support the Millennium Development Goals, they also had to be critical of them, adding to their definition and focus. It should also be the role of universities to provide independent monitoring of governments’ progress in their work towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and to develop indicators for that purpose.
The session ended with the introduction of the Millennium Cities University initiative, a partnership of universities aiming to combine resources for the achievement of the goal of the “Millennium Cities”. It was agreed to follow up on those discussions at the Fourth Session of the World Urban Forum, with specific and concrete cases illustrating progress made and issues raised during the round table.