A group of 20 urban professionals from 8 South East Asian countries and from Kenya gathered at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok 7 June at the start of a special eleven-day course on Sustainable Communities – Urban Environmental Management.
Opening Sustainable Communities © UN-Habitat
Already the fourth edition of the Sustainable Communities course marks a further milestone in academic collaboration with the Government of Finland, which in 2005 decided to allocate funding for a series of continuing education courses, to be coordinated by the Aalto University (then Helsinki University of Technology TKK) in collaboration with UN-HABITAT, the United Nations Environment Programme, Asian Institute of Technology and University of Nairobi. The first such course was held in Helsinki in 2007 followed by courses in Bangkok in 2008 and in Nairobi in 2009. The plan is to hold the course in Tanzania in 2013 in collaboration with the Institute of African Leadership for Sustainable Development, Uongozi Institute.
The course theme, Sustainable Communities, was chosen to offer to mid-career professionals from selected countries a broad overview of current thinking and practices regarding cities and sustainable urban development. Given that, rapid and uncontrolled urbanization is one of the biggest development problems in the world, the course provides practical examples and methods on how to use city planning as a tool for sustainable development.
The participants include a balanced representation drawn from academics, NGOs, local authorities and central government agencies. Key course topics include urban planning and sustainability, community mobilization, natural hazards and climate change and risk and vulnerability reduction. The course also applies interactive group work methodology, structured around participants' personal case studies and field visits. Overall, the course has an emphasis on finding tools for supporting sustainability in urban planning in different levels.
The course is seen as a contribution to the implementation of the Aalto University's strategic plan to strengthen education for sustainable development in collaboration with UN-HABITAT, UNEP, Asian Institute of Technology and University of Nairobi.
The opening ceremony was attended by Dr Jonathan Shaw Executive Director of AIT Extension; Mr Antti Niemelä, First secretary for Finnish Ambassador to Thailand; Ms Sato Mariko, Chief UN-HABITAT Bangkok Office and Professor David Mungai, University of Nairobi.
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Aalto University is a newly created university from the merger of three Finnish universities: the Helsinki School of Economics, the University of Art and Design Helsinki and Helsinki University of Technology - all leading and renowned institutions in their respective fields and in their own right.