A group of 28 urban professionals from 15 countries in Africa and Asia gathered at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok on Monday at the start of a special two-week course on how to use city planning as a tool for sustainable development.
The second 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 Helsinki University of Technology (HUT) in collaboration with UN-HABITAT and the United Nations Environment Programme. The first such course was held in Helsinki a year ago.
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 this year include a balanced representation drawn from academics, NGOs, local authorities and central government agencies. Key course topics include urban environmental management, transportation and energy, good governance for sustainable communities; risk and vulnerability reduction; and urban planning and sustainability. The course also applies a highly interactive group work methodology, structured around case studies prepared by the participants, stimulating peer-to-peer learning and multi-disciplinary work. Overall, the course has an emphasis on bridging the gap between research and action.
The course is seen as a contribution to the implementation of the UN-HABITAT’s new medium term strategic plan through the preparation of re-usable curricula and training materials to strengthen education for sustainable urbanization.
The opening ceremony was attended by Professor Vilas Wuwongse, Vice President-External Relations, AIT; Mr. Lars Backström, Finnish Ambassador to Thailand; Mr. Toshi Noda, Director, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, UN-HABITAT; Ms. Dechen Tsering, the UN Environment Programme’s Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, and Professor Sivanappan Kumar, Dean, School of Environment Resources and Development, AIT.