Some 5000 years old and ready to re-invent itself would be the best way to describe of the Iranian city of Rafsanjan.
It is well known for pistachio production and an architectural history that can be traced back to 3000 B.C. However, living long comes with its own challenges and Rafsanjan is now faced with the reality that these industries and its rich culture cannot alone sustain the development needs of a growing city.
Last week, a delegation led by Mr. Aliakbar Pourmohammadi the Mayor of Rafsanjan visited UN-HABITAT. The Mayor faces a common challenge- how to improve his city to offer citizens more employment and a better quality of life?
With the support of the International Art & Architectural Research Association of Iran and the London Metropolitan University, a fascinating "Local Agenda 21" process is underway to develop a practical strategy to advance cultural, environmental and economic interests. The process has not been an easy one, involving a dozen or so committees and including citizens from all walks of life and neighbourhoods.
But these efforts are beginning to bear fruit and a common vision is emerging. According to Mayor Pourmohammadi, "Rasfanjan has incredible potential but we need to define a common vision and make sure that national and local government work towards it with the full support of citizens and the private sector."
In reviewing the strategy, UN-HABITAT commended its ambitious scope and encouraged the city to work towards an integrated implementation plan working across key urban sectors and levels of government. Ideally, the strategy should provide a clear framework for action. In an effort to develop tourism for instance, this must be carefully linked to investments in infrastructure, appropriate local planning decisions, better land use, support to local companies and engagement of citizens and especially young people in the promotion of skills and local identity.
"Given how fragmented urban policy is in most countries, a holistic approach to finance, planning and land is very difficult but nevertheless essential to the management of cities", observed a UN-HABITAT staff member.
Mr. Danial Biau, Director of UN-HABITAT's Regional and Technical Co-operation Division praised this innovative work and expressed his hope that the collaboration would serve as a pilot for further cities across Iran to follow.