Senior Chinese leaders and experts from around the world on Wednesday warned that the challenge of urbanisation facing the world is perhaps one of the greatest confronting humanity.
At a conference marking World Habitat Day and the Shanghai 2010 Expo jointly arranged by the Chinese authorities and UN-HABITAT, speakers from many countries and different professional backgrounds said the theme of the two-day convention, 'Harmonious city and liveable life' was most apt for a brighter urban future.
"We have a dream to pursue here," said Mr. Lu Yongxiang, Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. "How do we synergise new knowledge, our information technology, the great strides in new know-how, our culture, our talents into new patterns and new flows across the world?"
Citing China's decades of growth and the rise of its economic power, he said much had to be achieved in terms of arable land, polluted water resources and other problems along urban-rural divide.
"Our traditional patterns are no longer sustainable. We need to customise in our own way to stimulate a low-carbon future, a greener environment, a knowledge economy and smart urban polices," he said.
Mr. Jiang Weixin, the Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, said that urbanisation was today a measure of the progress of human society: "Harmonious cities have become the main policy matter for governments. We would thus like to strengthen our cooperation in this area with cities and countries everywhere."
Ambassador Inga Björk-Klevby Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Officer in Charge of UN-HABITAT, said in a keynote address that UN-HABITAT and in the wider UN system fully endorsed the concept of the Harmonious city and liveable life. She also recalled that the theme of the fourth session of the World Urban Forum co-organized by the Chinese Government and UN-HABITAT in Nanjing in 2008, was precisely on Harmonious Urbanization. It was inspired by ancient Chinese philosophy which espoused moderation and balance in all things. UN-HABITAT has adopted the concept of Harmonious Cities as a useful framework for its urban work.
Mr. Vicente Gonzales Loscertales, Secretary-General of the International Exhibition Bureau, said simply that good cities everywhere were places where their people felt they truly belonged.
Other keynote speakers included Mr. Hang Zheng, the Mayor of Shanghai and Executive Director of the expo, and Mr. Lu Zushan, Governor of Hangzhou's Zhejiang Province. Many were at pains to raise the importance of gender issues and the safety and comfort of women in cities that are harmonious and liveable.
The highlights of the conference are a plenary and six special conventions on cooperation between cities and regions, infrastructure and services in harmonious cities, harmonious cities and the wisdom of women, urban governance and community participation, the built environment and liveable life, and social policies and harmonious cities. A roundtable discussion on housing policies and liveable life was also scheduled.
Leading experts in Huangzhou included Sir Peter Hall, Professor of Urban Planning at the Bartlett School of Architecture and Planning at University College London; Professor Zheng Shiling, Director of the Institute of Architecture and Urban Space at Tongji University, and a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences; Dr. John Friedmann, Honourary Professor at the School of Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Colombia, Canada; Professor Zheng Yongnian, Director of the East Asia Institute of the University of Singapore; Mr. Wu Zhiqiang Chief Planner of the Shanghai Expo Park; Professor Mohamed Salah Zerouala, Head of the Polytechnic School of Architecture and Town Planing at the University of Algiers, and several other distinguished professors, teachers and planners.
Ambassador Klevby returned to Shanghai later on Wednesday to deliver an Expo speech on how better economies make for better cities.
In other notable events, former US President Jimmy Carter joined 300 volunteers to build or renovate 12 homes in a Washington neighborhood as part of a worldwide Habitat for Humanity project marking World Habitat Day. For details see http://www.infozine.com
In Warsaw, a special World Habitat Day conference sponsored by ARCADIS and the Polish Society of Architects (SARP) examined the theme, Better city, better life at a seminar. For details click here