Eight Georgetown professors will travel to Quito, Ecuador to attend the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, focused on addressing the needs of the developing world in the midst of rapid urbanization, from Monday to Wednesday.
The conference — held every 20 years and previously hosted in Vancouver, Canada and Istanbul, Turkey — brings together urban specialists, policymakers and representatives from around the world. The 1996 conference in Istanbul resulted in the adoption of the Habitat Agenda Goals and Principles, a proclamation of two guiding principles for the summit: providing “adequate shelter for all” and establishing “sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world.”
Habitat III will be the first UN conference to follow the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference that led to the Paris Agreement, which saw 191 signatures from member countries agreeing to adopt measures to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2020.
The Georgetown delegation will include professors Uwe Brandes, Shareen Joshi, Robin King, Jamie Kralovec, Mina Marefat, Kaara Martinez, Brian McCabe and Brendan Shane, spanning from the School of Foreign Service to the School of Continuing Studies and specializations in international economics, business diplomacy and urban planning.
According to the draft of the New Urban Agenda, a document outlining the expected outcomes of the upcoming conference, Habitat III envisions attaining social equality, urban prosperity and an end to poverty, even as the world urban population is projected to double by 2050. According to the proposal, the conference plans to achieve these stated goals by changing the means by which cities and human settlements are planned, financed, developed and managed.
Brandes, the founding executive director of Georgetown’s master’s program in Urban and Regional Planning, said he hopes the takeaways of the Paris Climate Summit will be deeply embedded in conversations about achieving urban development at the conference.
“What is becoming very clear is that we cannot achieve global climate change goals without globalizing those solutions and cities,” Brandes said. “The relationship between climate change litigation and urban development is something that I hope will become the very clear outcome of the summit.”
Brandes also said he believes the conference is essential in forging collaborative relationships to better equip stakeholders in tackling the sustainability challenges of the coming century.
“In a sense the conference is a validation of the work that has been ongoing over the last few months or so,” Brandes said. “One of the things that could be so important to make cities sustainable is the new generation of partnerships. I think many of those partnerships will be hatched at the Habitat III conference.”
Program Director for the Urban and Regional Planning Program Kralovec echoed Brandes’ call for cooperation during the conference.
“I would love to see greater coordination across sectors. The work that organizations are doing on urban development would be better coordinated and aligned,” Kralovec said. “One great takeaway from this conference is creating more closely coordinated networks producing ideas, disseminating information, doing research and working together to support the overall goal of creating more sustainable cities.”
Kralovec said the mission of the conference, along with the research of Georgetown’s Urban and Regional Planning Program, resonate with the university’s commitment to social justice.
“Urban planning is a discipline that helps bring the [Jesuit] values alive by supporting community-driven goals and aspirations, and by helping communities realize their ambitions and their aspirations,” Kralovec said. “There’s a strong alignment between urban planning as a discipline and what we’re doing here in the master’s program in the School of Continuing Studies at Georgetown.”
Hoya/Homeless Outreach Programs and Education Co-President Andrew O’Brien (COL ’18), whose organization addresses issues of hunger and homelessness in Washington, D.C., said he hopes the global conversation at the conference can positively impact local urban challenges.
“I hope that this global conference can have physical effects on local homeless populations,” O’Brien said. “That’s very hard sometimes to transform in global conversation to something with local ramifications that are also positive.”
O’Brien said the District provides a rich case study for the conversations addressed by Habitat III.
“I hope they bring the D.C. perspective to this conference. D.C. is a very unique area currently undergoing a lot of changes with homeless services. That’s something that will be very valuable to the Habitat III conference,” O’Brien said. “This is great as a global program, as an advocacy campaign, but I’m very curious what the actual pragmatic results of it will be at the local level.”
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