Addressing Urban Youth Challenges at the World Urban Forum

Segolene Pruvot

By Segolene Pruvot, on October 12th, 2012

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Last September the World Urban Forum (WUF) in Naples, Italy, gathered many urban practitioners and civil society members throughout the world to discuss tools and methodologies for a better sustainable urban development, both in developed and developing countries.
Kristine Sergejeva, Communication Manager of URBACT, and Raffaele Barbato, Project Officer at URBACT Secretariat, Simina Lazar from Brodolini Foundation in charge of animating the URBACT Local Support Group Community and Eddy Addams, URBACT Thematic Pole Manager, represented the URBACT community there!

The Urban World Forum is such a large event that it’s difficult to get a comprehensive picture of it. That’s why we asked our four URBACT delegates – Kristine, Simina, Raffaele and Eddy – to give us feedback on their experience. Find out below what they learnt at the WUF!

What did you like the most at the World Urban Forum?

Eddy Adams: The fact that it was truly global event. In Europe we are currently very focused on the crisis, so it’s good to get a wider perspective.

Kristine Sergejeva: A kind of sense of ease and informality was one of the characteristics of the Forum. The first impression when I entered the venue of the World Urban Forum was as if I would have been arrived in a large-scale music festival. This impression was given by the feeling of the large open space of the venue, where participants circulated from one event to another, accompanied by the sounds of music provided by some deejays. For one week the forum hosted multiple activities and events, such as dialogues, training events, exhibition, etc. I was amazed by the variety of approaches and tools cities use for coping with their urban challenges and also by the ways how they managed to present these tools in the exhibition and during the events.

What new did you learn during the World Urban Forum?

Kristine: Firstly, we cannot impose urban solutions to each other without understanding the context and the background; Secondly, there is a huge gap among several countries and continents how IT tools and different methods are used for coping with urban challenges; Thirdly, the developments of ITC tools and the change of human communications are one of the biggest influencing factors for urban governance in the future, which should not be forgotten; Fourthly, “gaming” as a concept is more and more often used for facilitating participatory approach in the urban governance.

Raffaele Barbato: There were three main messages according to me:
First, the main challenges for urban development are in developing countries. Here there will be no development without urbanization. In Asia and Africa the pace and the dimension of the urbanization process is dramatic. If well planned, inclusive and sustainable urbanization can be synonym of prosperity and better living conditions. Urbanization is thus a key factor for achieving Millennium Goals. Better urbanization facilitates better development!
Second, to support this urbanization, national governments shall develop and implement comprehensive and innovative national urban policies. But a top-down national led urbanization process is not the only answer.
Third, the cities are at front of this process. They need legitimacy, powers, and financial tools to adapt their planning process to the growing and changing threats. Cities also need to be innovative and inclusive taking into account the multiplication of actors and stakeholders to be involved in a participative process of policy-making.

What has been the involvement of URBACT in the programme of the 6th World Urban Forum?

Raffaele: URBACT organized one of the 133 networking events held in the framework of the Forum. With a Focus on the theme of co-production, particularly, in relation to young people, we presented some innovative solutions developed by local institutions involved in URBACT, stressing the importance of the URBACT method, especially, in creating the ground for genuine co-production with the Local Support Groups .

Simina Lazar: URBACT held one of the parallel networking events. A challenging task, considering the high number of parallel sessions (more than 20). The number of persons that attended as well as their feedback was an important result that demonstrated that the subject discussed was not only pertinent but very useful and of actuality.

Do you feel that co-production and the issue of young people’s involvement are key issues which are integrated in local urban policies?

Eddy: The whole issue of cutover involvement is key in my view. I think this will be a hot topic as public service reform rises up the urban agenda in the coming period.

Simina: Even though they are key issues and should be integrated to local urban policies, this passage is not obvious to all, especially to policy makers. As a general rule, it should be reminded more often that the youth of today are tomorrow’s decision makers.

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