More global and urban than ever – SLU at the 10th World Urban Forum

Last changed: 25 March 2020
Paulo Silva, University of Aveiro, Portugal. Lisa Diedrich, SLU, Sweden and Saswat Bandyopadhyay, CEPT University, India

The ambition to advance research for sustainable urban development in the Global South led SLU to join the 10th World Urban Forum (WUF10), held in February in Abu Dhabi. In a joint effort, SLU Global, SLU Urban Futures and SLU’s Landscape Architecture Division of Ultuna Campus have supported Zeinab Tag-Eldeen’s initiative to present the results of her research projects in the area called Sparking Research into Global Transformation.

Zeinab and five PhD candidates of the Sida-funded Capacity-Building Programme with Ardhi University, Tanzania, and SLU Urban Futures’ director Lisa Diedrich, organised two sessions and an exhibition in the main programme of WUF10. In the exhibition hall, many countries, regions, research institutes and NGOs displayed their sustainable urbanisation initiatives, and SLU was among the select few universities to offer research as a contribution. In the form of posters and publications, SLU discussed its ongoing research in the Global South about the contribution of cultural ecosystem services to climate change resilience in peri-urban areas, land access governance dynamics in peri-urban areas, alternative public spaces for recreation and leisure in informal settlements, rural-urban dynamics, and rethinking domestic water service provision in small towns. The research projects also focused on the intertwinement of urban issues in the Global South and the Global North. Additionally, a professional film about arts-based interactive research in multicultural urban environments in Sweden attracted particular attention. In this film, young people are the central actors for strengthening social cohesion and building resilience. Connecting City2Arts posters and films created an opportunity to exchange cross-disciplinary perspectives and link the arts to sustainable development questions – they truly proved SLU’s involvement in WUF10’s key issues. 

Zeinab Tag-Eldeen organised and moderated SLU’s side event ‘Urban-Rural Nexus: Challenges and Innovations to Govern Land, Municipal and Ecosystem Services, on the Fringes of Resource Constrained Cities and Small Towns’. PhD researchers Maglan Sangenoi, Lazaro Mngumu, Happiness Mlula and Said Nuhu discussed how to improve the living conditions of a growing population in parts of Tanzania that are neither urban nor rural in the traditional sense, and exchanged knowledge of urban sustainability on an international level with Abdul Hussain of Niger‘s State Government and Rafael Fomero, UN HABITAT representative. The latter highlighted UN HABITAT’s recently launched forum for urban-rural interlinkage, for which SLU was one of the main contributors. Within the SLU strategy of implementing research and identifying pathways to social impact, in 2017, SLU signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UN HABITAT and will stay tuned. The session culminated in an engaging discussion by the PhD researchers with Tanzania’s Minister of Land and Housing, testifying to the fact that international level research can spark connections to high-level political circles.

Lisa Diedrich moderated the second panel: ‘Beyond Informality: informal settlements as contemporaneous urban heritage’, organized by Paulo Silva of the University of Aveiro, Portugal, in collaboration with SLU, Lund University and Ardhi University in Tanzania. Four panellists addressed everyday spaces in the cities of Dar es Salaam (Edson Sanga, Moohammed Wasim Yahi), Ahmedabad (Saswat Bandyopadhyay) and Cape Town (Julian Raxworthy) as globally interconnected systems, while also recognising their qualities as specific and concrete physical places, in need of being shaped in continuous anticipation of a future that is not completely predictable. The second moderator, Chetan Vaidya, highlighted the value of informal urban areas as cities of opportunities, in line with WUF10’s theme, and invited the panellists to exchange further information on their case study research on how to influence practice. As they are enthusiastic about this perspective, the researchers immediately applied for a common intervention at this year’s AESOP conference (Association of European Schools of Planning) – SLU will further share its knowledge on urban issues in the Global South and strengthen its position in the urban arena.

Lisa Diedrich and Zeinab Tag-Eldeen

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