New ways of understanding cities and changing ‘business as usual’ planning approaches to environment and development are essential to achieving sustainable urban development as contained in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2015. This was one of the key messages presented by Associate Professor Paul Jones, Program Director, Master of Urban and Regional Planning, School of Architecture, Design and Planning, to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) Fifth Session of the Committee for Environment and Development in Bangkok, Thailand, last week. The Committee, which comprises of high level Ministerial representatives from all countries in the Asia Pacific region including the powerhouse economies of China, India and Indonesia, was advised by Associate Professor Paul Jones that current approaches to localising sustainable development in urban and rural areas need reinvigoration. Much good work is being done, but more focused structural changes need to be made.
“Many approaches are not working. We do not include all the stakeholders who make and shape the city and its environment – from business to disadvantaged residents such as slum dwellers – and we do understand all the many formal and informal processes by which the environment is modified and reshaped. Until we do this and include all stakeholders and understand the multiple processes at play in city making, we will fall short on achieving the SDGs, especially SDG 11 which advocates ‘safe, resilient and sustainable cities. A paradigm shift is needed to be inclusive at all levels,” said Associate Professor Paul Jones.
Asia-Pacific cities are now home to more than 2.1 billion urban residents or 60% of the world’s urban population. The region has some of the most diverse biodiversity set amongst mega and emerging cities. These cities, however, have some of the fastest growing slums and informal settlements, rising poverty levels and greenhouse gas emissions, and major environmental degradation. These features are all set amongst a region which has the greatest risk to climate change and disasters. As well, the Asia-Pacific region consumes more than 50% of the world’s natural resources, with increasing rates of absolute and per capita use and consumption occurring within cities and towns.
The University of Sydney has strong research capacity in Asia Pacific urbanisation. As well, the School of Architecture, Design and Panning is embracing ‘global education’ by addressing social equity and agency issues by taking students to study in the countries of Asia.
Associate Professor Paul Jones, who is also contributing to the global flagship report by UNESCAP on ‘The Future of Asia and Pacific Cities, 2019’, said academia had a strong role to play in providing evidence-based research and insights to the development of new global and regional UN policy. “The University of Sydney has strong research capacity in Asia Pacific urbanisation. As well, the School of Architecture, Design and Panning is embracing ‘global education’ by addressing social equity and agency issues by taking students to study in the countries of Asia such as Indonesia. This research, knowledge and practice in planning and design of cities different in contexts makes it well placed to contribute to global policy being developed and localised by the United Nations”.