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University of Sydney assists talks at Habitat III for a New Urban Agenda

12 October 2016
The UN-led global event tackles rapid urban growth and climate change.

Addressing the vulnerability of countries to climate change and rapid urban growth in the Pacific is the goal of a side event chaired by the University of Sydney’s Associate Professor Paul Jones at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador, this month.

An ‘urban village’ in Port Moresby. Photo: Dr Paul Jones.

An ‘urban village’ in Port Moresby. Photo: Dr Paul Jones.

Held once every 20 years, the third United Nations led conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development will take place from 17 to 20 October. The aim of the international summit is to revisit the global commitment to the sustainable development of towns, cities and other settlements in rural and urban areas, taking stock of current problems and trends.

Associate Professor Paul Jones from the University’s Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, said: “The conference is a big event for the international community to tackle issues impacting the urban environment and health of communities at most risk around the world.

“One of the regions that I am concerned about are some of the countries and islands in the Pacific whose way of life is threatened by climate change and the rapid growth of informal urban settlements,” he said.

An outcome of Habitat III will be a New Urban Agenda that will set the global strategy for managing urbanisation and building resilient communities for the next two decades.

Associate Professor Paul Jones will chair a Habitat III side event on 20 October that will identify the impact of climate change on urban development of Pacific islands and countries, including Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga and the Solomon Islands. Pacific island countries will share their experiences and the findings will help inform the New Urban Agenda.

“We will hear several presentations by representatives of the Pacific countries to identify ways to help protect their homeland, settlements and communities that will contribute to the new strategy,” said Associate Professor Jones.

Jones knows the geography and culture of the Pacific region intimately. During his 30-year career in sustainable urban planning, he has lived and worked in several of the Pacific island countries, from the low-lying atolls of Kiribati to the big islands in Melanesia.

“The on-the-ground experience in these island communities taught me a lot about the complexity of planning and management of settlements, which are typically informal or unplanned in this region,” said Associate Professor Jones.

A UN report, The State of Asian and Pacific Cities 2015, now recognises that the Asia-Pacific is home to the world’s largest and most populated slums and informal settlements. Jones’ has written a new book, ‘The Emergence of Pacific Urban Villages – Urbanization trends in the Pacific Islands’, on the growing phenomena that the Asian Development Bank will launch at Habitat III on 19 October.

“There needs to be a greater emphasis on sharing the benefits of urbanisation for all, not for some. My book explores the unique concept of the ‘urban village’ that has played a role in shaping towns and cities in the Pacific. It talks directly to basic human rights, which are important for the New Urban Agenda to make cities and the informal settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable for the next 20 years,” said Associate Professor Jones.