World Urban Forum – Day One
World Urban Forum – Day One ( Monday June 19, 2006 )
It is the first day of the World Urban Forum. 6,000 people were expected. 8,000 registered. Even more are here. Imagine every person you speak to — waiting in line, in the hallways, at countless networking sessions and side events — being an evangelist for the themes, issues and ideas you read on the Spacing Wire and you begin to get a sense of what is happening in Vancouver this week.
Distilling opening day into a few sentences is challenging yet there is something consistent in each of today’s conversations – that every first world city contains a third world city, and the time has arrived for developed cities to be looking at cities in the developing world for solutions to housing, crime, poverty, zoning and governance.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of people and their governments to create livable cities. Sadly, city governments the world over often morph into systems where corruption becomes a civic pillar. That leaves us with the people — us.
Many of my conversations are with people trying to break that cycle of urban growth followed by urban collapse. Yet it is in the world’s poorest cities where we find people resilient enough and stubborn enough to take ownership of their “slums” and recreate them into highly desirable neighbourhoods. This is important as today more than half the world’s population live in slums. And cities, including those slums, account for 70% of the world’s population altogether.
And yeah, like the lady from Nepal I met, they too have read Jane Jacobs.
Day One ended with learning that in Curitiba, Brazil, public space per capita is around 550 square feet, in New York City it’s less than 150 square feet. When it comes to open public space, we in the north do indeed have much to learn from the cities in the south.
World Urban Forum 3, Vancouver