Urban and Rural Development Week explores resilient, sustainable habitats

As global population growth continues to challenge the world’s existing cities and communities, Expo 2020 Dubai brings together leaders, experts and citizens to explore how we must transform the way we move, build, consume and live in the habitats of the future.

By 2050, more than 70 per cent of the world’s population is forecast to live in cities, with three billion estimated to dwell in informal settlements. Urban and Rural Development Week, running from 31 October until 6 November and held in association with Expo 2020’s Infrastructure Digitalisation Partner Siemens, UN-Habitat and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), will explore our communities as building blocks of prosperity and how we can make our future habitats sustainable.

Examining how cities are built and who they serve, it will spotlight District 2020 – the physical legacy of Expo 2020 and the blueprint for a people-centric smart city of the future. Rural communities will also be brought into focus, with an emphasis on harnessing local knowledge and innovation and ensuring access to inclusive infrastructure and services – from transport and housing, to clean energy access and green public spaces – to ensure no one is left behind.

Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “Whether in cities or rural areas, formal or informal settlements, access to safe and affordable living conditions and services is a fundamental right, and integral to providing an equal playing field for people around the world to advance and thrive.

“The demand on cities and communities to provide uninterrupted access to resources is intensifying, and this challenge can only be addressed by collaboration and the exchange of ideas. We are proud to be working alongside over 200 countries and stakeholders, each offering a different perspective, to explore new approaches to resilient and inclusive habitats that serve their communities and exist in harmony with the natural environment, and to drive dialogue for progress in this critical area.”

Helmut von Struve, Chief Executive Officer, Siemens in the Middle East said: “In its first month, Expo 2020 Dubai has already achieved its mission of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,’ and we are proud to participate in the upcoming Theme Week that will focus on urban and rural development. Our partnership with Expo 2020 Dubai created a blueprint for future smart cities, and we look forward to discussing how our experience here can deliver environments that are safer, more efficient and comfortable around the world.”

World Cities Day at Expo 2020, held in partnership with The Executive Council of Dubai and UN-Habitat, will launch Urban and Rural Development Week on 31 October. The event will focus on urban resilience, particularly in the context of climate change, and explore sustainable architecture and smart city development, chronicling Dubai’s own success stories.

Leading the discussions will be His Excellency Saeed Al Tayer, Managing Director and CEO, Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA), Official Sustainable Energy Partner of Expo 2020 Dubai; His Excellency Wesam Lootah, CEO, Smart Dubai Government Establishment; Dr Shipra Narang Suri, Chief of Urban Practices Branch, UN-Habitat; David Hopping, CEO, Smart Infrastructure Solutions & Services, Siemens; and Ahmed and Rashid bin Shabib, Emirati urbanists renowned for their views on contemporary urban spaces. As part of the Inclusive Cities event on 3 November, UN-Habitat will also be presenting a roadmap for last-mile delivery to slums and informal settlements, based on knowledge and learning built up through its participatory slum upgrading programmes.

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, UN-Habitat and United Nations Under Secretary General, said: “We must challenge ourselves with the ambition of the last mile initiative to deliver on slums. There are 61 countries where one in three urban residents live in slums. UN-Habitat is committed to promoting sustainable, prosperous, healthy, safe and resilient cities and better living standards for everyone, particularly the most vulnerable.”

At a time when most cities are designed by men, the Women’s World Majlis, held in collaboration with Slovenia on 1 November, will welcome speakers including circular economy expert Ladeja Godina Ko?ir, Founder and Executive Director, Circular Change, and Claudia L?pez, Mayor of Bogot?, Colombia to explore how women can and should be at the core of designing, building and benefitting from sustainable and resilient habitats.

The same day, a Thematic Business Forum at Dubai Exhibition Centre, Expo 2020 Dubai, will spotlight new technologies, progress and future businesses opportunities in the urban and rural development sector, encouraging governments, the private sector and civil society to share knowledge and collaborate.

Harnessing knowledge from indigenous communities and how we marry that know-how with new technologies to influence the design of regenerative and biodiverse global systems is under discussion on 2 November. A critical issue at the COP 26 summit, the session on Local Nature-Based Solutions and Livelihoods, co-curated with AKDN and the Zoological Society of London, will feature Grandmother Mona Polacca, a Hopi/Havasupai/Tewa elder and Chair of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, the Guardians of the Atrato River, and Ricard Armengol, CEO, Provital.

Michael Kocher, General Manager, Aga Khan Foundation, said: “The United Arab Emirates and the Aga Khan Development Network have worked closely together for many years in areas of common interest, including architecture, culture, education, and healthcare. The AKDN’s collaboration with Expo 2020 Dubai is a reflection of this abiding partnership, which is founded upon a shared commitment to address key concerns relating to human development. The dialogue at Urban and Rural Development Week, and engagement between representatives of diverse backgrounds and expertise, will complement our collective efforts and ensure we are able to improve the quality of life of the world’s most vulnerable populations.”

Meanwhile, two key World Majlis events will offer different perspectives on smart and sustainable cities. Smarter than Smart Cities on 3 November will discuss low-tech ways to improve the holistic wellbeing of citizens, with speakers including HE Wesam Lootah, alongside Professor Matthias Finger, Head, Innovative Governance of Large Urban Systems, and Sanjive Khosla, Senior Vice President, Transition Unit, Expo 2020 Dubai.

Natural Cities on 4 November will examine nature in urban spaces to help mitigate the impact of growing cities, with speakers including His Excellency Dawoud Al Hajri, Director General of Dubai Municipality; Wong Mun Summ, Founding Director, WOHA and architect for the Singapore Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai; Asif Khan, who designed the iconic Expo 2020 Entry Portals; and Jorge Perez Jaramillo, Architect, Urban Planner and Former Director of Planning, Medell?n, Colombia.

In addition to the 25-plus events taking place during the week, Expo 2020 offers visitors the opportunity to explore at their own pace, with specially curated, self-guided tours available via the Expo 2020 app.

‘Cities of the Future’ stops at several Country Pavilions that spotlight how advanced materials, smart technology and big data are being used to make citizens safer, healthier, happier and more productive, while ‘Dialogue for Design’ is an awe-inspiring tour of some of the magnificent, innovative buildings on site – from Khan’s Entry Portals to Morocco’s ode to tradition to the ever-moving Republic of Korea Pavilion.

Urban and Rural Development Week is the third of 10 Theme Weeks taking place throughout Expo as part of the Programme for People and Planet, in an exchange of inspiring new perspectives that tackle the greatest challenges and opportunities of our time, including climate, connectivity, the future of human health and more.

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