Urban Matters
Urban Matters - Shaping the Future

Urban Matters - Shaping the Future

May 12, 2021

Many city leaders are determined to make their cities smart and sustainable. But some cities have been working on these issues for years, even decades. Two pioneers, in different ways, are Freiburg in Germany and Glasgow in Scotland. Both have gleaned valuable lessons from their experience of transformation.

In this episode, Urban Matters host Tom Miles talks to Martin Horn, the Mayor of Freiburg, and Brian Evans, the City Urbanist of Glasgow and Head of Urbanism at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, to hear directly from these two pioneering cities.

For more information:

The UNECE official website: https://unece.org/
To read about Mayor Martin Horn: (in German) https://www.freiburg.de/pb/205852.html

To read about Brian Evans’ appointment as Glasgow’s first ever City Urbanist:

https://www.academyofurbanism.org.uk/academician-professor-brian-evans-aou-appointed-as- glasgows-first-ever-city-urbanist/

Urban Matters - Foreseeing the unforeseeable

Urban Matters - Foreseeing the unforeseeable

May 5, 2021

How well were cities prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic? What can we learn, what have we already learned, about local responses to emergencies such as the pandemic? Are cities robust and resilient? If not, what more could be done to make them better prepared for emergencies in future?

Preparing for the next crisis is not an insurance policy, but a necessity. Beyond the pandemic, at least one global crisis is already at hand: climate change. So, will the pandemic leave us better prepared for the global environmental challenge?

In this episode, Urban Matters host Tom Miles talks to the Leader of Glasgow City Council, Susan Aitken, and Dmitry Pozhidaev, Regional Programme Advisor at the UN Capital Development Fund, to get the first-hand experience and the global picture of how cities have risen to the challenge, and what lessons they have learned.

 

For more information:

The UNECE official website: https://unece.org/

You can read a short biography of Susan Aitken here: https://glasgow.gov.uk/SusanAitken

Urban Matters - Affordable housing in the post-COVID era

Urban Matters - Affordable housing in the post-COVID era

April 28, 2021

Housing is not a luxury, but a basic human right. So why is it that there are still so many people who cannot afford a decent home? And is there a chance the COVID-19 pandemic might prompt our societies to take a fresh look at solving the problem?

In 2015, UNECE endorsed the Geneva UN Charter on sustainable housing, a non-binding document that aimed to help its member states to tackle the problem of affordable housing, and after decades of growing inequality there are signs that attitudes might finally be changing.

In this episode, Urban Matters host Tom Miles talks to Elena Szolgayova and David Orr, co-chairs of #Housing2030, an initiative that has designed a policy toolkit for governments to act on affordable housing. David and Elena explain why they are optimistic about a sea-change in policies affecting affordable housing.

 

For more information:

The UNECE official website: https://unece.org/

The Geneva Charter on Sustainable Housing is here: https://unece.org/housing/charter#:~:text=The%20Geneva%20UN%20Charter%20on,Europe%20on%2016%20April%202015.

Information on the #Housing2030 Initiative and biographies of David Orr and Elena Szolgayova is available here: https://www.housing2030.org/chairs

Urban Matters - Promoting circularity in cities

Urban Matters - Promoting circularity in cities

April 21, 2021

Circularity is a concept that is often mentioned by urban experts and advocates of smart sustainable cities as an alternative to the traditional linear economic development model. Circularity can be used as a tool to address the most pressing global challenges faced by cities such as climate change, rapid urbanization and scarcity of natural resources. Moving towards a circular economy will require a major transformation of current production and consumption patterns. Indeed, it is a vital ingredient of the transformation if we are going to make cities function in a green and socially responsible way. So, what does circularity mean, and what role will it play in our future cities?

In this episode, Urban Matters host Tom Miles talks to Dr. Okan Geray, Strategic Planning Advisor of Smart Dubai and an author of a UNECE Guide to Circularity in cities, and Gulnara Roll, Secretary to the Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management at UNECE to find out more about how a circular economy can support sustainable urban development and create positive economic, social and environmental impacts in cities. 

For more information:

The UNECE official website: https://unece.org/

You can find information about Dr. Okan Geray here: https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-T/AI/Pages/geray.aspx

The UNECE Guide to Circular Cities can be found here: https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/hlm/sessions/docs2019/Info_6_Circular_Cities.pdf

Urban Matters - People-Smart Cities

Urban Matters - People-Smart Cities

April 14, 2021

What does it take to get to a liveable green and prosperous future? As cities get smarter and become more resource efficient and sustainable, it’s important that we don’t neglect the vital ingredient: Us, people, the city inhabitants! Cities cannot be merely functional habitats: they must be truly liveable, enjoyable, comfortable environments for those who live there. They need to be serviced by – and not in the service of – the latest technology. This episode, the sixth in the series, looks at the evolution of cities, and how they will continue develop in the future, taking lessons from the past and building back better after the pandemic. 

In this episode, Urban Matters host Tom Miles welcomes Lord Norman Foster, a world-renowned British architect, and Dr Oleg Golubchikov, Reader in Human Geography at Cardiff University in Wales, for an insightful conversation from two leading thinkers on this topic.

For more information:

The UNECE official website: https://unece.org/

The UNECE publication People-Smart Sustainable Cities can be purchased here:

https://shop.un.org/books/people-smart-sustainable-cities-92292

And an executive summary is available here: https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/hlm/documents/2020/ECE_HBP_2020_12-E.pdf

To read more about Lord Norman Foster, visit his foundation’s page at:  https://www.normanfosterfoundation.org/

Dr Oleg Golubchikov’s profile is available here :  

https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/people/view/87896-golubchikov-oleg

Urban Matters - Smart City Profiles

Urban Matters - Smart City Profiles

April 7, 2021

How do you know whether your city is sustainable and “smart”? How to ensure that the use of data and smart technologies benefits city inhabitants? How to plan and build smart cities so that they are people-centred?

This episode, the fourth in the series, focuses on the evaluation of cities’ performance using the Key Performance Indicators for Smart Sustainable Cities (KPIs for SSC), a United Nations standard on smart sustainable cities, on the preparation of Smart Sustainable Cities Profiles based on the evaluation. An analysis using the KPIs allows conducting a comprehensive assessment of smartness and sustainability of cities, taking into account the economy, society and environment, with a cross-cutting thread of information and communication technologies.

So how does it feel to live in a smart city? What benefits does it bring to people? How do we avoid the pitfalls associated with collecting vast amounts of data about city life: how do we protect people’s privacy and ensure that we use the data to develop evidence-based policies?

In this episode, Urban Matters host Tom Miles talks to Agata Krause, an expert on sustainable urban development and sustainable smart cities; and Kristian Mjøen, Executive Secretary of the Centre for Sustainable Development at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology; and Coordinator of the Geneva UN Charter Centre of Excellence on SDG City Transition in Trondheim, Norway.

For more information:

The UNECE official website: https://unece.org/

The UNECE webpage on Sustainable and smart cities for all ages: https://unece.org/sustainable-and-smart-cities-all-ages

For more information about Geneva UN Charter Centres of Excellence: https://unece.org/housing/charter-centres

Urban Matters - Informal Settlements

Urban Matters - Informal Settlements

March 31, 2021

This third episode looks at the phenomenon of informal settlements in cities – a wide-ranging term that covers a multitude of different problems, from squatters and unsanctioned construction to slum districts arising from an influx of migrants. People living in informal settlements are often vulnerable because they lack access to basic services such as health, sanitation and schools. But cities often rely on their labour, and the COVID-19 pandemic obliged cities to consider the risk in terms of their whole population – informal or not.

In this episode, Chryssy Potsiou and Steven Nystrom, who have both advised the United Nations on informal settlements, talk about the problem and potential solutions. Chryssy is a professor at the National Technical University of Athens and an honorary president of the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG). And Steven is principal of Florida based Newstream Companies and an expert in property valuation, and he also chaired the Valuation Commission at the FIG.

Chryssy and Steven tell Urban Matters host Tom Miles about the scale of the problem, with an estimated 50 million people living in informal settlements in Europe, and 1 billion worldwide, and why they are optimistic that progress can be made in the decade ahead.

 

For more information:

The UNECE official website: https://unece.org/

Chryssy Potsiou’s biography on the International Federation of Surveyors website: https://www.fig.net/about/meet/president_potsiou.asp

Steven Nystrom’s biography on the NewStream Companies website: http://www.newstreamcompanies.com/site/about-us

Urban Matters - Fire Safety in Buildings

Urban Matters - Fire Safety in Buildings

March 24, 2021

This second episode looks at fire safety, an age-old problem that is still a danger even for the most advanced cities. Fire safety tends to hit the news only when tragedy strikes, but the lessons learned tend to stay local, with little momentum for international best practice.

After 72 people lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire in London, the United Kingdom’s worst fire disaster in a century, Gary Strong decided to take action, forming a coalition of professional bodies into the International Fire Safety Standards Coalition, which quickly grew far beyond the United Kingdom, producing a set of principles that have been proposed for adoption as a UN standard.

In this episode, Gary, who is also Global Building Standards Director at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, talks to Urban Matters host Tom Miles about why fire safety is a vital ingredient in the global trend towards urbanisation, and why there are sometimes obstacles to turning the life-saving fire safety message into real action. He also describes his own family’s lucky escape from a fire, “one of those things you never forget”.

 

For more information:

The UNECE official website: https://unece.org/

The International Fire Safety Coalition: https://ifss-coalition.org/

The UK government website with information about the Grenfell Tower fire: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/grenfell-tower

Urban Matters - The Forum of Mayors

Urban Matters - The Forum of Mayors

March 17, 2021

In this first episode, we find out about cities’ role in global efforts to tackle poverty and climate change, and why the UN convened a “Forum of Mayors” in Geneva in October 2020.

Cities are growing fast. Half the world’s population already lives in urban areas and another 2.5 billion are expected to be living in cities by 2050. The need to manage this growth is reflected in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which seek to make cities more resilient, sustainable, inclusive and safe by 2030.

In this episode, Urban Matters host Tom Miles speaks to Paola Deda, director of UNECE's Forests, Land and Housing Division, and Sami Kanaan, the mayor of the City of Geneva in Switzerland, who co-chaired the Forum of Mayors. Tom asks what role cities are playing, and how that role has changed and how it might change more in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has transformed working habits and disrupted traditional city life. 

For more information:

The UNECE official website: https://unece.org/

The Forum of Mayors: https://forumofmayors.unece.org/index.html

Sami Kanaan on the Geneva Administrative Council’s official site https://www.geneve.ch/fr/autorites-administration/conseil-administratif/membres-conseil-administratif/sami-kanaan

The Sustainable Development Goals https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/development-agenda/ and SDG 11, which is mentioned in the episode: https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal11

Urban Matters Teaser

Urban Matters Teaser

March 15, 2021

A podcast series about sustainable cities from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), which has 56 member states including countries in Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the United States, Canada and Israel.

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