By 2060 it is estimated that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in towns and cities, and it is imperative that governments work to reverse the effects of urban poverty through access to safe water and affordable housing. Good governance and the development of innovative environmental practices were also identified as key challenges.
Professor Simon served as keynote speaker at the opening of the Urban Researcher’s Roundtable on Climate Change & Cities. As a committee member of the Urbanisation Project at the International Human Dimensions programme on Global Environmental Change (GEC), he also co-organised a session on ‘Cities of the South: Localising GEC’. In addition, the Professor served as a panellist on the issue of humanitarianism in urban development, as well as being part of the ‘Harmonising Built and Natural Environments’ forum. Professor Simon noted that in contrast to previous World Urban Forums, environmental concern was rightly being recognised as a top priority.
The decision to host WUF in Nanjing is particularly apt: Professor Simon observed that the city is at the heart of modern China’s urban and cultural development, with big business competing to offer the most ‘glitzy, hypermodern visions of remarkably western-style urbanity’.
Prior to the conference, Professor Simon travelled to Bangkok to work with the staff of UN-HABITAT’s Disaster Management Programme on integrating their emergency relief projects with emerging urban development issues.