Today, the whole world celebrates the World Cities Day, thanks to the joint efforts of the Chinese government, the UN and the BIE. This new Day aims at raising awareness on the challenges of rapid urbanization (in a few years, three quarters of the world population will be living in cities) and showcasing sustainable solutions to improve life in cities.
The idea to create such a day was suggested by Expo Shanghai 2010, the first Expo dedicated to the issue of urbanization. After 4 years of hard work, we hope the World Cities Day will contribute to the "New Urban Agenda" set by the UN.
Mr. Cheng Jian, in charge of news and promotion of the World Cities Day celebration, tells us about the objectives of this new World Day.
Mr. Cheng Jian, could you tell us about the story behind the World Cities Day?
Mr. Cheng Jian: The story starts with the Shanghai Declaration, presented during the Summit Forum, on October 31st 2010, the closing day of Expo Shanghai. The declaration, which was jointly issued by the UN, the BIE and the executive committee of the Expo, summed up the intellectual legacies of the exhibitions, events and forums that were held during the Expo. The declaration aims to be a useful roadmap for urban sustainable development.
A key element of this declaration, a milestone in the history of Expos actually, was the proposal to create a World Cities Day to recall, renew and advance the ideas and practices presented in the Expo. The ambition was to create a day that would inspire humankind in its enduring pursuit of urban innovation and harmonious development.
What are the objectives of the World Cities Day in 2014 with the theme "Leading urban transformation" and what are its objectives in the long term?
The whole world, and especially cities in developing countries, is currently facing a major urban shift that comes with great challenges and opportunities. The theme "Leading urban transformations" aims at raising awareness on the great development opportunities of a well thought sustainable urbanization. This Day aims at building a platform for developing countries to cooperate with each other and for developed countries to share experiences and help other countries to address urban transformation.
In the long term, the World Cities Day is expected to facilitate international cooperation among different cities worldwide, to bring about innovation and creativity for the sustainable development of cities, and to reinforce the role of the civil society in the development of solutions to urban challenges.
Could you tell us about the month of Urban October?
UN-Habitat has designated the entire month of October as Urban October, in order to address a wide range of urban-related issues and share knowledge and experience. Urban October - 31 days of promoting a Better Urban Future, aims at raising awareness, promoting participation, generating knowledge and engaging the international community towards a "New Urban Agenda".
Urban October consists of three major events organized by UN-Habitat: the World Habitat Day, which took place on 6 October 2014; the Urban Thinkers Campus that was held from 15-18 October in Carseta, Italy; and the World Cities Day. Alongside these main dates, UN-Habitat partners have organized local, regional and national events all around the world.
What is the difference between the World Habitat Day and the World Cities Day?
Both world days are the perfect setting for governments and partners to organize and promote actions and activities on sustainable urban development. Both world days are for raising interest on urban challenges and opportunities in the media and communications networks. Both days stimulate debates and encourage new commitments.
However, the two days focus on different issues. The World Habitat Day is to reflect on the state of cities and towns and the basic human right to adequate shelter. The World Cities Day aims at raising awareness on the importance of urbanization for development and at encouraging cooperation among countries to address urban challenges in a sustainable way.
How is Shanghai celebrating this first edition of the World Cities Day?
Shanghai is celebrating the World Cities Day at the Expo Park (in the former site of Expo 2010) with about 300 participants. Attendees include high-level officials from the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and other national governmental institutions in China, top officials from UN-Habitat and other UN agencies, Mayors and representatives of various cities around the world, representatives of universities, research institute, experts and scholars, and the media. During the afternoon, 6 forums linked to urbanization will be held.
How are the Chinese Government, the Shanghai Municipal People's Government and the UN working together in the celebration of this day?
This first World Cities Day is hosted by Shanghai Municipal People's Government, in collaboration with the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, China and UN-Habitat. The Shanghai Municipal Government set up a coordination center for World Cities Day to organize celebrations, forums and other events during Urban October and a promotional campaign was launched to create momentum around the event.
The center launched an official website (www.world-cities-day.org). A short promotion film was shot and broadcasted in the city center as well as in many indoor and outdoor public advertising screens. We also printed 50,000 World Cities Day promotion posters and put them up in Shanghai's main streets and buildings. A World Cities Day Arts Promotion Week, was held from October 20 till the 28th: 5 concerts and 6 dramas and music shows on an open stage, have enriched the art life of the city and promoted the recognition of the World Cities Day. Overseas, promotional operations such as the month-long photo exhibition entitled "The Charm of Shanghai" co-hosted with the Coordination Center of World Cities Day, in Cologne and Houston, will give visitors a very deep impression.