The Commonwealth People’s Forum (CPF) was held at Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka on 9th – 14th November immediately prior to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). CAP was represented at the event by President Christine Platt and Secretary – General, Clive Harridge.
CAP was one of only 6 organisations which was selected to host a seminar during the CPF. The CAP event was entitled “Our Commonwealth Urban Future – priorities for a post 2015 Development Agenda” and brought together a range of speakers from different professional backgrounds. A summary of the event follows.
In opening the workshop Clive Harridge, Secretary General, CAP (Chair) highlighted the report of the UN High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post 2015 Development Agenda which identified the need to put sustainable development at the core of thinking and noted that “Cities are where the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost”. Clive posed the question – ‘How can we make sure that we win this battle?’
In welcoming participants Vijay noted the importance of planners as custodians of the future in taking the long view and being able to make connections between issues. In identifying how imperative it was for the Commonwealth to address urban issues Vijay called on CAP and other civil society organisations to keep urbanisation on the agenda.
Christine highlighted the importance of cities in the Commonwealth and how they will grow in significance in the future. Across the Commonwealth we need more effective frameworks for inclusive economic growth, social equity and sustainable development. Christine concluded that this needs to involve more effective, efficient and equitable public governance as well as a concerted focus on human settlements and the management of cities. Therefore, CHOGM, as representatives of a third of the world’s citizens, should lead not follow in crafting the UN’s post-2015 Development Agenda.
Professor Widyalankara highlighted how important addressing climate change is for the future of our cities and how we need to develop new and innovative approaches to mitigation and adaption. Green growth was identified as a means of fostering economic growth and development while ensuring that natural assets continue to provide the resources and environmental services on which our well-being relies.
Professor Weddikkara highlighted the growth of cities as a major issue and that the future quality of life will be influenced by policy at global, national and local levels. In the context of Sri Lanka Professor Weddikkara noted that although the majority of Sri Lanka’s population lives in rural areas this is changing as more people move to live in cities – however the rate of urbanisation is less than in other South Asian countries. This transition form rural t urban living in Sri Lanka reflects the transition from a rural economy to one based in services and manufacturing. The Government of Sri Lanka’s goal is to develop an interconnected network of well planned cities, towns and villages creating opportunities for a high quality of life. Key areas of concern are the lack of an appropriate data base on human settlements, which is a prerequisite for effective planning, and the need for improved solid waste disposal. Priorities for the future in Sri Lanka include new housing for the urban poor and the introduction of participatory processes.
Mayor Hilmy provided an overview of planning in Sri Lanka and how Kandy and other major cities are being transformed. It is hoped that in future all councils on Sri Lanka will have planners not just the major centres. Sri Lanka is looking at getting support from other Asian local authorities through the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) and the concept of Green Cities is being investigated in Sri Lanka’s Central province.
A wide ranging discussion followed the presentations. One speaker highlighted that in some major cities there was no effective planning - the example of Karachi was given where 35% of the city was inundated in just 6 hours. This had never happened in the past 100 years and is a direct consequence of having no land use management resulting in development taking place in drainage areas. Poor Land Use Management has also led to the contamination of water supplies becoming a critical problem.
Other issues identified by contributors were:
- Migration to cities causes major challenges
- Need for sectoral group on human settlements
- Need for green spaces in cities as a means of helping improve the health of citizens
- Need for integrated approach in coastal settlements
- Need for improved data on urban areas – need to advance the State of the Commonwealth Cities programme
- Need to establish improved ways to manage waste
- Need to support Local Government as a key means of delivering effective planning.
The key issues arising from the seminar were fed into the subsequent sessions of the CPF by Christine Platt and Clive Harridge and were successfully reflected in the final CPF Communiqué (see separate item in What’s New).
Report provided by Clive Harridge.