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Public symposium on sustainable urban development
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Thursday, 22 March 2012, 14:00-17:00

Public Symposium on Rio+20

Sustainable Urban Development: Challenges and Issues in Developing Countries

Venue: U Thant International Conference Hall, 3F, United Nations University, Tokyo

Co-organized by: United Nations Centre for Regional Development
United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies

*Symposium will be conducted mainly in English, but simultaneous English-Japanese interpretation will be available.


The aim of the Symposium is to hold a public discussion of issues in sustainable urban development and the role that Japan could play in fostering a global transition towards more sustainable cities. The Symposium could also provide intellectual input to the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).


By 2050, the world population is expected to increase by almost 30 per cent, to a total of 9 billion people. The population living in urban areas, meanwhile, is projected to grow by a staggering 85 per cent (2.9 billion), to 6.3 billion. This would mean an increase in urbanization of more than 75 million people per year, with most of that growth occurring in Asia and Africa. India and China alone will account for 40 per cent of the growth in world urban population from 2005 to 2025. It is inevitable that this rapid increase of urban population will bring enormous economic, social and environmental pressures, resulting in a need for governments to take urgent measures.

Against this backdrop, the United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD) is refocusing its work towards sustainable urban development. Some issues facing cities in developing countries include: greening the local economy; creating a green job work force; providing sustainable urban transport options; developing resource efficient buildings; implementing ICT solutions for smart and connected cities; and fostering waste minimization through a recycling-based society. Through its work on sustainable urban development, UNCRD aims to support the efforts of cities in formulating a vision on the transition towards sustainable cities with green economies. This could be a concrete contribution of UNCRD towards the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development with forward looking solutions to urban challenges on the road from Rio.

The United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) has also taken an active role in the sustainable urban development dialogue. With its Sustainable Urban Futures programme, a focus has been placed on understanding the causes, consequences and solutions to urban environmental problems. Considerable efforts have been made to understand the possibilities of an urban co-benefits approach and a point of particular interest is how and why successful actions can emerge to tackle environmental problems in developing countries. The UNU-IAS also serves as the Secretariat of the International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative (IPSI), which seeks to promote and support socio-ecological production landscapes, which have been shaped over the years by interactions between people and nature. IPSI has been joined by over 100 organizations from around the world in working to achieve its vision of realising societies in harmony with nature.

The Advisory Committee of UNCRD was reconstituted in August 2011 in order to provide guidance on the new orientation of the Centre’s activities. The members of the Advisory Committee are distinguished experts in various fields related to regional development who have made significant contributions to urban policy development. At the Symposium, these noted experts will participate in panel discussions on the challenges and issues facing developing countries as they respond to the pressures of rapid urbanization, globalization, growing social inequity and climate change.

Sustainable urbanization will be one of the principal sub-themes dealt with at Rio+20 as many experts deem that it is in cities where the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost. The debate will not only contribute to Rio+20, but also discuss how cities and their partners can successfully implement the outcomes of the Conference.

Download the Conference report here.

Video podcasts and presentation slides available on the UNCRD website.


14:00 – 14:20 Opening Addresses
Govindan Parayil, Vice-Rector, UN University and Director, UNU-IAS
Official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Japan
Video message from Sha Zukang, Secretary-General of Rio+20, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs
14:20 – 15:20 Part I: Sustainable Urban Management 
Facilitator: Prof. Yoshitsugu Hayashi, Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Nagoya University; and Director, International Research Center for Sustainable Transport and Cities Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Nagoya University

Prof. Monte Cassim, Vice Chancellor, The Ritsumeikan Trust and Professor, Ritsumeikan University
Michael Replogle, Global Policy Director and Founder, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy

Q & A

15:20 – 15:35 Break
15:35 – 16:35 Part II: Natural Resource Management for Sustainable Urban Development
Facilitator: Prof. Kazuhiko Takeuchi, Vice Rector, UN University

Kazuhiko Takemoto, Senior Advisor to the Minister, Ministry of the Environment of the Government of Japan; Senior Fellow and Programme Director, United Nations University-Institute of Advanced Studies

Aban Marker-Kabraji, Asia Regional Director, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Q & A

16:35 – 16:50 Part III: Japanese experience in promoting sustainable cities: Case Study of Kitakyushu

Reiji Hitsumoto (Director, International Environment Strategies Division, Office for International Environmental Strategies, Environment Bureau, City of Kitakyushu)

16:50 – 17:00 Closing Remarks
Chikako Takase, Director, UNCRD

In Part I, Mr. Replogle will present the case for sustainable urban transport options as a key element of sustainable urban development. Looking towards Rio+20, he will present a scenario for Sustainable Development Goals on sustainable transport and draw a roadmap for progress. He will also touch on what role Japanese civil society and the private sector could play in promoting these goals.

In Part II, the attention will shift to natural resource management for sustainable urban development. Natural resource management in cities and their surrounding regions affect the natural environment and sustainability of society. Phenomena such as floods, landslides and water shortages often are the result of uncontrolled deforestation or other land use management decisions which can seriously affect urban welfare. Ecosystem services should be protected and well managed as they are key to the health of cities and their citizens. Furthermore, creation of tree-lined streets and parks bring environmental benefits to cities by controlling air temperature, cleaning the air and providing places for citizens to relax and children to play. Enhanced agricultural production in surrounding areas can reduce food costs and increase food security. Understanding and preserving satoyama landscapes, or so-called socio-ecological production landscapes (SEPLs), that have formed in the areas around human settlements also constitutes a powerful tool for achieving sustainable development.

Mr. Kazuhiko Takemoto and Ms. Aban Marker-Kabraji will speak on the importance of natural resource management in cities and their surrounding areas and how to incorporate this into city planning and development. They will also describe how different stakeholders in Japan can work together towards the implementation of the outcome of Rio+20.

In Part III, Mr. Reiji Hitsumoto will present the case study of Kitakyushu on promoting sustainable cities.

Registration is free and open to the public. For further information, please contact UNU-IAS at unuias[at] or 045-221-2300.
Registration is closed.
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