Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Elites Meet in Kuala Lumpur to Laud "Sustainable Development" & "Diverse Communities"

2018 United Nations Habitat World Urban Forum #9 (WUF9) a Liberal Lovefest

 

March 11, 2018

Christian Borchard, Sustainable Urban Development Officer (Programme Office IKI)

The Opening Ceremony of the 2018 United Nations Habitat World Urban Forum #9 (WUF9) held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia began with the raising of the UN flag and thunderous applause, costumes, dance, and singing as thousands of delegates and "high level persons" (representing 165 of the193 countries signed on to the UN 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development) convened in the large Convention Center's main auditorium. In UN fashion, UN security guards welcomed high-level badge holders to participate in the ceremony while thousands more could only watch the ceremony on their smartphones. Prince Charles sent a special video message to UN Ministers, Delegates, city planners, and stakeholders stating with urgency, "Now is the time to implement the New Urban Agenda." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RoO_fMB6oo&t=28s

The New Urban Agenda (NUA) is a global plan of governance for "Sustainable Development" – man-made global warming and "Climate Change" is the culprit of planetary destruction but living in "resilient", "inclusive", "diverse", "sustainable", "equitable", "smart", "walkable", "liveable", "carbon neutral" Cities by the year 2030 is the solution.

Thus, the theme of this year's UN Habitat Conference is "Cities 2030, Cities for All: Implementing the New Urban Agenda." WUF 9 will be the first session to focus on the implementation of the NUA.

WUF9 embraced the new UN Habitat Executive Director, who received a standing ovation. Maimunah Mohd Sharif of Malaysia is "the first Asian woman to be appointed" to such a position and "is a champion of Gender Responsive Participatory Budgeting to integrate gender perspectives into the governance process as a tool to mainstream gender into budgetary and development policy and planning" according to UNHabitat.org. Earlier in the day, Ms. Sharif spoke to a full room of UN Ministers and a "High Level" panel (which included Neal Rackleff, Assistant Secretary in the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development).

Like Prince Charles, she urged attendees a "successful deliberation" and implementation of the NUA adding, now that she is in her new role, "I need to walk the talk with you." As an awarded "Planner," she has spent her career in Planning and Development for growing urban populations. ICLEI, a UN-NGO actively involved in facilitating climate action plans while influencing policy in cities across the United States, describes Ms. Sharif, as a "key leader in ICLEI's work on climate change." Ms. Sharif emphasized the role of the youth in global plans and the need "to localize the Sustainable Development Goals" as she looks forward to upcoming meetings in New York.

There is a high level of security presence here; bomb and HAZMAT squads and vehicles, hundreds of Malaysian police and UN police surround the outside and inside of the Convention Center. Similar to airport security, purses and bags are electronically scanned. One must go through a metal detector. Participants are photographed and I.D. badges are swiped like credit cards in scanners as one enters and exits the convention.

And, even with such serious sounding security, convention staff and attendees are happy and excited to play a role in WUF9. They see the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as achievable knowing Goal 11 ("Sustainable Cities and Communities") lies at the heart of implementation since people and "collective action" are the necessary drivers of such goals. It's a numbers game the UN describes as "No one left behind" echoed by President Obama back on September 27, 2015 in his remarks about "Sustainable Development." The vision is 70% of the world's population will be living and working in megacities by the year 2050. In the United States, according to WUF9 speaker and University of Pennsylvania Professor Eugenie Birch (Associate Editor, Journal of the American Planning Association) that number is approximately 80% of Americans who will live in cities.

When it comes to President Trump and the United States, the hopeful, happy demeanor at the conference turns into sarcasm, disappointment, and/or joking. We asked a New York UN police officer what he thought about Trump's attempt to pull out of the Paris agreement and he wryly smiled as he mimed locking his lips shut. He said, "Just wait, things will change" suggesting the US is not done with the Paris Agreement. We asked NextCity CEO and former director of the New Jersey Regional Plan Association, Tom Dellasio, about President Trump, and he rolled his eyes.

Kuala Lumpur

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, funded by the Ford Foundation and "seeks to improve quality of life through the effective use, taxation, and stewardship of land" said "American cities should go it [climate change policy] alone." We interviewed University of Pennsylvania Professor Eugenie Birch, who had a similar but disappointed response, "Trump took away needed funded" for NUA implementation. When discussing the 20% of people who will live in rural America, land use, biodiversity, and heavy regulations like the Clean Water Act, Professor Birch stated that "[American] farmers have gotten away with murder" polluting water resources. In a breakout session about linking international cities, European Union panelists of mayors and city planners joked about Americans and the United States: "we're not sure what happened to North America [audience laughter] but we're trying to make Sustainable Development great again" followed by more audience laughter.

The official opening day of WUF9 was filled with many hours deliberating, discussing, and agreeing to plans and implementation policies for our future – a sustainably developed one "with no one left behind." It ended with hours of pouring rain, flooding, and traffic gridlock. Perhaps the carbon footprint of an estimated 30,000 WUF9 registrants making plans about our future caused a man-made Climate Change downpour in Malaysia.

 

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