Dear N-aerus Members and Friends,

we would like to raise your attention to the two Cities Alliance - N-aerus Side Events at the Habitat 3 Regional Meeting in Prague, 16 – 18 March 2016. Both side events are based upon the ongoing work of the 3 N-aerus Working Groups centered on the challenges of governing urbanisation. The 3 working groups are set up in cooperation with the Cities Alliance in the run-up to Habitat 3.

We are looking forward to welcoming you at our side events in Prague!


Wed 16.00 – 17.30 

Debating urban knowledge:

Learnings for Europe 

Important aspects of urbanization have been left out of European urban debates, demonstrated by new forms of emerging governance structures that transcend the perceived formal/informal divide. The appearance of informality impacts on urban development, and triggers discussions on the necessity to link livelihoods, housing and planning discourses for more resilient and equitable urban environments. Recognizing stronger linkages and interdependencies is more productive for policy responses and equitable cities.

A key objective of the planned debate is to facilitate a critical discussion among researchers, practitioners and decision makers in terms of the co-production of knowledge and the specific role of urban research in Europe. We want to use the opportunity to further the debate on global and regional research in understanding urban contexts. We intend to invite brief presentations from the three working groups that are run in collaboration of Cities Alliance and N-AERUS on lessons for governance, informality, and housing and planning.

The three briefs will be followed by an open public debate, open for an interested audience and planned to trigger discussions on more cohesive approaches to urban development while simultaneously recognising diversity and differences.

Questions to both presenters and the plenary will include but not be limited to: 

- What are the divides within current urban debates and how do these contribute to

siloed thinking? Are these differently reflected within the different regions? How

can the different urban agendas and policies contribute to connecting urban

issues? What can we learn from other regions? 

- What role do the SDGs as a first truly international agenda have for the New Urban Agenda (NUA)? How can these be better linked to universal goals in terms of urban development? 

- What will the SDGs and the NUA efficiently demand from urban governments in terms of planning and implementation, but also monitoring achievements? Can indicators be universal, but still locally developed and dynamic? 



Friday 9.00 – 10.30 am

Current challenges and perspectives on city governance, housing and planning policies and informality in the cities of the Global South. A researchers’ viewpoint.

Although there is strong evidence that urbanization can induce significant advancements in cities’ social, economic, cultural and spatial conditions, actions are needed to hasten these achievements and cope with urban growth’s negative consequences. European academic institutions have carried out many research projects co-produced with a wide range of institutions and researchers in the global South and offer several training programmes on urban challenges in such contexts. However, not only have most European governments failed to fully draw on this research and training to design their support programmes and policies, but have also recently been reducing their support for research on and aid in the global South. However, the universalization of the New Urban Agenda under preparation, together with the much-needed post-colonisation of urban research implies that there is much to learn across contexts and cultures; the global South is therefore a thriving terrain with which Europe should upkeep and expand knowledge exchange.

A key objective of the Cities Alliance / N-Aerus collaboration is to open up spaces for discussions among researchers and decision makers. This is intended to demonstrate the need for and utility of research in understanding situations and setting more appropriate recommendations for action, and therefore strengthen relationships between these two categories of actors as well. Brief presentations from each of these three working groups will be used as a basis for discussion involving researchers and policy makers in a two-way process that will disseminate the on-going work of this partnership as well as inform and enrich the process. The overall objectives of the partnership are to produce firstly, work-in process dissemination events in the preparatory phase related to the Habitat III conference; Secondly to convene a side-event in the Conference in Quito itself.

This side event at the Habitat Regional meeting in Prague will present the findings and interim conclusions and recommendations for research and policy-making on three key topics:

Informality: This working group is concerned with the term informality and its dimensions and impacts on urban development and its processes, putting emphasis on the aspects of formal and informal mechanisms of city production. With the basic assumption that in urban development there is an ambiguity between formal and informal development patterns, which co-exist, the working group will present evidence and interim recommendations on (1) the rationale for informality, (2) informal practices and their links to formal processes, and (3) policy responses and their consequences.

Governance/Policy: This working group is critically reflecting on the term of governance and its interpretations for urban development and its processes in a changing social, environmental, and economic context. The group aims to further the debate on a more cohesive and interconnected approach when addressing urban governance by; (1) promoting more realistic and locally adapted aims; (2) recognising diversity and difference within and of urban governance; (3) understanding urban transformations as a result of negotiations between different actors that balance public and private interests.

Housing and Planning: This working group focuses on housing, planning and design transcending the perceived formal/informal divide. It recognizes the frequent divide between housing and planning discourses, as well as the centrality of housing and land to the development of resilient and equitable urban environments. The working group is exploring (1) housing perspectives – marking the role of housing for the reduction of socio-spatial segregation; (2) planning perspectives – urban design and planning vis-à-vis current urbanisation patterns and planning frameworks; and (3) policy perspectives – projects and initiatives for building a more equitable urban development.

Looking forward to exchanging and discussing with you in Prague!

Yours, N-aerus Coordination Team

Cecilia Cabrera, Alexandra Linden and Enrico Michelutti


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