The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


The Prospects and Challenges of the SDGs in Asian Cities

24 February 2016


Experiencing the largest wave of urbanisation in human history, a majority of Asia’s overall population will be living in urban areas by 2030. Effective urban management is needed to address the unparalleled growth of Asian megacities. Creating a balance between the benefits and costs of urbanisation with a view to improving the quality of urban life is becoming increasingly important. Within this context, the Urban Knowledge Network Asia (UKNA) was formed as an inclusive network of scholars and practitioners engaged in collaborative research on cities in Asia, particularly India and China. The main objective of UKNA is to study how Asian cities, as socio-spatial identities, can manage their space and improve their livability.

In February the DPU hosted a UKNA symposium on Asian cities and the challenges of sustainable development, specifically on the prospects and challenges of meeting Goal 11 of the newly launched SDGs “to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. This important and timely topic was discussed by presenters who have received support from the UKNA for their research.

The symposium began on Thursday 18th with a closed meeting between DPU led by Kamna Patel, and UKNA members meeting with representatives from our Chinese and European partners. The meeting was a great chance to come together as network coordinators and to reflect on the successes of the UKNA programme, which comes to a close on 31 March 2016, and to plan how best to build the network for the future. Discussions focused on concrete ways to develop the network including proposals to fund researcher exchanges. DPU is committed to contributing to the deepening of the UKNA network.

DPU hosted the open symposium title ‘The Prospects and Challenges of the SDGs in Asian Cities on Friday 19th. The event was divided into four sessions, with each session focusing on a specific theme.

Session 1 focused on urbanisation and sustainable development, featuring talks from Prof. Yves Cabbanes (DPU) and Amogh Arakali (IIHS). Yves spoke on ‘lessons learned on SDGs from a massive poverty reduction programme in Bangladesh’, while Amogh discussed ‘The Urbanising Commons: Changing socio-economic and political institutions around the wetlands and water bodies of Bengaluru’. You can listen to session 1 in our podcast below.

The second session explored the theme of access to transport and housing. Daniel Oviedo (DPU) discussed ‘Transport governance of the 'International best practice': Parallels between BRT developments in Ahmedabad and Bogota’, while Nikhilesh Sinha (DPU) spoke on 'Renting in the Divided City': Policy, exclusion and rental in Hyderabad, India’.

The afternoon began with session 3 which explored issue surrounding governance and eco-politics. Speakers were Le-Yin Zhang (DPU) who discussed ‘The Political Economy of (S)low Carbon Transition: The Experience of Shanghai’, and Prof Bing Zhang (CAUPD) delivered a lecture on ‘Ecological Restoration: Community Coordination and Upgrading Development’, focusing on the case study of Dongguan in China.

The final session of the day dealt again with governance, though this time through the lens of everyday resistance, featuring talks from Kamna Patel (DPU) (‘the role of the 'paralegal' in engendering resistance to legal tenure security in Ahmedabad’), and Dr Lila Oriard and Karol Yanez (DPU) ‘Everyday spaces of resistance: Building a community system in Bapunagar, India’.

All of the podcasts are available through our Mixcloud account here, and the images can be viewed on Flickr here