More than 3,500 world leaders, 54 mayors from across the globe and experts are set to gather in Singapore for the third biennial World Cities Summit (WCS) than runs from July 1 through July 4.
The summit is based on the theme of “Liveable and Sustainable Cities – Integrated Urban Solutions” and will bring participants together to discuss the latest technologies, trends on urbanization in the world and how to forge new partnerships among cities.
Begun in 2008, the summit gathers international and local leaders to address their urban issues, such as infrastructure, housing and the environment and how best to receive them.
The WCS Expo will be showcasing model cities and the innovative urban solutions and technologies for smarter cities of the future. The summit also will provide an international platform for mayors, government officials and urban experts to share their thoughts on urban development, including solutions to high-rise and high-density living in cities.
The executive director of the Centre for Liveable Cities, Khoo Teng Chye, a major participant in the summit says that by 2050, about 70 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities.
“This creates enormous pressure to ensure that infrastructure, housing, service and the environment are able to meet the needs of current and future generations,” Khoo said. “To tackle these pressures head-on, it is increasingly insufficient to address fundamental challenges on water, environment, waste and other components separately.
“What will now set cities apart is how they can creatively address these separate components together as a whole for sustainable growth and a better quality of life,” Chye said before moving on to various other topics.
What is the Centre for Liveable Cities and why is it needed?
The Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC) was set up in 2008 based on a strategic blueprint developed by Singapore’s Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development. The Centre’s mission is to distill, create and share knowledge on liveable and sustainable cities. CLC distills key learning points from Singapore’s experiences over the last half-century, while creating knowledge to address emerging urban challenges. The Centre believes that as the world urbanizes and high-density urban environments become the norm in many emerging regions, Singapore can share a lot from its experience in developing and managing a highly dense and highly liveable city. The Centre is dedicated to advancing thought leadership in this area. To this end, CLC actively promotes the sharing of knowledge with other cities and urban researchers.
How can the World Cities Summit affect and effect change in the world?
The World Cities Summit is an important platform for world leaders and experts to exchange new ideas on liveable and sustainable urban solutions, explore the latest technologies and forge new business partnerships. The Summit has the theme of “Liveable and Sustainable Cities – Integrated Urban Solutions”. It is expected to share new insights and trends on urbanization challenges around the world.
To date, 88 mayors and governors have confirmed their attendance for the World Cities Summit Mayors Forum, up from 32 in 2010. This significant increase is testament to the growth in importance of the Summit and city leaders’ interest in sharing ideas and solutions with each other. The Summit will see the participation of government leaders from all regions along with prominent industry experts, leading academics and representatives of international organizations. We are also seeing higher participation from emerging cities.
The World Cities Summit will be co-located with the 5th Singapore International Water Week and the inaugural CleanEnviro Summit Singapore. These three events together provide an integrated platform for government leaders and industry experts to share innovative solutions on sustainability. This combined platform will attract 14,000 delegates and encourage government and industry leaders to take a more strategic view towards urban development rather than employing narrow sectoral solutions.
One new aspect of this year’s Summit is the strong facilitation of business collaborations. New In-Focus sessions on China, India, Southeast Asia and Japan will serve as platforms for government leaders and industry solutions providers to share opportunities and solutions on urban infrastructure and services. The World Cities Summit supports the Public-Private-Partnership as an effective model to build liveable and sustainable cities.
What is the most pressing issue facing cities?
I believe that cities need to focus seriously on two key areas to improve both their current liveability and long-term resilience. The first imperative is integrated master planning and development. This goes beyond the making of physical plans. It addresses the need to optimise planning decisions such that the outcomes for the environment, economy and quality of life can be balanced, especially when there is a scarcity of resources. Beyond good planning, development – or the execution of plans – is critical. In order to think and act sustainably, we must think long-term, and cities need to use planning to do this effectively, while building in some operational flexibility in the plan, in order to respond to changing circumstances.
The second imperative is Dynamic Urban Governance. Singapore’s governance model emerges from the needs and constraints of a resource-challenged, economically vulnerable city-state. It is distinguished by the efficient provision of basic services to citizens, and sound institutions for development and coordination. Some key qualities of dynamic urban governance include political will and pragmatism, a culture of integrity and innovation, good institutions, involving the community as stakeholders, and working with markets.
What is the most pressing issue facing countries?
We are seeing more cities rise as key players on the global stage, demanding their voices to be heard. Countries that are not acknowledging the growing influence of cities will be ill-placed for the new global paradigm. It is urgent that national governments consult and align strategies with their cities, especially with their leading metropolitan regions, as the latter would be the national opportunity generators for the decades to come.
What would you say is the “greenest” city in the world?
“Green” can encompass many things – an environmentally sustainable city, a city with substantial green lungs, a city with eco-conscious citizens. There are several cities that have done good work in this area, and one of our objectives is to learn from these cities and share this knowledge with others. One of the ways that we do this is through the biennial Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, which is held in conjunction with the World Cities Summit. The inaugural prize went to the city of Bilbao two years ago, and this year, New York City was the winner. Cities that have received special mentions for this prize over the two cycles include Curitiba, Melbourne, New Delhi, Copenhagen, and Vancouver, among others. These are all “green” cities. This range suggests there is no single model for cities, and that there cannot be one “greenest” city, but rather that each city is unique and must find the best path for itself at each given point in time. These cities were recognized for the ways they have tackled their respective challenges. You may refer to the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize Lecture website for details on the criteria for the prize.
What do you consider a liveable city is? Transportation, housing, employment?
The CLC looks at a liveable city in the form of an iceberg. The top of the iceberg are outcomes cities aspire to achieve, they are “sustainable environment”, “competitive economy” and “high quality of life”, and a balancing and optimization of these three factors will bring about liveability in a city. However, to create and sustain these liveable outcomes, we need strong governance and integration, these are principles not so apparent but extremely fundamental and we illustrate them as the portion of the iceberg beneath the water surface.