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Earth Institute Holds Summit on Challenges to Urban Sustainability

This year marks the first time in history that half of the world’s population lives in urban regions. By 2030, this proportion is expected to climb to more than 60 percent. In an effort to highlight innovative solutions to the complex urban challenges resulting from this major demographic transformation, the Rockefeller Foundation, along with the Center for Sustainable Urban Development (CSUD), part of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, is sponsoring a month-long series of themed conferences and a high-level ministerial workshop.

The Urban Summit, to be held this July, will convene leaders from the private and public sectors to explore opportunities to foster healthy and sustainable cities. The workshop will be held in September and will bring together ministerial leaders from the finance, health, transportation, environment and housing sectors.

The Rockefeller Foundation conceived of the summit as a way to address public health, shelter, water, sanitation, planning and adaptation to climate change that, because of the accelerated growth of cities, require urgent attention. In the developing world, increasing numbers of migrants are moving between rural areas and crowded urban centers, as well as between cities. These cities, however, often lack the infrastructure or capacity to absorb more residents.

The summit will illuminate and leverage the work already under way to prepare cities, especially in the developing world, to effectively cope with the dramatic growth that has occurred because of globalization and the significant changes in local demographics.

“The Rockefeller Foundation is keenly interested in cities because so many of the world’s poor and vulnerable live in urban areas,” said Darren Walker, vice president of Foundation Initiatives at Rockefeller. “The resilience of cities is a critical variable in the reduction of global poverty, especially in the developing world. If there is faulty infrastructure and inadequate public systems, weak markets and limited opportunity, it becomes exceedingly difficult to build healthy cities where people can have a realistic chance to move out of poverty.”

CSUD will collaborate on identifying organizations and individuals that are pioneering innovative solutions to these problems. In addition, there will be a series of conferences specifically focused on urban regions in the United States. These concurrent meetings will be held at the Rockefeller Foundation’s international conference and study center in Bellagio, Italy.

“The Rockefeller Foundation has a long and inspiring history in finding trailblazing solutions to some of the world’s most formidable problems, including global poverty and disease,” said Elliott Sclar, director of CSUD. “We are thrilled to have been invited to work with them on this important new venture in tackling urban challenges.”

Published: Mar 19, 2007
Last modified: Mar 19, 2007