World Cities Day 2023 - Discussion Panel
The World Cities Day “WCD” is an initiative by UN-Habitat which marks the end of Urban October Activities. Shehersaaz Celebrated “World Cities Day” with a Focus on "Financing a Sustainable Urban Future for All" A vibrant and thought-provoking event was hosted at the Earth Sciences Auditorium of Quaid-e-Azam University. The event brought together experts, artists, and individuals passionate about urban living to commemorate and celebrate the importance of cities and their role in shaping the cities future. The event was organized by Shehersaaz in collaboration with UN-Habitat Pakistan, Adaptation Fund and Quaid e Azam University, Islamabad. The panel discussion featured notable experts including, Mr Jawed Ali Khan, Country Program Manager UN-Habitat Pakistan, Mr Azhar Ul Islam, Vice President, Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Dr. Abbas Moosvi, Research Fellow PIDE, Dr. Beenish Kulsoom, Program Manager PUCCAR, Shehersaaz, Abdul Shakoor Sindhu, Urban Planner and Designer.
The discussion began with Opening remarks of Executive Director, Shehersaaz Ms. Almas Shakoor, she emphasized that time to act is now, to reform the way we are planning and managing our cities.
Anahita Sajjad from Shehersaaz read the UN Secretary General Mr. Antonio Guteress’s message for the WCD: “As we mark World Cities Day, let’s resolve to work together for urban areas that are not engines of growth, but beacons of sustainability, resilience and prosperity for all”
The highlight of the event was a compelling keynote address delivered by Mr. Jawed Ali Khan who emphasized and shared his insights on the critical issues and challenges faced by cities in the 21st century, emphasizing the need for sustainable and inclusive urban development. His words inspired the audience to reevaluate their perspective on city life and the transformative potential of urban environments.
During the Panel discussion Mr. Jawed said that the local government assets need to be made vibrant so that they can be turned from liabilities into assets, culture of free lunch should be abolished and citizens should be made to pay for the services. He said there should be institutions who could deliver, he mentioned that UN-Habitat has implemented a project on Low Carbon Urban Development in Karachi They have developed Green Building Codes in collaboration with NED University and Pakistan Engineering Council, he also mentioned that this initiative has been selected for Global Award to be given in upcoming COP28.
Mr. Azhar said Private sector has never been allowed to grow and prosper. He was of the opinion that we have no dearth of resources but we need to adopt a National Policy of right person for the right job, he also highlighted, No Nation can progress without investing in its Human Resources. Our policy makers should seriously consider why most of the Pakistanis are not satisfied and want to immigrate.
Mr. Abbas gave a historical overview of Urbanization and Industrialization in Pakistan, he told that process of Urbanization started in Pakistan with Green Revolution. He also said that many people blame Bhutto’s Nationalization Policy however, he highlighted that Pakistan achieved highest Industrial growth during the 70’s. While Offering some solutions for strengthening the financial health of local government he proposed that the process of devolution should be taken to its logical conclusion by strengthening Provincial finance commissions and establishing District Finance Commissions on the model of National Finance Commission.
Ms. Almas mentioned a developed and sustainable city is one which every citizen could relate to that is a City that serves the needs of women, children, youth, elderly, people with disability and trans genders.
Dr. Beenish Kulsum opined that local governments have never been taken seriously in Pakistan. They have always been kept resource less entities which always remain at the mercy of provincial governments.
Mr. Abdul Shakoor said that it is highly unlikely that Pakistan will be able to meet its agreed targets for SDG11 that deals with inclusive, safe and sustainable cities and communities. He shared that there can be no city planning and management in absence of reliable data. He suggested that Federal and Provincial Bureaus of Statistics should be made administratively and financially autonomous entities so that they could generate reliable data. He also proposed that local governments should be empowered to collect and utilize property tax and motor vehicle tax to meet their administrative and development budgets.
Another highlight of the event was the Conception of ideal cities envisioned by young Artists who transformed their ideas into paintings.