In his keynote address at the Caribbean Urban Forum’s 10th International Conference, President Irfaan Ali posited that urbanisation must be directly linked to the achievement of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“There must be a common pathway through which urbanisation reflects the attainment of the SDGs,” the President told those gathered on the virtual event held on Wednesday.
This year, the Caribbean Urban Forum or ‘CUF’ is being hosted by the University of Guyana under the theme “Urbanisation: Processes, Policies, and Emerging Challenges.”
The Head of State in his address was keen to mention that urbanisation still remains a challenge for Caribbean nations and in the same vein commended the organisers for presenting a comprehensive agenda that includes consideration for sustainable urbanisation.
“This is a development consideration I deem relevant to all Caribbean countries grappling with a combined need to facilitate new forms of urban development, and at the same time, combating major challenges, such as climate change,” he continued.
He pointed out that Guyana’s urban sector has undergone notable transformation particularly in the development of housing, creating a “tremendous catalytic effect.”
He said that the forum is taking place at a time when Guyana undergoing a new wave of socio-economic change, which will transform the country’s physical setting including its urban landscape.
In that context, President Ali noted that urban planning must be viewed as a means to balance development with other socio-environmental objectives in a manner where everyone’s interest is considered.
For this to happen, the President pointed to the critical need for visionary and transformational leadership.
He added: “This urban transformation that we are all enthusiastic about does not happen independently.
“It requires visionary and transformational leadership and that is what the government under my leadership as president is all about…that is what the governments of many of our Caribbean countries are pursuing…a new vision, bold initiative and transformational thinking.”
Meanwhile, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Professor Paloma Mohammed Martin in her remarks related that CUF 2021 theme is apt as it comes at a time when the world, especially the Caribbean, is likely to continue to face a period of continuous hyper disruptions for years to come.
“This is why we believe that your conference is so important. If we are not already late, then there is an unassailable urgency now, to not only discuss these matters but to begin to tangibly address them,” Professor Mohammed said.
The Caribbean Urban Forum was designed to address specific policy issues within the Caribbean’s urban sector. It will not only support the collaborative efforts of planners in the Caribbean and wider Americas Region but across the globe.
Following the opening ceremony, the CUF sessions will largely be focused on technical presentations by experts in the field of urban planning and allied professions, along with several panel discussion sessions on various issues under the broad thematic area of ‘Urbanisation: Processes, Policies, and Emerging Challenges.’
The focus of the conference is to confront the issue of urbanisation in the Caribbean context with a view to critically examining the range of policy responses to this phenomenon. The dialogue starts with the recognition that the Caribbean is one of the fastest urbanising regions in the world.
Co-hosts of the CUF include the Caribbean Network for Urban and Land Management (CNULM) based at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago; the Central Housing and Planning Authority; The European Union, and other national, regional, and international organisations.