C16-37/1- Complex Urban Systems and processes of cities’ transformation
Urban systems have seen radical changes in recent decades and will continue to do so. How are various national, continental and global urban systems changing - particularly in relation to such features as city size, economy, migration, interaction, linkage, communication, transport and control functions? What processes and differential development paths are involved and how have different government policies affected these changes? Previous Urban Commissions have produced a large body of work on the urban systems of individual countries. This work will be extended to incorporate updated national and international comparisons and recognizes the accelerated growth of a limited number of global command centers in the highly connected world of electronic communications, finance, trade, and rapid travel. In addition, we must seek solutions for those cities that are left behind by these changes.
C16-37/2- Technological innovations, creative activities in cities
Urban economies are evolving quickly, with the growth of the “service” sectors and new activities in science, technology, commerce, communication, media, art and design. Why do these activities concentrate in some cities and how do these new “clusters” integrate within existing economic, social and environmental contexts? Can one identify cycles in these economic trends?
C16-37/3- Innovative, smart building and transportation in cities
Can we identify “smart cities”? How stress the criteria in terms of governance, planning, economy to qualify smart cities? As a result of new technologies are all cities become “smart”? Does this “smart” growth benefit the entire city or does it increase polarization and fragmentation? Does it alter the morphology and structure of urban areas and can it lead to new forms of urban society?
C16-37/4- Polycentrism, small and medium size cities
At national or regional scales, small and medium size cities have very different issues depending on their proximity to large cities. In remote areas, small and medium size cities often lack higher education, and advanced services, that lead many young people to leave never to return. These places find it difficult to attract investment and are often by-passed in favor of larger more accessible locations. How can these places find new dynamism? Can they counter increasing concentration in metropolises? Can they provide an alternative approach or insight for sustainable urban systems? On the other hand if one focuses on a more city-region scale, small and medium size cities around the metropolises constitute new urban spaces such as “edge” or "edgeless cities” that remain under the influence of the central metropolis. What is the future of such places? To what extent are new polycentric patterns emerging and what is the likely impact on sustainability and spatial equity?
C16-37/5- Sustainable to resilient cities
Can sustainability be tackled at the urban scale? What the concept of “resilience” adds to the one of sustainability in order to orient urban policies? What progress is being made by cities around the world in the development of new programs and policies to create more resilience? How can these solutions be evaluated at various spatial scales? What are the emerging best practices for cities, from smart growth to green solutions etc., at national or regional scales and what are the problems that restrict progress in implementing more these effective policies?
C16-37/6- Shrinking and aging Cities
A serious new problem has emerged in some cities of the developed world. The declining birth rate of industrialized countries is creating many settlements with increasingly aging and declining populations. What are the effects of this trend upon the functions and character of these cities, especially their infrastructures and levels of social provision? What policies are emerging in cities around the world affected by this problem to cope with these changes? How can so-called “shrinking cities” manage their future?
C16-37/7- Urban Governance, planning and participative democracy
It is an unfortunate, but undeniable, fact that most large urban agglomerations are not permitted to govern by their citizens. Control over revenues and investments is shared with other levels of government and/or fragmented among dozens of small municipal units within the metropolitan area. Inevitably these political arrangements affect the spatial structure of infrastructure and public services, including planning. We must explore the spatial issues that detract from good urban governance, and investigate the utility of emerging administrative solutions seen in many countries, such as the ‘new regionalism’ that seeks to provide a new spatial solution to the provision of services. In parallel, citizens are becoming more organized and becoming more active and involved in decision making at the neighborhood level. This activism affects the way urban planning functions and is bound to have impacts on cities’ future. This will also affect urban areas beyond the limits of the traditional city.
C16-37/8- Contested Social Spaces
The increasingly multi-layered social and ethnic character of cities has led to more intricate life spaces within cities, and increased the potential for conflicts among various groups. Since many communities, made up of either Diasporas or cosmopolitans, exhibit strong intra-community cohesion, this may threaten other communities. How can we measure these new patterns and changes and make effective international comparisons? Where and when do conflicts emerge? How can differences between the various actors in these spaces be reconciled, ensuring that local communities are themselves empowered, rather than simply passive recipients of change from forces beyond their control? Is it possible for all groups to live in tolerance with one another?
C16-37/9- Subjective/Objective well-being in cities
In the past, cities survived because of their ability to create secure environments, community cohesion and they permitted individual self-development for their citizens. In many contemporary cities, social fragmentation, crime rates, anti-social behavior, ethnic conflict, huge distance to work, and environmental issues, threaten to make them less livable, despite apparent solutions such as gated communities or higher levels of surveillance, which create more private spaces and segregation. Part of the explanation for these trends may be the right to the city for all citizens, an over growth of urban areas, the economic development, unequal income distributions in which the lower income groups struggle to survive or maintain their position and the wealthy create exclusive areas. Several key problems emerge from these changes. How we can best conceptualize and measure the subjective and objective well-being in cities? How do we make international and national comparisons of the cities well-being? Can we apply the best practices from cities that have successfully overcome these problems to other cities and societies, as well as linking these problems to our understanding of the new forms of urban social space?
C16-37/10- Urban Heritage and Conservation
The distinctive identity of many cities and societies depends upon their historical heritage, as expressed in their built fabric. How can these identities be understood and interpreted? What are the policies that support the preservation of these heritages, yet still provide livable and affordable spaces in these areas, instead of allowing historic areas and city centers to be overwhelmed by homogenised tourism?
C16-37/11- New concepts and methods in urban studies
As the world changes there seems to be more and more data and more and more things to measure. There are new forms of economic activity, increasing levels of personal and corporate communication, increasing mobility of capital and people, increasing levels of internet usage, increasing levels of e-commerce, and increasing levels of electronic participation in democracy. All of these have the potential to transform the interurban and intra-urban realms in which we live. Big data may help our understanding of many urban problems, but there is also a need for increasing conceptual and methodological sophistication to deal with these changes. New theories, approaches, methods and techniques are needed if we are to fully understand the urban world of the twenty-first century.
C16-37-20-Urban Health and Well Being: a system approach
joined session with C16.20 Commission on Health and Environment
Supported by the International Council of Science (ICSU) commission "Urban Health and Well Being: a system approach "
The world has become our urban home. In 2015 54% of human population lived in cities and by 2050 this percentage is projected to increase to almost 80%. This development creates new risks and challenges but also opportunities for achieving urban health and wellbeing and global sustainability – a struggle which will be won or lost in cities, as former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon argued.
Despite globally improving indicators for health, there are newly emerging risks to health and wellbeing in cities as well as to planetary health which threaten our development achievements to date and, unless managed by taking advantage of the positive opportunities that urban life offers, may undermine our ability to respond to future challenges. All regions of the world are experiencing demographic shifts towards an older population and epidemiologic shifts from infectious to non- communicable diseases, like obesity, allergies and immuno-regulatory disorders. Built and natural environmental factors, often more intense in cities, have increased a rise in stress-related and other mental health disorders, and conditions in planetary health are increasing premature deaths related to air, water, food and noise pollution. Road traffic accidents outside cities and pedestrian deaths in cities are major causes of mortality as well as decreasing quality of life in cities because they are not built for an ageing society. While cities offer opportunities for cost effective service delivery, concentrated economic development and social engagement, as well as health promoting land use decisions, this only happens when the governance of cities is robust and growth is managed. These approaches must be encouraged as we increase our focus on cities, hundreds of thousands of people in cities may continue to be marginalized and live in poverty, with restricted access to public goods and services. Migration into cities is an issue for urban infrastructure which may create rural pockets left barren and underdeveloped, while the links between cities and their rural surroundings are an increasing focus of urban development in areas like food systems, energy exchange and water-sanitation. Looking at these challenges from an ecological framework: we see individual agent-based vs social agent-based processes; we see political-sociological-psychological processes embedded in the larger system presenting new opportunities and challenges.
The challenges will not be tackled by ‘business as usual’ approaches and by ways of thinking under which the problems we are facing today were created in the first place, in particular by thinking in silos. In order to master the challenges, it is necessary to perceive them as emerging from interconnected networks of causes and effects across various scales. Complexity theories of cities, human mind and ecology have come of age and offer new concepts, models and methods for addressing the challenges to urban and planetary health we are facing today. Cities are open, complex, self-organizing, social-ecological-technological systems and the systems of thinking and inquiry we apply to them; need to reflect the same level of structural complexity in order to find sustainable solutions.