6 Urban Research and Knowledge Symposium


Cities of Tomorrow: Framing the Future
Barcelona, Spain October 8-10, 2012

Concept Note Introduction and Background 1. Over the past few years, the global policy debate on urbanization has started transforming from being primarily concerned about managing the ills of urbanization towards one that focuses on harnessing the gains from urban transformation. Recognizing the transformative nature of urbanization, the World Bank and partners launched an Urbanization Knowledge Platform (UrbKP) in January 2011 with the aim of (1) Convening and connecting policymakers, practitioners and researchers across „sectors‟ to foster the creation of a global urban community of practice, and to assess constraints and priorities for urbanization; (2) Co-generating knowledge products that will close knowledge gaps on complex urban issues under debate, and influence policy reforms in developing client countries; (3) Facilitating access to citylevel data sets for cross-city comparisons and new policy insights. 2. Initial stocktaking under the UrbKP suggests that many unanswered questions still remain on the choice, timing, sequence and location of policy instruments and investments that can help developing countries harness the benefits from urbanization. There are issues on how to enhance economic efficiency and environmental sustainability, while balancing social and spatial equity. As many developing countries are rapidly urbanizing at a time when governments have limited administrative and fiscal capacities, underlying land markets and legal institutions to enable an efficient urban expansion are incipient. In addition, external environments (both natural and economic) are rapidly changing. As a result, policymakers require access to information that will help them make difficult choices today, which will generate the “least regret” at later stages of development. Innovations and technology have an important role in enhancing the set of options, but they need to be combined with institutional capacities and other development objectives. Objectives and Modalities 3. The sixth Urban Research and Knowledge Symposium (URKS6) “Cities of Tomorrow: Framing the Future” – will contribute to inform policy choices that can help policymakers manage potential economic efficiency, environmental sustainability and social equity tradeoffs associated with urbanization. 4. How? o Commission “Knowledge Frontier” survey papers by “experts” in both research and practice. 1

o Organize debates among researchers, private sector practitioners, and policymakers (i.e. “confronting aspirations with evidence”). o Promote empirical evidence and analytic work from developing and developed countries to highlight how urbanization challenges and policy options vary across levels of development and institutional capacities. o Showcase practitioner-led innovations that have helped in economic and social transformation of cities (such as “Urbiotics,” i.e. the application of Information Communication Technology (ICT) to cities). o Contribute to developing a research program to deal with long-term urbanization challenges. 5. URKS6 is part of a broader analytic and evidence based research program conducted by the World Bank and its network of partners. Previous Urban Research Symposia have been designed to stimulate the production and dissemination of urban-city research with emphasis on practical applications that can help policy-making in developing countries. Launched in 2002, these Symposia have provided a setting for researchers from developed and developing countries to share their work, conclusions and preoccupations, and to discuss themes that are relevant for both academic scholars and policy-makers. The URKS6 format has been set up in a manner that will facilitate moderated discussions among policymakers, researchers and the private sector. The URKS6 is expected to attract over 1,000 participants. 6. The URKS6 sessions will include : o Opening plenary sessions organized around commissioned papers. o Moderated panels featuring researchers, practitioners, and policymakers around the themes outlined below. o Technical sessions on methodologies/ empirics/ case studies led by researchers (with preference to those in developing countries). o Field visits to learn how the host city Barcelona is planning to transform its spatial constraints into economic opportunities. o Showcase private sector led innovations to understand how urban projects can leverage and benefit from collaboration with private-sector industries. o Closing plenary session. o <<A side event of knowledge and learning around these themes is being considered for WB staff, which may also include staff from other IFIs.>> 7. To capitalize on the wealth of research and information generated with this event, post-symposium Regional research discussions will take place in key cities such as Singapore, and in countries of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. All papers and presentations will be posted on the website of the symposium. Key speaker papers and papers submitted by participants will be published as the proceedings of the URKS6. Research and innovation awards are being considered to encourage participation from active practitioners and researchers working on these issues. Indicative themes and questions


8. Below is a list of themes and questions that will help understand synergies and tradeoffs between urbanization and economic growth, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. These themes place the role of individual cities within a broader urban system, debate the time horizon to examine sustainability, identify synergies between sustainability and broader urban planning, examine tradeoffs and prioritization of urban investments, and look at lessons learned from private sector innovations. 8.1. Economic Structure How to effectively confront the opportunities and threats of the systems of cities, and maximize cities‟ comparative advantages in a positive sum game that contributes to local and national objectives of job creation, innovation and entrepreneurship; 8.2. Social Structure How to effectively address the social dimensions of cities in the face of uncertainty, and reduce persistent inefficiency, and social exclusion associated with demography, migration, social mobility, among others; 8.3. Physical Structure How to maximize national and local benefits of urbanization and mitigate its negative impacts in the context of a city‟s physical structure, considering elements such as urban planning (form, density, optimum size, etc.), transportation systems, energy and resource efficiency, among others. Two cross-cutting clusters: 8.4. Governance How to define the most effective and efficient allocation of functional responsibilities and partnerships among various levels of government and stakeholders in different political economies; how can metropolitan management be made more effective for sustainable urban development in the face of uncertainty; 8.5. Sustainability How to enable environmental sustainability, and effectively plan, develop and manage livable, productive and inclusive cities in the face of climate change and other unexpected challenges; and what are the key urban policies and lessons from cities that could help inform rapidly urbanizing cities in developing countries to achieve sustainability. Symposium: October 8-10, 2012 Conference venue: Barcelona Conference Centre, Fira de Barcelona Avda. Reina Maria Cristina s/n 08004 Barcelona


Annex A: Past Urban Research Symposium Urban Date Place Research Symposium First May 2002 Washington, DC, USA Second December 2003 April 2005 Washington, DC, USA Brasilia, Brazil Washington, DC, USA Marseille, France




Fourth Fifth

May 2007 June 2009

Issues on Urban Development and Urban Poverty Urban Development for Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction Land Development, Urban Policy and Poverty Reduction Urban Land Use and Land Markets Cities and Climate Change: Answering an Urgent Agenda




280 740


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