City Futures IV, Ireland June 2019
City Futures IV – Creating just and sustainable cities
Final Report City Futures IV Creating Just and Sustainable Cities
The City Futures IV conference took place in Dublin from June 20th -22nd 2019 and for the fourth time EURA the UAA joined forces to organise a joint urban research conference . The Conference theme asked scholars to reflect on how we can move towards more socially just, diverse, democratic, environmentally sustainable cities and city regions. What are the challenges and solutions from the perspective of governance and politics, from a policy perspective in various sectors such as planning, housing, design, regeneration, and from the perspective of citizens? Over a three day period we had an exciting line-up of Keynote Speakers in addition to 57 parallel paper sessions that addressed these issues, in the following seven tracks:
- Track 1 Cities and Spatial and Social Justice – Creating more Inclusive Cities
- Track 2. More or Less Competitive Cities – Smart Specialization and Diversification Strategies
- Track 3. Urban Environmental Challenges
- Track 4. Governing Cities – Cities and Democracy
- Track 5. Smart Cities
- Track 6. Cultural Cities
On Thursday delegates were welcomed by EURA President Professor Valeria Fedeli and UAA Executive Director Margaret Wilder. The opening address was provided by Dublin City Planner John O’ Hara who provided an overview and insight into Dublin’s current development. On both Thursday and Friday the delegates were inspired by the two key note speakers, Professor Julian Agyeman and Professor Donatella Della Porta who respectively provided critical insights into the interrelationship between human equality and environmental quality and illustrated the importance of human action, social movements and protest in eliciting change in our urban societies. These two thought provoking addresses set the scene for discussion and debate within the individual paper sessions.
The keynote plenary panel which took place on Thursday morning on City Leadership and City Governance provided an opportunity to explore the governance of cities in the twenty first century. The Irish Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform Mr. John Paul Phelan spoke about the reforms to Irish local government and the current debate on city leadership in Irish cities, as reflected in the plebiscites on city mayors; the Deputy Mayor of Bristol provided an overview of some of the fruits of innovative city leadership in Bristol, while Associate Professor Niamh Moore Cherry reflected on the need for city leaders, including Irish city leaders, to take hard decisions in order to deliver quality living environments in cities. The panellists also discussed a series of questions posed by the chair of the panel Professor Robin Hambleton.
Reflecting the conference theme of creating just and sustainable cities the papers delivered in the sessions covered a wide variety of relevant themes. The papers in the ‘Urban Environmental Challenges Track’ addressed a range of topics from green space challenges in cities, to the role of smart city technology in transportation, flooding , health and quality of life. Sessions in the ‘Governing Cities Track’ explored topics such as aspects of sustainable city governance, the role of multi-level governance in creating sustainable cities and the challenges of participatory governance in cities. In the ‘Cities and Spatial and Social Justice Track the processes of gentrification, informal and illegal settlements and the challenges of spatial polarization were all debated. Papers highlighting the important role of culture in creating inclusive urban space and in driving social change were dealt with in the ‘Cultural Cities track’, while the threats to urban cultural heritage and identity from new development were also considered in a number of papers. The diversity of the cases presented across the various sessions allowed delegates to see the manner in which similar challenges are being experienced in urban areas across the globe. The requirement for innovations in governance and policy, combined with technical solutions and changes in day to day practice to help in tackling the problems of climate change, social polarization and poverty were evident throughout the conference.
It was inspiring to see young early career researchers and PhD students working in the areas of the conference theme, who are passionate about furthering research on the creation of more just and sustainable cities. It was particularly heartening to be able to award Fenna Hoefsloot PhD Candidate at the University of Twente, in the Netherlands for her paper ‘People and Places Uncounted: Legibility in the Water Infrastructure of Lima Peru’. Fenna’s work was truly reflective of the themes of the conference.
The delegates had an opportunity to experience some Irish hospitality including music and dancing at the conference dinner in the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire on Friday evening. While on Saturday afternoon, delegates took the opportunity to explore some other aspects of Dublin city on 5 field trips:
- Social Housing Development and Renewal
- An Overview of Dublin Bay Biosphere – Coastal Tour
- Dublin Docklands
- The Liberties of Dublin: Decline and Renewal
- Henrietta Street
The Organisation of the conference would not have been possible without the support of colleagues in the School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy in UCD and colleagues from both EURA and the UAA. Each conference Track was co-chaired by a UCD colleague, a EURA colleague and a UAA colleague. These Track chairs reviewed abstracts and organised and chaired conference sessions. We are indebted to all those involved for their commitment and engagement.
The conference was generously sponsored by The Environmental Protection Agency, Bord Fáilte, The UCD Earth Institute, Tom Philips and Associates, John Spain and Associates, and Stephen Little and Associates. We had exhibitors from Bristol University Press, Taylor and Francis and the ECOBROKER Project in UCD. In keeping with the sustainability agenda the conference organisers tried to cut back on paper – we didn’t have a printed book of abstracts rather an online book of abstracts, we didn’t prepare conference packs or bags, and Irish Water generously provided reusable bio-degradable water bottles.
On a personal level I would like to thank all who attended for making the conference such a fruitful and academically enriching experience. It was such a pleasure to host a few thought-provoking days here in UCD, as with our EURA and UAA colleagues and others from across the globe we discussed the challenges of our cities and shared some of our insights on the solutions to these. It was wonderful to share Dublin and all it has to offer as a growing, vibrant European city and the sun even made an appearance as the delegates experienced some of the city’s neighbourhoods on Saturday’s field trips.
I would like to thank my colleagues here in UCD, Cliodhna and all her team at our conference partners Advantage PCO, the keynote speakers, the track co-chairs, all of those who ran our field trips and all our generous sponsors. I look forward to continuing our collaborations and conversations at the 2020 EURA conference in Oslo.
Chair City Futures Local Organising Committee