Kerry Jang, Vancouver deputy mayor, receives the Guangzhou Award
By Jeremy Smith
Last Friday (16th November), the City of Guangzhou and its mayor, Mr Chen Jianhua, hosted the first edition of the Guangzhou Award for Urban Innovation to five very different cities around the world, facing very different challenges. The ceremony – which also included a colourful cultural display by leading Chinese dancers, acrobats and singers – took place in the Opera House designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid.
Guangzhou (population 16 million, once known as Canton) is one of China’s top five cities, in the increasingly prosperous southern province of Guangdong. The city’s GDP has increased at a rate of around 13% per year over the last 6 years. Guangzhou is now focusing much more on ‘next generation’ industries, and lays much greater emphasis on environmental sustainability and on green energy use. In short, it wants to be recognized as a leading and progressive world city.
I was delighted to have been invited by Guangzhou to help as a member of the Technical Committee which evaluated some 250 initiatives from 150 cities in 56 countries. We had met in October to winnow the submissions down first to a longlist of 45, then a shortlist of 15 really exciting and stimulating entries. An international jury of five academic experts made the final decisions. On this second visit I was also asked to chair a presentation session by ‘candidate’ cities on urban governance and administration.
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Jeremy Smith, 9th December 2011
I have just returned from three stretching days’ work in a workshop and conference in Cologne (28th November to 1st December) with 15 Palestinian and 15 Israeli Mayors, where I moderated the discussions (using every technique known to me from the meeting-management handbook!) to negotiate agreement on practical steps for cooperation between them. Okay, it was not exactly negotiating the Oslo Peace Accords, but at times we felt pretty close to how the diplomats must have felt at the time!
At several points, our work seemed doomed to end without agreement – but finally, we managed to draw up a set of future projects to work on together, covering promotion of tourism to the West Bank (aiming to increase not just numbers, but the amount spent in the West Bank by tourists), environmental issues, water purification, exchange visits (political, business, young people etc.), as well as a mayors’ network to promote practical cooperation. Continue reading… ›
20th December 2010 Jeremy Smith
From 16th to 21st November 2010, Mexico City hosted a huge gathering of city mayors and leaders from across the globe, for the World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders. Organised by United Cities and Local Governments, the Summit discussed the big crises and challenges facing cities and communities, looked ahead to the City of 2030, and debated ideas for a greater input by local governments into global governance – on issues as diverse as climate change, Millennium Development Goals, and “city diplomacy”. I was there to help UCLG – which I had helped set up 7 years ago – develop the themes and concepts for the Summit programme together, and to draft the final outcome documents.
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Jeremy Smith April 19
I’m sitting here in London with fingers crossed - on Friday I’m due to fly to Chicago, a city I haven’t been to since I hitch-hiked round the States, um, quite a few years ago… I keep looking at the web to see what mood the Icelandic Gods are in, and whether they will relent in time to let me fly.
My reason for travel – our world organisation of cities, UCLG, has its Executive Bureau meeting there, at the invitation of Mayor Daley, and I am helping with the planning of UCLG’s City Leaders Summit, hosted by Mexico City in November.
Meanwhile I have been watching the amazing BBC TV documentary “Welcome to Lagos” which looks at the hard and enterprising lives of that mega-city’s poor, including the scavengers on the city’s rubbish dumps… an echo of the dust heaps evoked by Dickens in “Our Mutual Friend”, plus a practical demonstration of how to live the EU’s waste hierarchy (reuse, recycle…). Some think today’s Lagos is the reality of tomorrow’s city, and that we should accept and celebrate this. I am not convinced by this argument, however much we admire the resilience of the Lagos-ians, and the commitment of their mayor.
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