Towns and cities the focus of new international research partnership



Urban area

Credit: Xing Zhang

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Melbourne's RMIT University has announced an important research partnership with the United Nations' Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat, to address social and environmental issues in urbanised areas around the world.

The partnership was launched last week in Melbourne at "Cities, Settlements and the Global South", an address given by United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka.

RMIT is collaborating with UN-Habitat, which is concerned with promoting socially and environmentally sustainable cities and towns, through its Global Cities Research Institute, which works on the ground with urban communities in 15 countries to support their sustainability, security and adaptability.

Institute Director, Paul James, said the partnership is a break from how work has been carried out in the past.

"Previously there has been a divide between universities' research and United Nations' work on the ground. This partnership sees a fresh approach and a new way of thinking about our engagement - bringing the theoretical and the practical together," he said.

"It also acknowledges that all urbanisation problems are not based in Third World cities. Even cities such as [Canada's] Vancouver and [Australia's] Melbourne - that are consistently voted as the world's most livable cities - have urbanisation issues, such as climate change effects and dealing with urban sprawl," he said.

"We can now establish an urban observatory to co-ordinate the social mapping of key cities in the Asia-Pacific region, which will help to find real answers to these issues, guide the region's governing bodies with quality, evidence-based research and reinvigorate our work with local communities."

Towns and cities are today growing at unprecedented rates, the UN said, with cities now home to half of humankind and setting the environmental trends of the world, both good and bad.