Overview of Our Vision and Purpose

The purpose of Global Urban Development is clear: to make a better world for everyone. Prosperity and quality of life for all people and communities is our goal, which we believe includes both world peace and a globally sustainable living environment.

Global Urban Development was born exactly at the moment when for the first time in all of human history, more than half of all of the people alive in the entire world are currently living and working in cities, towns, and other urban places. This change has occurred so rapidly that a half century ago only one-third of the world's population was urbanized, and a half century from now nearly two-thirds of the people on this planet will be urban residents.

Urbanization and urban development are now so fundamental to the world's economy, society, and environment, that making a better urban world and improving urban life really means making a better world for everyone, including all of the people living and working in rural areas.

How are we going to help make the whole world better? There are three reasons why and how Global Urban Development will make a difference.

Point One: Bringing the Urban World Closer Together

Our main strategy is to bring everyone together and engage them in one unified conversation about the future of the urban world, and indeed, of the world itself. That is what we mean by Global Urban Development. This is a new idea in the world and represents a genuine paradigm shift because we are talking about treating the entire world as one place and one phenomenon within a unified policy framework. No person, nor any institution, has ever done this before with regard to urban policy.

The general state of urban policy in the world is divided very sharply into three separate and distinct international networks. The first and largest network is focused on urban policy in developing countries, which also includes some of the post-communist “transitional” economies. This network is led by the United Nations, the World Bank, and related institutions. For example, the UN’s World Urban Forum brings together people from all over the world, but it is not about the whole world. It is mainly about urban policy in and for developing countries.

The second network is urban policy in the developed world, minus the U.S. This is the world of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and similar organizations. The third network is urban policy in the U.S., which is the most insular and least international of the three networks.

Global Urban Development is breaking down the barriers between these three different networks. Starting with many prominent urban policy professionals, we have built the first truly global urban development network, uniting all three of the world's major urban policy constituencies. It is clear that the more than 600 members of Global Urban Development's Board of Directors and Advisory Board already cover an extremely wide range and diversity of people from all walks of life around the world, and this coverage will only become more comprehensive and diverse as the Global Urban Development expands its activities across the globe. 

Point Two: Standing for Principles and Values

Secondly, we chose to emphasize in our communications such as the brochure and website, as well as in our form of organization, the values and principles for which we stand rather than functional activities. That is why we have organized Global Urban Development around themes that are the heart and soul of what we will be working on and what we hope to accomplish in the world.

These themes are:

1) Analyzing Global Urban Development. This theme has already been explained above in Point One. Under this theme, we publish GUD Magazine online and work with United Nations-Habitat on the World Urban Campaign. Global Urban Development also is participating in a major research project on The Economics of Sustainable Urban Development (also known as the Stern Cities Program), in which GUD is working as a Global Partner with the London School of Economics, the OECD, the World Bank, the C40, University College London, the Global City Indicators Facility (GCIF) at the University of Toronto, and the Greater London Authority.

2) Building Gender Equality. We believe that the world will only begin to heal and live peacefully together with prosperity and quality of life for all if women play a much more important leadership role.  Their special understanding of the role of family, the precious importance of sustainable life, and the power of love and forgiveness is crucial for making genuine progress toward a better future.  To accomplish this vital task, we must work to break down the discriminatory barriers against girls and women of all ages, and to encourage women to take greater leadership roles in all institutions of our society at every level and location.  Global Urban Development projects include supporting the Millennium Development Goals on gender equality, and focusing on strengthening grassroots women’s leadership in urban policy, planning, and development.

3) Celebrating Our Urban Heritage. Some people thought this was an unusual choice for a major theme. Our view, however, is that cultural and environmental values are absolutely fundamental for strengthening economic prosperity and quality of life in the world. Under this theme we will address what makes urban life special and truly worth living and will work on projects that highlight the economic and social importance of, and encourage public and private investment in: preserving historic buildings and districts, celebrating ethnic and cultural diversity, promoting heritage tourism, and appreciating recreation and nature. Global Urban Development published an edited volume on Urban Heritage in August 2008 as a special issue of Global Urban Development MagazineThis project was initiated by the GUD program committee on Celebrating Our Urban Heritage, and the four editors are the committee’s three Co-Chairs, Luigi Fusco Girard, Donovan Rypkema, and Belinda Yuen, together with Marc Weiss.  Several members of the committee contributed articles to this state-of-the-art publication.

4) Envisioning Sustainable Futures. Through the media and the arts, we aim to identify new ways to create and present images of a future society of Sustainable Economic Development that is in relative harmony and balance with the cycles of nature based on conserving and reusing all natural resources (not only fossil fuels, but water, land, materials, etc.), rather than overusing and wasting them. In other words, people, places, and organizations worldwide can "get richer by becoming greener", earning and saving more money by using fewer resources and reusing more.  Everyone will be better off economically and environmentally, with greater prosperity, improved health, enhanced quality of life, and much more stable peace (because people won't be engaging in violent conflict over increasingly scarce resources).

5) Facing the Environmental Challenge. Bringing the whole world together starts with uniting the entire urban world, region by region. The real urban world is organized into metropolitan regions. The vitality of the global economy is now based primarily on the dynamic role of these urban regions, yet governments are not organized to reflect this new reality. We are living in an urban world with an “anti-urban mentality” in terms of public policy, with too few exceptions to this general fact. Global Urban Development is dedicated to getting international institutions, national governments, state governments, and provincial governments to recognize the importance of investing in urban regions in order to genuinely improve the overall economic, social, and environmental health of the world. We are deeply committed to creating new mechanisms of public-private-civic governance that enable urban regions to work together more effectively through increased cooperation across municipal, state and/or provincial, and even national boundaries, particularly in dealing with issues of land-use planning and design, transportation and infrastructure, and a sustainable environment.  Global Urban Development’s European Union-funded study by Sir Peter Hall, “The World’s Urban Systems: A European Perspective,” was our first major project under this theme, and we are now working to coordinate the Climate Prosperity Alliance, including Sustainable Economic Development Strategies.

6) Generating Sustainable Economic Development. The purpose of this global policy initiative is to promote a worldwide conversation and movement for generating and sustaining prosperity and quality of life for all, in urban regions and rural areas on every continent. Sustainable Economic Development is a new framework spearheaded by Global Urban Development, emphasizing cooperation and teamwork across urban regions to improve economic, social, and environmental health. The framework focuses on creating coordinated public, private, and civic investment strategies that treat all people and communities as assets to be included in the policymaking process, to contribute to the productivity of society, and to benefit from the fruits of prosperity. Sustainable Economic Development is a force for unity in that it emphasizes the common interests of everyone across governmental jurisdictions, and the vital importance of social equity, participatory governance, and environmental sustainability as key building blocks of a competitive and innovative economy at the local, regional, national, and international levels. Global Urban Development’s new Sustainable Economic Development Project, building on GUD’s successful leadership of the Climate Prosperity Alliance, consists of GUD’s Sustainable Economic Development Practice, in which GUD will work with sub-national governments and local authorities worldwide – states, provinces, regions, districts, cities, counties, towns, and villages – to strengthen their economies by improving their environments.  By actively promoting innovation, efficiency, and conservation in the use and reuse of all natural and human resources, places can increase jobs, raise incomes, grow businesses, and enhance their overall productivity and competitiveness. 

7) Improving Global Health.  Generating sustainable prosperity and quality of life for every person and community throughout the world require a major focus on improving public health.  Only healthy people and communities can become prosperous and maintain a high quality of life.  The Global Urban Development program committee on Improving Global Health is working with the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) to help establish an IUHPE Working Group on Climate Change and Health.  The impetus for creating such a Working Group grew out of a workshop at IUHPE’s World Conference on Health Promotion in Geneva, Switzerland on July 12, 2010.  The workshop on “Leaving Coal in the Ground: Building a Sustainable Economy and Ending a Global Health Crisis by 2030” was organized by Dr. Vivian Lin, IUHPE Vice President for Scientific Affairs, and committee Co-Chair.

8) Inclusive Economic Development: Treating People and Communities as Assets. What this means is that everyone and every place counts. People are the world's greatest resource - all people. They have the talent, the energy, and the commitment to solve their own problems and create better communities. We just need to include them fully in the process and make sure they all benefit from the results. The key project under this theme is the Community Productivity Project (CPP), consisting of Community Productivity Indicators and Inclusive Economic Development Strategies for low-income communities throughout the world.  Global Urban Development developed the CPP in partnership with the United Nations and Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) under the Millennium Development Goals for poverty reduction, environmental sustainability, gender equality, public health, and global development partnerships.

9) Metropolitan Economic Strategy: Advancing Innovation, Prosperity, and Quality of Life. This initiative combines technological innovation, global competitiveness, sustainability, and inclusiveness designed to generate prosperity and quality of life for central cities, metropolitan areas, urban regions, states/provinces, and nations worldwide. Please click here for “Teamwork: Why Metropolitan Economic Strategy is the Key to Generating Sustainable Prosperity and Quality of Life for the World.”  This article from the inaugural 2005 issue of GUD Magazine summarizes our strategic policy framework.

Point Three: Engaging in Strategic Policy

Thirdly, we are engaging in what we call "Strategic Policy." Global Urban Development is not primarily an academic "think-tank" churning out volumes of scholarly research, and we are not mainly a consulting firm operating hundreds of individual projects all around the world. We will be doing research and education, as well as action-oriented practical work. However, everything we do will come under the heading of Strategic Policy. What this means is that we are trying to change the way people think and act in the world. Our purpose is literally to redefine reality - to change the definition of what is possible and how it can be achieved, or put another way, to create new possibilities for improving urban life. Every project that we engage in will be designed to develop new ideas about how to do things better, and to demonstrate that these ideas can be successfully implemented not only in one or a few places, but can be replicated on a very large scale globally.


To sum up, these three elements combined - defining the new paradigm of Global Urban Development and building a truly global network; organizing around principles and values under our eight main themes; and, engaging in Strategic Policy to create new possibilities for change in the world and carefully selecting every project and activity to reflect our major Strategic Policy priorities - together constitute a new platform that will enable us to do something vital: to have a global urban development policy organization actually serve as an engine for worldwide transformation by helping generate successful large-scale solutions for the enormous challenges of the 21st century.

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