A call for urban dialogue was initiated at the Sustainable Built Environment (SBE) Conference, held from 29 November to 1 December in Cairo. Mr. Sebastian Lesch, head of the German Cooperation in Egypt, Dr. Mostafa Madbouly, Minister of Housing, Utilities, and Urban Communities (MOHUUC), as well as representatives from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the European Union (EU) Delegation to Egypt, and UN Habitat, amongst others, were present at the opening.
In his address, Mr. Lesch intensified the call for participatory development in cities, particularly following the adoption of the New Urban Agenda at the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), which was held in Quito, Ecuador this past October. He stressed on the centrality of cities to the drive towards “sustainable and climate-friendly ways of development” around the world. This, Mr. Lesch explained, can only be achieved through open dialogue, one in which local concerns are taken into account. He further commended joint efforts undertaken to implement the New Urban Agenda in Egypt.
During the conference, several Egyptian representatives renewed their commitment to the “principles of sustainable development” that ought to guide urban policy and development in the country. Minister Madbouly emphasized the importance of translating urban strategies into action, and situated his call for implementing urban policies during this dawning age of a “generation of new cities.” Plans for the new capital city were presented, as well as the government’s methods in dealing with informal settlements in Egypt. Among the government representatives present at the conference were Khaled Abbas, Undersecretary of the Minister of Housing, and Khaled Seddik, Executive Manager of the Informal Settlements Development Fund (ISDF).
Carl Philipp Schuck, Coordinator of Implementing the New Urban Agenda in Egypt (INUA) Project implemented by GIZ, capitalized on the significance of dialogue in implementing the New Urban Agenda in Egypt. In his address, Mr. Schuck called on all involved stakeholders to reflect collectively on the meaning of the Agenda for Egyptian cities, as well as to question some of the assumptions that often obstruct sustainable urban development.
Another theme that featured prominently in the conference was that of sustainable energy.
The conference marked the conclusion of the seven-year tenure of the EU-funded Energy Efficiency in the Construction Sector in the Mediterranean project (EU-MED-ENEC), also implemented by GIZ. In his speech, Diego Escalona Paturel, Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation in Egypt, highlighted the importance of relying on efficient, renewable, and sustainable energy sources in Egypt and the world.
As a convention where academics, members of civil society, and government representatives openly discussed issues pertaining to sustainable urban development, the Sustainable Built Environment conference comes as a refreshing reminder for the meaning and importance of dialogue. Dialogue is a fundamental process in achieving sustainable urban development, as it relies on participation and fosters inclusivity. Set to continue until August 2017, the GIZ project for Implementing the New Urban Agenda in Egypt (INUA) strives to once again centralize and promote the role of inclusive dialogue in urban development.