South Asian Cities Conference - 2014

From January 9-12, 2014, the Charter for Compassion was highlighted at a major regional conference on South Asian Cities in Karachi as part of the Pakistan Urban Forum. The conference was sponsored by the South Asia Institute, Harvard University, Planning & Development Department, Government of Sindh, Urban Unit Punjab and the Institute of Architects, Pakistan.

The panelists for the conference included politicians, bureaucrats, academia, architects, planners, activist, environmentalist, scholars, professionals, Technocrats and leaders of multinational organisations and representatives of various divisions of federal and provincial governments.

The rapid growth of cities is a common and persisting phenomenon in most of the developing countries including Pakistan, which is one of the most urbanized countries in South Asia. The projections of urbanization trends reveal that rural and urban population in Pakistan will become almost equal in the year 2020. It is, however, unfortunate that adequate attention has not been given to the challenges of urbanization in the past. The current appalling state of most urban centers may worsen with time if the development challenges are not recognized, managed and dealt with in a planned manner.

While urbanization poses new challenges, it also has the potential to create new opportunities for growth and prosperity provided – it is allowed to happen in a planned and systematic manner. To harness this opportunity of transforming our urban pockets into the engines of economic growth, it is imperative to model and develop our cities along the modern lines. The best possible way of doing so would be taking steps by learning from the experience of others. There is an urgent need to bridge the gap between research and policy as well as policy and practice. Hence, consulting and listening to the world’s renowned urban sector professionals, researchers, planners, managers and practitioners is the way forward.

Unlike most large cities around the world, a common underlying theme that permeates through each South Asian City is the shared colonial past. The post-colonial transformation that each of the major cities in South Asia went through also shared common socio-economic identities in terms of population growth and migration, albeit taking different trajectories in their political development. This shared past coupled with the prominent role cities like Colombo, Dhaka, Karachi, Mumbai, Delhi and Lahore are projected to play in the world arena, merits a deeper look into understanding the contemporary South Asian city. A series of conferences organized over multi years in South Asia and at Harvard will result in the generation of new knowledge and insights so needed in the present and future planning of this region’s cities.

The Pakistan Urban Forum brought together all stakeholders, such as Government Leaders, Non-Governmental and Community based Organizations, Urban Activists, Corporate Leadership, Practitioners, Academics, members of the Civil Society and students to this Conference for a dialogue to discuss issues, challenges and opportunities associated to improve the capabilities of our cities, municipalities and concerned Government Agencies. The Pakistan Urban Forum was the second in a series, the first was held in Lahore in 2011, which attracted more than 6,000 participants and similar overwhelming participation is expected for the Forum – conference in Karachi.