Debate on Urban Sustainability


Sponsored by the Government of Canada, in partnership with UN-HABITAT and IBM, the Habitat JAM promises to engage, empower and stimulate tens of thousands of global citizens, rich and less fortunate alike, with the ultimate goal of turning ideas into action on critical issues related to urban sustainability.

Under the leadership of the Honourable Joe Fontana, Minister of Labour and Housing, the Government of Canada is taking a highly innovative approach by investing in global sustainability and funding Habitat JAM. "Canada is pleased to partner with UN-HABITAT and IBM to introduce this experimental form of problem solving – a dialogue that cuts across the borders and silos of politics, culture, economics, social class and expertise, to extract concrete solutions to the urgent and controversial issues facing our rapidly urbanizing planet. The Government of Canada is proud to host this event because Canada recognizes the enormous impact of urbanization on the sustainability of the planet."

The Habitat JAM is a preparatory event to the third session of the World Urban Forum being held in Vancouver in June 2006. The World Urban Forum is an initiative of the United Nations Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT) held every two years to debate ideas and issues about sustainable development in today’s context of rapid urbanization. Topics for discussion will include improving the lives of people living in slums, access to water, environmental sustainability, safety and security, finance and governance, and the future of our cities.

"We live in an increasingly urban world which is unfortunately divided between the North and the South. What is worse is that in most cities, wherever they are, people are forced to live in divided cities. Cities in developing countries are suffering from problems associated with rapid urbanization, which has led to over one billion people living in slums without adequate shelter and basic services. In developed countries, citizens suffer from the effects of ill-planned cities and environmental degradation. At the heart of this crisis is a failure to consult and to allow the full participation of ordinary people in the development of the city. It is my hope that innovative technologies associated with Habitat JAM will help bring people closer together to plan and develop truly human settlements," adds Dr. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director, UN-HABITAT.

The Habitat JAM will bring together academics and students, planners and builders, politicians, governments, the private sector and ordinary citizens from across the globe in real time, all contributing ideas and expertise during the 72-hour global problem-solving session. Moderators will include government leaders, renowned experts, and key thinkers.

To ensure the most inclusive event possible, grass root organizations, institutions, women, youth groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are helping to bring people to the technology who might otherwise not have access or opportunity to share their experiences and ideas with others around the world. To name just a few examples, the Habitat JAM is teaming with the:

  • World Bank Institute to offer access to many of their satellite-based Global Development Learning Network (GDLN) to enable people living in regions with inadequate or no Internet access to participate in the Habitat JAM.
  • Huairou Commission and GROOTS Canada to bring the voice of non-English speaking women into the Habitat JAM.
  • World Urban Forum and Youth Organizing Committee (WUFY) who will hold over a dozen World Urban Cafe JAM Sessions to engage communities in slums and impoverished human settlements in Asia, Africa, India and Latin America.

In hosting and providing the technology for the JAM, IBM is enabling this innovative democratic process where, without hierarchy, people from all walks of life have the opportunity to come together to present and evaluate ideas on how to solve a focused set of issues or problems. "IBM has used JAMs internally to enable employees in over 75 countries to collaborate in real time on the company’s values and then to develop pragmatic solutions and best practices around growth and innovation," said Irving Wladawsky-Berger, Vice President of Technical Strategy and Innovation, IBM. "JAMs enable a kind of mass collaboration and problem-solving that has simply never before been possible on a global scale. This is innovation that matters for the world."