Nine weeks were allocated for discussion of the document, with each week carrying a theme based on the key areas that the City will focus on going into the future. These were: liveable cities, resource sustainability, health and poverty, governance, transport, community safety, environment, economic growth and smart cities.
“I am happy to see the City embracing a bottom-up approach in planning,” said Assiago. Bogota in Colombia did the same in the 1990s and it was yielding results. In adopting this type of approach it was important that cities were not only seen as centres of economic growth, he added.
It was also imperative to look at a safe city as part of building a city’s image. “We should link the idea of crime, safety and security to city branding,” he said.
In essence, there is a need for safety and security to be looked at from a holistic, multi-sectoral and community-based point of view.
The managing director of the global health coalition, GBC Health, Michael Schreiber, was another international guest at the conference. He examined development strategies for healthy cities.
“Increasingly, there is recognition that change will come at municipal level,” he said. “City-oriented growth plans are increasingly significant as more than half the world already lives in urban areas.”
There is a strong tie between health and cities, and research has shown that there are striking disparities between levels of health within cities themselves. For instance, a study done in Glasgow, in Scotland, revealed that there was a 20-year difference in life expectancy depending on where a person lived in the city.
According to Schreiber, illness and disease, including non-communicable diseases, are driven by access or lack thereof to healthcare. For this reason, he identified areas where action needed to be taken, which included the inclusion of private sector resources, improvement of living conditions, and preparedness for disasters and emergencies.
“It is impossible to imagine a robust, healthy city that doesn’t have fully healthy employees.”
He also advised: “Don’t be overwhelmed by all the challenges that face you. Rather focus on concrete ways that you can change; one day you’ll wake up and the list of problems won’t be as long.”
This philosophy not only extends to health, but also to other sectors such as environment and governance. Simon Reddy, the executive director of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, spoke of ways that Joburg could tackle becoming a more sustainable city.
Reddy explained that C40 targeted cities specifically because they were centres of global economic activity and consumed over two-thirds of the world’s energy, water and other resources. Joburg is a member of the C40 steering committee, and has been since its inception.
C40 is a large network where countries offer each other ideas to promote advocacy. When he founded the organisation’s predecessor, C20, in 2005, former London mayor Ken Livingstone said: “We can all be pioneers, but we will get things done a lot quicker if we steal each other’s ideas.”
Reddy added: “Cities often share problems so solutions can be copied or taken and modified according to the city’s needs.”
Solutions that can be adopted through the GDS to improve environmental management include climate action planning, which can be done by creating a greenhouse gas inventory; Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) expansion; and adaptation planning, among others.
Of the Rea Vaya BRT system, Reddy said: “Joburg’s is the most modern so other cities will want to come and learn from you.”
Also under the microscope were tensions that exist within City governance. The deputy minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, Yunus Carrim, examined these tensions in between his routine as a stand-up comedian.
“Governance, no matter how stable, is about managing tensions – between now and the future, ideas and practice, government and governance,” he said. “These tensions can be disruptive or constructive, though.”
The first tension of the GDS that Carrim identified came between ideas and practice. It was a technical document that could be difficult to understand, he said. Also, many communities within the city, especially the townships, were fractured, which made identifying targets and needs and allocating resources an often difficult task.
Another particular challenge for governance was that cities were expected to provide housing, transport and other services that actually formed part of the function of provincial and national government, Carrim said.
This, he concluded, meant that solutions should be differentiated according to municipality as there was no one-size-fits-all resolution. However, he also felt that it was necessary for there to be tension within City governance. “Without the inevitable tensions in City governance, there can be no progress,” he said.
Jenny Robinson, a professor in the department of geography at University College London, and author of the book Ordinary Cities: Between Modernity and Development, identified urban scholarship as a necessary ingredient for city development strategies.
“There is a need to produce an understanding of cities which account for great diversity,” she said. This means that there is an increased need for thinking and discourse from the south or usually underdeveloped countries.
Global city region
This brought about the idea of a global city region, which was citizen-focused, caring and responsive, which Robinson felt may be a viable solution for Joburg. As it stood at present, there were only a few sectors that could drive the City’s vision; these were finance/business, retail/wholesale and transport/communications. It was necessary to build up these sectors and improve those that were lagging behind, she said.
In addition to experts giving their views on strategies that the City could adopt, City manager Trevor Fowler and Executive Mayor Parks Tau spoke about launching the revised GDS document. “The challenge is converting comments received through the outreach programme into real strategic choices,” Fowler said.
Tau outlined what the revised document would encompass. “The GDS document has changed from four chapters to six to enhance, pull together and clarify it based on the critique received through the outreach process.
“Joburg GDS2040 is an aspirational document that defines the society we would want to be in 2040,” he said.
It is not a plan or spatial vision and it does not address financial outputs or budgets, but it will be a roadmap of sorts to guide the City forward. Of course, in addition to the reality that the City needs to face in terms of challenges, there is also the perception of what the City is accomplishing by its residents.
There is a need to overcome both the reality and the perception in order to move ahead. Overall, the City is aiming to improve quality of life and resilience, reduce poverty and dependency, and build an inclusive economy with sustainable human settlements, among others.
The international conference came before the GDS stakeholder summit, held on 5 October at the Orlando Community Centre in Mooki Street in Orlando West, Soweto.
The final GDS document, which will include suggestions and comments made by residents and experts during the consultative process, will be published on 20 October.
For more information on suggestions and solutions that have emerged out of the themed weeks, you can visit the GDS2040 Facebook page, or follow @GDS2040 on Twitter. The GDS also has a website.