In the context of the 4th EU-Africa summit, BOZAR and UN-Habitat , supported by the European Commission, organised an event on 3 April 2014 to discuss urbanization and cultural spaces and what it means for people, prosperity and peace.
In the presence of José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, 40 leading specialists and thinkers contributed to the debate on the unprecedented challenges of urbanization in Africa, and the resource culture represents.
This event was part of BOZAR’s mission to advance culture in development policies.
The precise meaning of the word 'culture' is notoriously difficult to define, yet the idea of a world without culture seems intolerable. It is sometimes described as 'the sum total of the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves' and includes all forms of cultural production, as well as the institutions that support, patronise and disseminate it. Development discourses often privilege other indicators of growth: economic, social, human rights, and so on, and fail to recognize the crucial role culture plays in underpinning and sustaining such efforts. The challenges facing African cities are myriad and well-documented: what is urgently required is a fresh approach to the issues that seeks creative engagement and opportunities across the broader arts and culture spectrum, including support for the idea of 'culture' as a key participant in the shaping of urban space.
The objective of the meeting is to define priority interventions that need to occur in cities in order to contribute to a more sustainable, inclusive and creative urban environment, based on cities' architectural, cultural and spatial capital. Participants will be invited to debate this question: How can cultural, architectural and spatial capital contribute to social cohesion and inclusiveness, and to economic prosperity in African cities? They will examine culture as a resource in a city's planning process to enhance social cohesion and inclusiveness, especially vis à vis deprived groups, and to offset the negative externalities of rapid urbanization, and culture as a resource to cities' stakeholders, as an economic resource, an identity-builder for citizens, and image-maker towards external partners.
The discussions are to lead to the formulation of recommendations to better inform EU and Africa policymakers and various stakeholders for future initiatives on urbanization and cultural spaces in African cities, and also refer to the themes of UN-Habitat's World Urban Forum 7 in Medellin whose topic is "Urban Equity in Development - Cities for life".
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