Penn Institute for Urban Research Signs Partnership Agreement With UN-Habitat’s World Urban Campaign

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Media Contact:Amy Montgomery | | 215-573-8386October 7, 2010

Today, Dr. Eugénie Birch, co-director of the Penn Institute for Urban Research (IUR), signed a partnership agreement with UN-HABITAT, the UN agency that focuses on urban affairs.  The agreement certified the role that the University of Pennsylvania and  Penn IUR will play in the World Urban Campaign, which aims to unite the public and private sectors together with civil society, to elevate sustainable urbanization to the top of the agenda for governments around the world.

Dr. Birch signed the agreement at the fifth meeting of the World Urban Campaign Steering Committee in Shanghai, coinciding with UN-HABITAT Week at the Shanghai World Expo. 

Penn IUR is the first academic institute to officially join the campaign in such a fashion, and will contribute its knowledge and expertise on global urbanization by becoming a permanent member of the steering committee, hosting at least one annual event that promotes the principles of the Campaign, and offering short-term professional expertise in UN-HABITAT expert group meetings.  “The World Urban Campaign is bringing the attention of the world to the importance of cities and fostering projects that will emphasize how we have and will encourage sustainable development in urban places. This work is critical to promoting social, economic and environmental well-being of the world’s 3.5 billion city dwellers. The University of Pennsylvania and Penn IUR are proud partners in this effort and look forward to contributing our scholarship and service to the Campaign,” said Dr. Birch.

In particular, Penn IUR’s counsel will include an advisory role to the 100 Cities Initiative, an online forum for sharing living practices in cities throughout the world, as well as participation by telling the story of Philadelphia’s urban sustainability strategy.

The Penn IUR will also advise on the Habitat Business Award for Sustainable Urbanization, which highlights private sector companies whose business practices improve urban quality of life and provide opportunity for urban residents at “the bottom of the pyramid.”  Co-director Dr. Susan Wachter will head up this portion of Penn IUR’s contribution through collaboration with her colleagues at the Wharton School.

Finally, Penn IUR’s Global Urban Commons research unit conducted extensive research on the concept of best practices in urban planning, including a review of UN-HABITAT’s Best Practices Database last year.  This knowledge will be helpful for shaping the future of the database and the World Urban Campaign’s efforts at encouraging the adoption and transmission of such practices. This year, the Global Urban Commons group is working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the White House Office of Urban Affairs to craft sustainability indicators for North America.

By signing the agreement, Penn IUR joins the company of a diverse group from the public and private sector, including the German electrical engineering giant Siemens, the French transportation powerhouse Veolia Environment, the Dutch planning and engineering firm ARCADIS, the nationally important Chinese Real Estate Chamber of Commerce, and the innovative Zerofootprint.

About Penn IUR

The Penn Institute for Urban Research is dedicated to fostering increased understanding of cities and developing new knowledge bases that will be vital in charting the course of local, national and international urbanization.  It is co-directed by Dr. Eugenie Birch, the Lawrence C. Nussdorf  Professor of City and Regional Planning, and Dr. Susan Wachter, the Richard B. Worley Professor of Financial Management.

As a university-wide entity, Penn IUR has developed programs in research, instruction and civic engagement that are in full alignment with the University of Pennsylvania’s strategic plan, the Penn Compact. The Compact has two articulated goals that undergird Penn IUR work:  Integrating Knowledge and Engaging – Locally and Globally.

Penn IUR subsequently aims to support the growth of urban-focused knowledge through cross-disciplinary scholarship, instruction and civic engagement that informs decision-making and public policy.  It does so by advancing research in two critical areas: building the 21st century city and exploring anchor institutions and urban development.

The institute encourages collaborations among academic researchers and urban practitioners to initiate and develop research questions, execute the research, and disseminate the findings widely in publications, public programs, and educational outlets broadly defined.  Finally, through public events, Penn IUR also fosters civic dialogue regarding urban issues among multiple audiences: the university community including students and faculty; decision-makers; and the knowledgeable public.

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