The New Urban Agenda ‘on the ground’

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On the heels of the Post-2015 Development Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) launch, 2016 is the year of Habitat III – the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Development to take place in Quito, Ecuador, October 2016 – in which the New Urban Agenda will be set for the coming 20 years. This is an important process to secure a renewed political commitment for sustainable urban development, however, the chances that this agenda will go further than being merely prescriptive are small. The major question and key to success is how to approach and implement such a New Urban Agenda ‘on the ground’.

While urban complexity has most definitely not decreased since the 90s, the effort of the last decades towards ‘sustainability’ has not produced the desirable environmental and social effects, and with the current wave of urbanization on its way, we see a clear need to discuss the translation of the New Urban Agenda into local practice.

The Series 2015-2016 (

The Critical Dialogues Series addresses topics of central importance to Habitat III from 1) an unconventional angle and 2) an ‘on the ground’ perspective. The topics are intentionally chosen as complex and cross-cutting issues, rather than being sector-based (e.g. transportation, energy, finance). The Series aims to not only involve ‘the usual suspects’, but particularly brings in different expertise into the debate. Rather than add to the discussion of prescriptions and goals, this series aims to make a valuable contribution towards a more realistic agenda on the ground: applying unconventional theoretical frames to four critical urban issues in order to identify practical, yet effective, entry points for their implementation.

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Dialogue.01: ‘Overriding the Urban/Non-Urban Divide’ (20 April 2015 @ Global Soil Week 2015)

Practical perspectives from Chennai, Bogota and Jakarta ground a debate around new approaches to urban-rural linkages capable of transcending the urban age discussion (e.g. 50% live in cities) and breaking with the idea of the bounded city in which the urban and the non-urban are opposed and spaces are classified, according to their form, on the urban-rural continuum.

 Dialogue.02: ‘Different Urbanisations’ (14-18 September 2015) 


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This dialogue focuses on the role and limits of import/export of knowledge, technology and urbanisation patterns between different regions of the world, and questions how ‘culturally different’ the processes of urbanisation are/should be. This dialogue used two formats: a 5-day LAB (Spreefeld, Berlin) and a Public Debate (ANCB, Pfefferberg, Berlin).

Dialogue.03: ‘UN Data‘ (July-October 2016)

How can data that is meant to measure and monitor global goals and targets go beyond the creation of broad statistics to being a significant tool/resource for local communities? What kind of data is needed to induce applied change and force accountability on different levels? Can we identify different approaches to data Collection, Evaluation and Directionality?

Katleen de Flander
+49 331 28822-346[at]

List of Publications

De Flander, K., Ayala-Cortés, J. P. (Eds.) (2015): LAB2: Different Urbanisations. Critical Dialogues Series: the New Urban Agenda ‘on the ground’, Potsdam : Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS).

Gumprecht, J., De Flander, K., Ayala-Cortés, J. (Dir.) (2015): LAB2: Different Urbanisations. Critical Dialogues Series: the New Urban Agenda ‘on the ground’. [Video Documentation], Potsdam : Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS).

De Flander, K. (2015): Closed Cycles – Open City. – In: Johnson, G., Toly, N. and Schroeder, H. (Eds.). The Urban Climate Challenge. Rethinking the Role of Cities in the Global Climate Regime. Taylor & Francis.

De Flander, K. (2014 online): Operationalizing holistic urban concepts. – Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences.

De Flander, K., Hahne, U., Kegler, H., Lang, D., Lucas, R., Schneidewind, U., Simon, K.-H., Singer-Brodowski, M., Wanner, M., Wiek, A. (2014): Resilienz und Reallabore als Schlüsselkonzepte urbaner Transformationsforschung. Zwölf Thesen. – GAIA – Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society, 23, 3, p. 284-286.

De Flander, K. (2013): Resource-Centered Cities and the Opportunity of Shrinkage. – In: Khare, A., Beckman, T. (Eds.), Mitigating Climate Change. The Emerging Face of Modern Cities, Berlin [u.a.] : Springer, p. 45-57.


Strategic Dialogues

IASS LAB2: Different Urbanisations – the New Urban Agenda ‘on the ground’, 14-18 September 2015
IASS Workshop: Urban Pressure Point Method – Leverages for Urban Transformation, 20-21 November 2014
IASS Workshop: Closed Cycles – Open City – Urban Systems Transitions in the Anthropocene, 7 December 2012


Invited presentations / Workshops / Panels

Co-Host Workshop, ‘Living Labs – a tool for transformation on the ground’, Bonn Conference for Global Transformation, 12-13 May 2015
Critical Public Debate, ‘Overriding the Urban/Non-Urban Divide’, @ Global Soil Week Berlin, 20 April 2015
ICLEI World Congress, Seoul, 8-12 April 2015
4th Informed Cities Forum, Rotterdam, 26-27 March 2015
Presentation – ‘Reorganizing Urban Systems’ – Symposium: Stadt und Region – Reallabore der resilienzorentierten Transformation, University Kassel
Think Tank – Towards Habitat III – side event ICLEI Resilient City Conference, Bonn
ICLEI Resilient City Conference, Bonn
Workshop – Productive City Consortium Inception Meeting – side event ICLEI Resilient City Conference, Bonn
Presentation – ‘Reorganizing Urban Systems’ – Urban Nexus Session – Global Town Hall @ Metropolitan Solutions, Hannover
Presentation – ‘Reorganizing Urban Systems’ – European Strategy Workshop Sustainable Cities – Eco-Innovera/RVO, Amsterdam
Panel discussion – ‘Null Müll – eine Vision für Kommunen?’ – Heinrich Böll Stifting, Berlin