11 August 2014

UN-RMIT agreement boosts urban sustainability

A new five-year agreement between the United Nations Global Compact and RMIT University will strengthen efforts to tackle the world's urban challenges.

The agreement will boost the reach and work of the Global Compact Cities Programme, with RMIT committing $5 million in funding until 2019.

Hosted by RMIT in Melbourne since 2008, the Cities Programme is the urban component of the UN Global Compact and is dedicated to the promotion and adoption by cities of the initiative's 10 principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.

Under the new agreement, the Cities Programme will aim to expand into the Asia-Pacific and double the number of signatory cities: the 86 currently participating cities range from large metropolitan capitals (Barcelona, Melbourne, Berlin, Quito) to states (Sao Paulo and Parana in Brazil, Queretaro in Mexico) and municipalities (Besiktas in Turkey, San Isidro in Argentina).

Professor Calum Drummond, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation and Vice-President, said RMIT was delighted to confirm its strengthened commitment to hosting the international secretariat of the Cities Programme.

"Building partnerships between city governments, civil society and the business community is very important to RMIT, as a global university and as a corporate citizen," Professor Drummond said.

"We are committed to enabling positive, timely impact for society and for the environment."

As part of its commitment to the Cities Programme, RMIT will invest in a Cities Development manager with expertise in Asia and appoint a range of urban specialists in resilience and adaptation; food, water and energy security; housing and poverty; governance and planning; and urban form and mobility.

UN Global Compact Executive Director Georg Kell said: "The Global Compact believes that cities have the potential to make enormous strides in creating sustainable societies, and is grateful that RMIT University has committed to drive our Cities Programme forward.

"We have seen how cities and states can overcome complex challenges by taking an approach that considers a broad range of sustainability principles covering human rights, labour standards, environment and anti-corruption, and then working with business and civil society to find lasting solutions."

RMIT's Professor Ralph Horne has been appointed new Director of the Cities Programme, bringing international expertise and leadership in sustainability and urban development issues.

"I am delighted to accept this invitation to lead the Cities Programme through the next 5 years of expansion and development," Professor Horne said.

"I look forward to contributing to new collaborations and new solutions that improve the lives of urban dwellers across the world in tangible ways."

Professor Horne is a renowned leader in research and practice on urban issues, leading more than 100 industry-linked research projects on the built environment, urban sustainability and social change since 2005.

He was previously Director of RMIT's Centre for Design (2005-12) and served on the Board of the Green Building Council of Australia (2010-13). He is currently Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation, for RMIT's College of Design and Social Context.

With the addition of a range of urban specialists to the Cities Programme staff and greater collaboration with Global Compact Local Networks, the new agreement with RMIT will provide city participants with stronger local relationships, as well as global connectedness and better recognition.

Other aims for the Global Compact Cities Programme over the next five years include:

  • deepening engagement with leader cities such as Medellin (Colombia), Porto Alegre (Brazil), Barcelona (Spain) to draw on their innovation and good practice, to inform and inspire other cities
  • assisting more signatory cities to become Global Compact city leaders who share their good practice and knowledge with other cities
  • undertaking the first major survey of all signatory cities (2014-15)
  • establishing cluster networks of cities within countries and states, with new regional secretariats to build partnerships with private sector and NGO's
  • enabling cities to better compare practices and innovations, collaborate on solutions to urban development challenges, and celebrate and share their successes

More information about the Global Compact Cities Programme.

For interviews: Professor Ralph Horne, Director, Global Compact Cities Programme, +61 3 9925 3485.

For media enquiries: Gosia Kaszubska, (03) 9925 3176 or 0417 510 735.