Culture for peace and understanding in cities of the new Millennium
Barcelona, 15 September 2004 - Culture has many meanings. This was the
focus of the Dialogue on urban cultures called Cities as Crossroads of Cultures:
Globalization and Culture in an Urbanizing World.
Professor Michael Cohen, Director of the Graduate Program in International
Affairs at the New School University, New York chaired a Partners’ Dialogue
that acknowledged that little work has been done in the past on culture as it
relates to city planning, management and governance.
But as a result of increasing diversities in the cities of today, the relative
issues of culture are becoming ever more important.
In a statement read on her behalf, Mrs. Anna K. Tibaijuka, Executive Director
of UN-HABITAT, emphasized the importance of the impact of international migration
on cities, and the issue of planning multicultural cities in the present era
“International migration is one of the major dimensions of globalization
and most international migrants move into cities rather than rural areas because
this is where the jobs are,” she said. “The latest United Nations
statistics indicate that in 2000, there was a total of 175 million international
migrants in the world representing about 3 per cent of the world’s population.”
The number of international migrants, she added, had been increasing steadily
over the last 25 years, most of them to North America and Europe.
Other speakers agreed with her that the real significance of international migration
was in the way in which it brought new cultures and languages into cities.
Professor Jordi Borja of the University of Barcelona, Spain, said local and
regional governments had been given more responsibilities and citizens should
be afforded more participatory opportunities in the development process.
Mr. Yves Dauge, Senator of Indre-et-Loire and Mayor of Chinon, France added
that training and education are integral to the development of professionals
who are capable of identifying and incorporating cultural themes into urban
projects. Such training is also an important part of the planning and development
process of the cities.
Ms. Sheela Patel of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC)
in Mumbai, India, said urban development and poverty reduction are a direct
result of citizen participation. Learning from the people is the key. Real life
situations can produce useful knowledge leading to the cultural promotion of
In concluding remarks, Prof. Cohen cited values as a strong indicator for urban
planning. “Unless we have a clear idea of who we are, it is difficult
to figure out where we are going. It is important to make the journey from the
virtual city back to the city of virtue. When we ask the question as a city
‘what do we mean by virtue?’ the answers help guide us in the planning
and development process.”