The Urban Social Forum comes to Surabaya

By Widya Anggraini, Surabaya Community Manager

30 December 2015

The Urban Social Forum (USF) is unlike any other urban forum. This forum was created by Kota Kita to provide an alternative space that negates formal mechanisms as we commonly see with government-type participation meetings. The event is actually a facilitating forum that is inclusive, democratic, and open for everyone to discuss a debate about what city they wish to see and live in. The first USF was conducted in 2013 and since then it has become an annual event that attracts hundreds of participants, NGOs and government officials. This forum is becoming more and more popular, as there is increasing awareness among people and the community to collaborate in developing solutions for current complex urban problems.

The third USF was held December 19-20 in UNTAG Surabaya. Surabaya was chosen because it is advanced in promoting green development and people's participation. The re-elected city mayor, Tri Rismaharini, has proven committed to people-centered development for her city. The theme for the third USF was "Another City is Possible." This theme comes from a realization that there are a lot of complicated problems that must be solved in cities, such as poverty, crime, conflict, slums, housing and many others. And this forum tries to seek the answers to those issues to see if another city is possible.

The event attracted more than 1,000 participants from cities across Indonesia, representing government, professionals, academicians, NGOs, and civil society. Interestingly, speakers from different backgrounds were invited, such as Surabaya's mayor; Director of Ciliwung Merdeka, Sandyawan Sumardi; Director of Surabaya Zoo, Aschta Nita Boestani Tajudin; Peta Jakarta; Bike2Work; the Indonesia Human Rights Commission; and many more organizations. The first plenary session discussed "Another City is Possible" from different angles and perspectives. Gamal Albinsaid, who initiated Garbage Clinical Insurance, emphasized the importance of youth participation in development. Meanwhile, Surabaya's mayor argued that as a local leader, she has a responsibility to the people to accommodate their needs. Furthermore, she stated, "The city is nothing without the people, so it is the people we need to care about and listen to." Also, Wicaksono Sarosa from Kemitraan Habitat argued that what is important is not only to build the city but also to promote rural development, because prosper rural areas means prosper cities. He also emphasizes the importance for city to manage urbanization, as it is the right for people to move in to city.

The event had parallel panels within three sections, and covered a wide range of topics delivered by interesting speakers. The topics ranged from issue of housing, waste management, child-friendly cities, human rights cities, green spaces, social movements, technologies, participation, climate change, and transportation. Several countries participated within this event, such as Sweden, which presented its preservation program called, SymbioCity. The third USF also brought international participants and professionals from the US, Brazil, Singapore, the Philippines, Sweden, Cambodia, South Korea, and India. The main message that came across throughout the event was about collaboration, connectivity, and technology that should be applied for bigger impact in order to create sustainable cities. We cannot rely on government to solve all city problems; hence partnerships are important, including partnerships with individual, groups, the private sector, universities, and NGOs. In the end, USF wrapped up ideas and recommendations from civil society to be brought to Habitat III.

This year, USF welcomed a delegation from the Global Platform for The Right to the City (GPR2C) to strengthen cooperation between urban activists from around the globe. GPR2C is an initiative of several organizations that promotes adoption and recognition of the Right to the City in government through dialogue, cooperation, and coordination among organizations in implementing the Right to the City. The Global Platform works in four areas: Human Rights in the City; Democratic and Participatory Governance in the Cities; Urbanization; Sustainable Use of the Territory and Social Inclusion; and Economic Development and Social Inclusion in Cities. The second day of USF focused on discussing these thematic issues in an Asian context, and will be brought in the process of Habitat III next year. This meeting has many expectations for substantive actions for the New Urban Agenda as well as to prepare PrepCom III Habitat III next year in July in Surabaya.

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