The Dialogues

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 Urban Development to take place in Quito, Ecuador, in 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 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 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 critical urban issues in order to identify practical, yet effective, entry points for their implementation.


20 April 2015 @ Global Soil Week

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.

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18 September 2015

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 and a Public Debate.

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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?

More information available soon

Critical Letters

In these one-page letters to Habitat III, voices from Local Practice and Academia express their critiques as well as their practical entry points for a grounded New Urban Agenda.

The letters are organised per Dialogue topic. For joining the discussion, please visit the separate Dialogue pages.


This Critical Dialogues Series is conceptualised by
Katleen De Flander – Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies IASS, Potsdam
and Juan Ayala – iconwise, Berlin

The Public Debates are co-curated with ANCB The Aedes Metropolitan Laboratory, Berlin