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Urban memories / Mémoires urbaines & The State of Arab Cities


Monday, June 27, 2022


Urban Expo: Urban Library room
United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat) & Institut Paris Region
UL 3

Summary of Urban memories / Mémoires urbaines 

The Institute Paris Region, the largest planning agency in Europe, will release in June 2022 a publication on City memories (title in French: Mémoires vivantes). The preservation and enhancement of historic centers pose particular questions for urban planning. Indeed, contemporary urban planning norms are often ill-suited to the objectives of preserving the historic character of historic centers.

Specific instruments must be put in place. These require both a legislative framework for measures that depart from the normative framework, specific regulatory measures and adapted processes. Moreover, the management method for the development of old town centers relies on integrated actions that are both very precise in terms of regulations (on a parcel basis) and operational (management plan), which differ from the urban planning that is generally implemented.

How can urban planning instruments be adapted to manage the development and preservation of historic centers? What are the similarities and particularities of the systems put in place according to the contexts? What are the priorities of the actors involved in developing instruments for managing the development of historic centers? Beyond the instruments of urban planning, contemporary issues modify the view of the development of historic centers. Tourist pressure, changes in lifestyles, metropolitanization, climate change, health crises, and the priority given to urban regeneration have a direct impact on heritage. How do the experiences of historic centers contribute to the reflections on these contemporary issues? How do the new approaches to the city make the more specific approaches?

The Cahier presents experiences of international cooperation and production of public policies applied to old city centers. These experiences are highlighted using different approaches.

This concerns mainly:

  • projects for the protection and enhancement of historic centers: conservation plans, action plans, management plans, workshops aimed at providing development guidelines
  • urban planning documents: master plans, urban planning regulations that include a heritage component and cover a historic center.
  • The sites concerned are World Heritage historic centers (Algiers, Bordeaux, Damascus, Hanoi, Mumbai, Seine in Paris, Luang Prabang, Mosul, Mostar, Oasis in Mauritania, Porto Novo, Saint-Louis in Senegal, Samarkand, Tunis...)
  • and sites that could be eligible (Casablanca, Tripoli/Libya) or are in the immediate vicinity of inscribed properties (Balat and Fener in Istanbul).

The authors of the articles are experts who have been involved in the development or implementation of planning or management of historic centers. The event is an opportunity to share the main points of the publication and open a discussion on contemporary challenges facing historic urban centers.

Summary State of Arab Cities

The State of Arab Cities

Crucial to the understanding of the state of cities and building their resilience, is up-to-date information, data, and analyses of urban contexts and trends. In the Arab region, one of the biggest challenges facing local authorities, policymakers and stakeholders alike is the scarcity of disaggregated urban data, especially at the city level, as well as efficient data collection mechanisms and monitoring tools.

Tools such as Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) can serve to address these gaps and assist local and national governments in identifying opportunities for development. VLRs are powerful accelerators of the process of localizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). When VLRs analyze indicators following an inclusive and participatory process and coupled with a coherent analysis of existing policies, they become strategic planning tools reinforcing local-national development dialogue.

The role of local governments in the provision of basic services, identifying local development priority and ensuring integrated cross-sectoral urban planning is central to localizing the SDGs and fostering the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the New Urban Agenda. VLRs are being used by cities, local and regional governments worldwide to follow-up and review the progress towards achieving the SDGs.

In the Arab region, following an inclusive and participatory approach, two cities have started developing their VLRs, namely, Amman, Jordan and Agadir, Morocco with more cities due to begin the process later this year. Leading the drive for VLRs in the Arab region is United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) in partnership with United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA), United Cities for Local Governments Middle East and West Asia (UCLG-MEWA) and the Arab Towns Organization (ATO). At the heart of the partnership are local and regional governments.

The objective of this event is to discuss the role of the city in accelerating development and building resilience and informing policy at both local and national levels. It will reflect on the importance of data collection and monitoring mechanisms through examples of local governance, challenges, and opportunities.


Moderated by: Sukaina Al-Nasrawi, Lead of Sustainable Urban Development Portfolio, UN-ESCWA


Opening Remarks:

Eng. Ahmad Sobeih, Secretary General, Arab Towns Organization

Mr. Mehmet Duman, Secretary General, UCLG-MEWA

17:15 – 17:45

Panel Discussion:

  • Khalid Safir, Wali, Director General of Local Governments at the Ministry of Interior, Morocco
  • Dr. Ali M AlSwat, Mayor of Baha Region Municipality, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Njoud Abdeljawad, Manager of International Relations and Technical Support Department, Greater Amman Municipality

17:45 – 17:50

Closing Remarks:

Erfan Ali, Regional Representative, UN-Habitat Regional Office for Arab States

Session speakers

Mr. Eric Huybrechts
ISOCARP Institute
Dr. Sukaina Al-Nasrawi
Lead of Sustainable Urban Development Portfolio
Eng. Ahmad Sobeih
Secretary General
Arab Towns Organization (ATO)
Mr. Mehmet Duman
Secretary General
United Cities and Local Governments Middle East and West Asia (UCLG-MEWA)
Mr. Khalid Safir
Wali, Director General of Local Governments
Ministry of Interior
Dr. Ali M AlSwat
Baha Region Municipality
Ms. Njoud Abdeljawad
Manager of International Relations and Technical Support Department
Greater Amman Municipality
Dr. Erfan Ali
Regional Representative
UN-Habitat Regional Office for Arab States