UBC-United Nations Online Urban Sustainability Archive Receives Anonymous Donation

The UBC/UN-Habitat Archives, which will become the world’s most complete online repository of best practices for building sustainable cities, has received a financial boost from an anonymous donor.

The $100,000 contribution, which includes $50,000 from UBC, provides operating funds to researchers at UBC’s Centre for Human Settlements (CHS) and Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, as they curate the UN agency’s more than 50-year multimedia collection of research and expertise on urban issues.

The archives, launched at a colloquium attended by Mrs. Axumite Gebre-Egziabher of UN-HABITAT, make UBC the only Canadian university with such an institutional partnership with the UN and builds on a 40-year relationship between the two institutions.

“Rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, economies and the environment is one of the most important issues facing the world today,” says Stephen Owen, UBC Vice President, External, Legal and Community Affairs. “This generous donation gives much-needed financial support to this important and timely endeavor.”

The public online portal will give governments, urban planners, developers, scholars and others access to sustainable solutions to all aspects of urban life, including housing, transportation, infrastructure, resources management, land tenure, governance and climate change.

A pilot version of the portal, with nearly 500 books, videos, magazines, pamphlets, websites and other materials, is available at: www.chs.ubc.ca/archives. In time, the ongoing project will feature several thousands of such items, including a unique collection of 2,000 videos accumulated since UN-HABITAT 1976. After setting up a free account, users can browse subjects by topic, year, agency, country, and media type.

“These materials can show us how to improve the livability and economic viability of the world’s communities, but they have not been readily available up to now,” says UBC Professor Emeritus Peter Oberlander, inaugural director of CHS.

“The UBC/UN-Habitat Archives addresses this gap between knowledge and action, by bringing together tested urban knowledge, practical experience, and current research,” Oberlander says.

CHS, a unit within UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP), was established as a legacy of HABITAT I, the 1976 UN Conference on Human Settlements in Vancouver, and was a key participant and sponsor of HABITAT III, the 2006 UN World Urban Forum in Vancouver.

CHS houses 35 faculty and graduate students who conduct multidisciplinary research and capacity-building programs related to regional, urban, and community development. In 1990, CHS was designated a Canadian International Development Agency “Centre of Excellence.”

“For example, a municipal clerk in Kumasi, Ghana, instructed to introduce water metering can now access the UN’s best practices on this subject to help ensure accessible and equitable water distribution,” adds Oberlander, who also founded the Centre for Community Planning at Ghana’s University of Science and Technology.

UN-HABITAT, the UN’s Nairobi-based Human Settlements Program, is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all.

– 30 –