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Rotterdam, 15 Sept 11
Mayors and senior local government officials from Africa, Asia and Latin America gathered for the first “Shelter Academy” held 13-15 September 2011 held in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

The Shelter Academy which will be an annual event provides participants with a unique opportunity to engage with high-level experts and each other on some of the most vexing urban challenges of the day. This years’ theme focuses on the challenges and opportunities climate change presents port cities.

“For the residents of Banjul, climate change is a reality today for the residents of the capital of the Gambia. Coastal erosion is a real threat and we need practical and affordable solutions to solutions to withstand raising sea levels” the Mayor Mr. Samba Faal.  Despite the threats involved, we should also look to use climate change can involve opportunities, he added. 

In a statement made on his behalf of UN-HABITAT Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos praised this important partnership. “Cities can only hope to address rapid urbanization if they plan at a scale that is commensurate to the challenge.  Sustainable development is not an accident; it depends upon the concerted efforts by citizens, business, and political leaders aided by their technical staff to develop long-term policies which can accommodate smart-growth supported by a series of short-term action plans. We often underestimate the role urban policies and legislation can play in stimulating economic growth to fund needed expansions in critical infrastructure and neighbourhoods.”

Harrie Noy, CEO Arcadis N.V., welcomed the participants at the global company headquarters in Amsterdam recognizing the importance of on-going collaboration with UN-HABITAT. Over the past two years, this partnership has involved providing technical expertise to almost a dozen countries affected by climate change and natural disasters such as Haiti, the Philippines and Senegal. “Arcadis has a longstanding commitment to working with government for development,” he said.

Founded in 1888, initially as a non-profit organization to transform marshlands into agriculturally productive areas as a means of stimulating employment creation Arcadis today provides a range of engineering, planning and environmental services across five continents. “Our mandate is very complimentary to the work of UN-HABITAT through its projects in countries around the world and as a partner to the World Urban Campaign”, the CEO observed.

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