City Lab

Urban Thinkers Campus: Urban Design, Economic Growth and the Jobs of the Future in the Tropics

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Two photos of the Cairns waterfront

James Cook University and the Centre for International Business and Trade in Asia (CITBA) organised  an Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC) entitled “Urban Design, Economic Growth, and the Jobs of the Future in the Tropics”. The UTC model is an initiative of UN-Habitat conceived as an open space for critical exchange between urban researchers, professionals, and decision-makers who believe that urbanization is an opportunity and can lead to positive urban and economic transformations.

A large number of community groups from JCU, Redlynch State College, Tropical North Learning Smithfield State High School, Cairns Regional Council, Department of Transport and Main Roads, Cairns Airport, businesses such as GHD, Planz Town Planning, ABDT ,non-profit organisations such as Social Enterprise Network for the Tropics (SENT), FNQ Citizen’s Climate Council, My Pathway, MiHaven, Community Owned Enterprise, ISLA, Architects, and other members of the public attended the Urban Thinkers Campus event organised by the Centre for International Trade and Business in Asia (CITBA). The event was part of the United Nation’s Habitat program and it took place over three days between 25-27 Novembers inclusive.

The event proved to be a catalyst to build consensus between participating constituencies for addressing urban and economic challenges in our city and proposing solutions to future challenges.

The event was the culmination of 9 months planning and preparation by a small army of people within CITBA, with special mention of and thanks to A/Prof Josephine Pryce, Dr Silvia Tavares, Ms Diana Castorina, Ms Trang Nguyen, Ms Jane Njaramba, Ms Dwi Sugiharti, Mr Andrew Dineen, Mr Emmanuel McCarthy, and Ms Suzie Pont for their generous contribution of time and expertise before, during, and after the event.

Centre for International Trade and Business in Asia would also like to especially highlight the hard work of Dr Taha Chaiechi, the Australian Director of the Centre, for her continues engagement with the local community in the past several months in promoting the UN initiative in order to amplify the urban thinkers’ movement here in the tropics.

Post-event reports and evaluations are in progress and more details will be released and shared with the colleagues in due course.

The particular focus of this event  was  on the critical connection between innovative urban design and sustainable economic growth in a way that enhances the quality of life in the tropical communities people live and work.  Building on the previous deliberations of the World Urban Campaign, this UTC was organised around the themes of “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” and “The New Urban Agenda” , specifically principle 3 (The City We Need is economically vibrant and inclusive), principle 8 (The city we need is well-planned, walkable and transit-friendly) and principle 10 (The City We Need learns and innovates). The event will also directly contribute to the SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), SDG 13 (Climate Action), and SDG17 (Partnerships).


The recommendations made by the participants, are being compiled and distilled into a structured report which will then be presented to collaborating organisations and other relevant government agencies with a shared interest. The final report will be  produced addressing prospective policy, planning and regulatory response. Moreover, ways of monitoring the actions through indicators will be discussed and defined, and key actors and their roles on the action plan will be identified. This UTC will be featured in the calendar of events on the World Urban Campaign website, as well as on the Urban Thinkers Campus page and will have its own dedicated page.

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Contact: Dr Taha Chaiechi
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The program

Click here to view the program and be sure to register (using the button below) as seats are limited. The event is organised around three main issues:

  • Urban planning and economic growth in the local tropical context
  • Growing urban areas and employment opportunities
  • Urban access, transport networks, and local economies