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CITBA Flagships Community empowerment, transformative cities, and building a resilient and transformative economy

Community empowerment, transformative cities, and building a resilient and transformative economy

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The orthodox methods of addressing external risks, such as climate change adaptation plans, public health emergency contingency planning, and sustainable economic growth are no longer adequate. These methods, so far, have not only ignored the ongoing structural changes associated with economic development but also failed to account for evolving industries’ composition and the emergence of new comparative advantages and skills. Particularly, vulnerable communities and exposed spaces, particularly in urban areas, that tend to experience higher susceptibility to external risks (such as climate change, natural disasters, and public health emergencies) have been largely ignored in incremental adaptation plans. Vulnerable communities and areas not only require different adaptive responses to climate risk but also possess unlocked adaptive capacity that can motivate different patterns of sustainable development to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda. It is essential, therefore, to view transformative growth and fundamental reorientation of economic resources as integral parts of the solution.

Social disorganisation and vulnerability are other undesired outcomes of the unpredictable and widespread external economic shocks. This is due to a sudden and tough competition between members of society to acquire precious resources, most of which may be depleted during unprecedented events such as natural disasters or pandemics resulting in an even more chaotic and disorganised condition.

Furthermore, Australian cities are lagging behind in their Global Sustainability Index scores with no Australian city making the top 30. This index ranks 100 leading global cities on the three pillars of sustainability (people, planet and profit) as well 32 other different indicators that are closely aligned with the United Nation's sustainable development goals (SDG). This indicates that long-term planning is crucial for major Australian cities in order to achieve a degree of sustainable balance, economic legacy and strategic decisions to manage long-term impacts of economic growth.

Accordingly, this flagship takes a multi-disciplinary approach to look at changing economies, challenges and opportunities, with a particular focus on community-driven development, unlocking the adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities, sustainable cities, regional competitiveness, and emerging practices for inclusive, transformative and resilient growth.

This flagship is directly aligned with SDG8, SDG11, SDG13 and SDG17.

The flagship has two major objectives:


  1. Explore the hidden relationships that exist between socio-environmentally responsible communities and their ability to unlocking inclusive and sustainable growth capacities.
  2. Provide empowered solutions for capacity building within communities and cities so as to facilitate climate-change actions, and achieve our vision for the development of transformative cities.

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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
email: or

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


For more information visit CITBA's International Conference 2021