Main Speakers

February Speakers

Keynote Speaker (February )

Tom Meeuws

Tom Meeuws is Vice-Mayor of the City of Antwerp and its alderman for social affairs, poverty reduction, social economy, environment and honorary services.
Over the past 20 years, Meeuws has worked in a number of roles at the City of Antwerp, including: staff member to the city's labour market policy, chief of staff for the alderman for Community Development, Director of the City's department for community building and society, and Director of its public mobility enterprise.
Prior to this, he was a policy advisor on labour market and sustainable development for the Federal Planning Bureau, an independent advisory institution supporting Belgian policy making.
In his current role as alderman, Meeuws is responsible for Antwerp's commitments in several European partnerships and member of the European Regional Executive Committee of ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability. Building on these, his areas of focus include tackling energy poverty, decarbonising buildings, and the just energy transition.

Closing Remarks (Closing Plenary - February 4)

Christine Knudsen

Christine Knudsen is UN-Habitat's Director for External Relations, Strategy, Knowledge and Innovation. Previously, she was the Executive Director of Sphere (the Sphere Project) where she led the revision of Sphere Handbook. From 2009 to 2014, she was the Chief of the Inter-Agency Humanitarian & Partnership section in the Office of Emergency Programmes at UNICEF.   She was previously with UN OCHA in Geneva,  the Senior Protection Officer at Save the Children/US leading child protection responses in Sudan, Somalia, Chad, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mozambique, and Aceh, Indonesia and with Catholic Relief Services in Burundi, the National Democratic Institute in Gambia and UNHCR in the Russian Federation as a programme officer for Chechnya and Ingushetia.  Christine holds a Masters Degree in International Relations.  

November Speakers (Past Speakers)

Keynote Speaker (November 9)

Steffen Lehmann

Full Professor of Architecture and Director of the Urban Futures Lab at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born in Stuttgart, Germany, and studied at the Architectural Association School in London in the 1980s, and holds a Ph.D. in Urbanism from TU-Berlin. Steffen is an internationally recognized educator, scholar, author, strategic leader, and has been a Head of School in Australia and in the USA. Steffen became a licensed architect in Berlin in 1993. He has dedicated his long and distinguished career as an urban designer and educator to social impact through the improvement of cities' public spaces. He has published 22 books and in the 1990s, he coined the concept of Green Urbanism. His pioneering work is best known for his holistic view of urbanization and for actively promoting sustainability. He is Founding Director of the interdisciplinary Urban Futures Lab, and CEO of the Future Cities Leadership Lab. 

Keynote Speaker (November 8)

Sue Manns

Sue is President of the Royal Town Planning Institute 2020 and a Fellow of the Institute. She has 40 years' experience in town and country planning and community engagement.

Sue has worked in a number of different planning roles in the public, private and voluntary sectors, at national, regional and local levels. She has also worked in academia as a senior lecturer in planning law and practice and is currently a visiting lecturer at Birmingham University.

The golden thread that runs throughout Sue's career is her passion for equality, diversity and inclusivity, in terms of both effective community engagement and the planning profession itself.

In 2018 she established her own planning and community engagement consultancy which focuses on the provision of best practice strategic advice and support in respect of community engagement in major development projects.

Sue is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and the Royal Geographical Society.

Keynote Speaker (November 9)

Roheyatou Malick Lowe

Madam Rohey Malick Lowe, Lord Mayor of Banjul was born and raised in Banjul, The Gambia.

Mayor Lowe is a proactive and hardworking individual with significant years of experience as an entrepreneur who has successfully been established within the tourism industry. She studied International Relations at the University of Falun in Sweden and her academic experience has provided her with a strong theoretical knowledge of public administration. She was also very active in the political arena and subsequently a member of a party called 'Social Democrats' which gave her the opportunity to serve as a key member of the Child Welfare Committee of Nyköping Municipality with the mandate to oversee the schools within her jurisdiction.

She was elected as the Mayor of Banjul on 12th May, 2018 and since her inception, she has demonstrated professionalism through her leadership style by being very diligent and formulated a total inclusion of all the inhabitants of the city of Banjul in policy processes and giving them a voice to engage in all decisions regarding their city. Furthermore, part of her governance also includes engaging all relevant stakeholders more especially Civil Society Organisations in Banjul for the betterment and development of the City. She also implemented capacity strengthening initiatives in her municipality by restructuring the various departments and hiring qualified technocrats to assist. She has also been a key participant in several international forums advocating the localization of SDGs, furthermore, she was invited by the Canadian government to present the SDGs she has particularly advocated for and implemented in her city.

Opening remarks (November 8)

Reza Pourvaziry

Reza Pourvaziry is an architect holding a master's degree in Architecture as well as an urban researcher working in this field for over 25 years. His research focuses on the concept of architecture and process of design and sustainability which were presented in articles at international conferences and featured in newspaper. 

He established International Art & Architecture Research Association (IAARA) in 2002 to work and research about urban architecture about habitat and settlement with focus on sustainability. He has done architecture projects that he received international architecture awards, including world architecture community for Nashr Yadavaran Administrative Building and housing project for Atlas of unbuilt world by British Council. He was part of jury and steering committee and scientific committee of programs in the field of art & architecture and urbanism. He created different development projects and programs and started working as member of Steering Committee of UN-Habitat's best practices since 2004. 

He continues to work closely with UN-Habitat and was designated by under-secretary-general of UN and former Executive Director of UN-Habitat as First Global Advocate of UN-Habitat in 2016 and was introduced at 40th anniversary of UN-Habitat which was celebrated at Habitat III conference in Quito in 2016. He established Middle East Regional Center for Best Practise and Local Leadership in 2012 –2014. In 2014, Ministry of Housing and Urbanism of Iran recognized him as one of the contemporary architects in the book 'contemporary architecture' and since then he worked as president and co-founder of International City Leaders and he was designated for City Prosperity Initiative –Metropolitan Cities initiative by UN-Habitat. ICL and UN-Habitat work together on various research, workshops and conferences and one of the main publications is World Cities Report launched in 2016. At present he is chair of Urban Economy Forum working on urban architecture projects globally.

Opening remarks (November 8)

Maimunah Mohd Sharif

Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif (Malaysia) is the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), appointed at the level of Under-Secretary-General by the Secretary-General, following an election by the General Assembly on 22 December 2017. She succeeds Dr. Joan Clos of Spain. 

Prior to this appointment, Ms. Sharif was the Mayor of the City Council of Penang Island, Malaysia. In 2011, she was the first woman to be appointed President of the Municipal Council of Seberang Perai. As mayor of a local authority, she led the Municipal Council of Seberang Perai to achieve its vision of a "cleaner, greener, safer and healthier place to work, live, invest and play." Ms. Sharif began her career as a Town Planner at the Municipal Council of Penang Island in 1985. In 2003, she was promoted to Director of Planning and Development, a position she held until November 2009.

Born in Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia, on 26 August 1961, Ms. Sharif holds a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Town Planning Studies from the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology, UK and a Master of Science in Planning Studies from the Malaysia Science University.

Comment on the Prospects of Global Climate Actions  (November 9)

Bruce Stiftel

Bruce Stiftel is Professor Emeritus of City and Regional Planning at Georgia Institute of Technology [USA]. His work concerns collaborative governance of environmental policy and international movement of urban planning ideas.  He was founding chair of the Global Planning Education Association Network (GPEAN), and served UN-Habitat as a member of expert groups on the International Guidelines on Urban and Territorial Planning, and the World Cities Report 2016. He chairs UN-Habitat's Planners for Climate Action, Working Group on Research and Knowledge. Former president of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, he is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and member of the editorial boards of International Planning Studies, Journal of the American Planning Association, Planning Theory, and Town Planning Review.

Panelist (November 8)

Anantha Krishnan

Has over 40 years of experience in international development work, including over 15 years  with the UN in in Nairobi Kenya ( UNEP and UN Habitat) engaged in  urban youth empowerment initiatives, policy and research, advocacy, program management as well as development and implementation of projects. Currently holding the position of  Secretary General of Urban Economy Forum, looking at the ways and means to strengthen the economies of cities and towns, supporting the implementation   of Sustainable Development Goals at the City level and to deliver services including in the housing and health sectors. Contributed (2014-18) to addressing energy poverty issues among the internally displaced and conflict affected populations in the North East of Nigeria with the introduction of clean cooking stoves initiative led by a Nigerian NGO, ICEED. In 2019, completed consultancy assignments for the World Bank in Nigeria, working on the implementation of the Multisectoral Crisis Recovery Project (MCRP) in Nigeria to support peacebuilding and reconstruction in the Boko Haram insurgency affected areas in the North East of the country.  In 2016, participated on behalf of UN-Habitat in conducting a Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessment, a joint UN/EU/World Bank/ Nigerian Government initiative in the North East of Nigeria. Other relevant work includes a consultancy assignment for the Norwegian Government on studying the impact of urbanization on women's empowerment. Also completed a strategy document for UNIDO on youth employment and entrepreneurship. A position paper was developed by him   for UN-Habitat on Urban Basic Services. He has also conducted housing market studies in Myanmar, Mozambique and Tanzania. .  

Has been associated with organizations in China and the UN in setting up a Youth entrepreneurship Award. He was also the editor of the Chinese/English bilingual magazine, UNITY.

Over the past decade Ananthakrishnan has focused on innovative programs furthering the agenda of local governance, children, youth and gender equity, and has managed a portfolio of such programming for UN-HABITAT headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, totaling approximately US $2 million annually.  In his capacity as Chief of the Partners and Youth Branch of UN-HABITAT, he helped the agency become the leader within the United Nations system in recognizing and tapping into the positive potential of youth and working for a rights based approach to children and youth issues in urban areas. He was instrumental in setting up and managing a fund for urban youth, to benefit youth initiatives at the local level.

In Norway, he has worked at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Local Government and the Ministry of Environment. Other organisations that he has worked in Norway include the International Peace Research Institute (PRIO),  Forum for Environment and development and the Anti-racist Centre and NORAD, the Norwegian agency for international development. In addition to his current stay in Cuba, he has lived and worked in Tanzania, India, Kenya, Nigeria and the UK. He is on the board of several organisations including FLEDGE, Glocal Forum and ICEED

He is a Norwegian national of Indian origin with strong African connections. Holds master's degrees in civil engineering (IIT) and Social Studies (Bradford) and post graduate qualification in International Management. Has written several articles and papers.

Panelist (November 8)

Rafael Tuts

Rafael Tuts is Director of the Global Solutions Division of UN-Habitat, based at its Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. He is overseeing the development and application of UN-Habitat's normative guidelines through global programmes. He is currently also coordinating an agency-wide effort to review the State of the World's Cities in the fight against COVID-19, focusing on multi-level governance, inequality, spatial structure and urban economy.

From 2016 to 2019 he was Director of the Programme Division of UN-Habitat, overseeing its seven thematic branches and four regional offices. From 2012 to 2016 he was Coordinator of the Urban Planning and Design Branch of UN-Habitat, promoting compact, integrated and connected cities that are inclusive and resilient to climate change. Earlier coordinating assignments at UN-Habitat included the Localising Agenda 21 Programme, the Training and Capacity Branch and the Cities and Climate Change Initiative. 

Following the Rio+20 Conference, he coordinated UN-Habitat's engagement in formulating the Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG-11 on 'making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable'. He authored and co-edited several publications on a wide range of sustainable urban development topics, including 'Urban Trialogues', a book reflecting on urban space as a resource for sustainable development, based on work in Morocco, Kenya, Vietnam and Cuba. 

Together with colleagues from the World Bank, UNEP and Cities Alliance, he received the World Bank Vice-President Team Award in 2011 for global partnership building on Cities and Climate Change. He also received ISOCARP's 50th Anniversary Award in 2015 on behalf of UN-Habitat, in recognition of UN-Habitat's urban planning work. 

Before joining UN-Habitat in 1995, he worked for the Department of Architecture, Urbanism, and Planning of the University of Leuven in Belgium and the Housing Research and Development Unit of the University of Nairobi. In 1985, he obtained a Masters of Science degree in Architectural Engineering from the University of Leuven. In December 2016, he was awarded the title of Honorary Professor from the same university.

Panelist (November 9)

Camilla Ween

Camilla Ween is an architect, an urbanist and a Harvard Loeb Fellow. Working globally, she focusses on delivering sustainable cities through environmentally friendly urban design and integrated public transport networks that also include walking and cycling infrastructure. She is a Steering Group member of the UN Urban Economy Forum, a UK Design Council Built Environment Expert, a member of the UK High Street Task Force (supporting local authorities to transform  Britain's highstreets) and Head of Communications for ConnectedCities. She writes and lectures widely and active on many design review panels. She is a Director of Goldstein Ween Architects.

Panelist (November 9)

Laura Petrella

Laura Petrella is the Chief of the Planning, Finance and Economy Section at UN-Habitat where she coordinates the work of the agencies in the field of city extension, city-wide planning and site design. In 2012-19 she was leading the City Planning and Design Unit. She trained in Italy as architect and specialized in urban and territorial planning in developing countries. She has 25 years experience initially in research and then at UN-Habitat, where she has been in charge of a major programme on Safer Cities and established the City Planning Extension and Design Unit. She has published several guidelines of UN-Habitat on urban planning and on slum upgrading. She has worked on urban development and planning issues in Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Cameroon, South Africa, Morocco, Burkina Faso), Latin America (Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Haiti), Asia (Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, India, Bangladesh) and Europe (Italy, Serbia) as well as at global level.

Panelist (November 9)

Shi Nan

Dr. Shi Nan has over 30 years planning experiences specialized in policy analysis and master planning. He has been very active in major planning and research projects including Revision of National Planning Act of P.R. China, Framework for the National Planning Standards and Norms, Terminology of Urban and Rural Planning, etc. As the Chief Editor of the most predominant academic journal in China, City Planning Review, his monthly commentary column is the most popular planning literature in China. His major books include The State of China's Cities, Some Observations Concerning China's Urban Development, China Urban Development Report, etc.

Dr. Shi Nan is the Executive President and Secretary General of Urban Planning Society of China (UPSC), the national academic and professional organization of China. He is also Vice Director of National Steering Board for Planning Education and National Accreditation Board for Planning Curriculum. Dr. Shi is concurrent professor at Tsinghua University and Renmin University of China. He is also invited as planning advisor for City Government of Guangzhou, Harbin, Xi'an etc. 

He has wide experiences working with major international organizations including World Bank, UN-Habitat, UNDP etc. He was Vice President of ISOCARP (2011-2017). He is a member of expert group for UN-Habitat's International Guidelines on Urban and Territorial Planning, and Habitat III New Urban Agenda, and currently a member of UN-Habitat Stakeholder Advisory Group.

December Speakers (Past Speakers)

Keynote Speaker (December 9)

Camilla Ween

Camilla Ween is an architect, an urbanist and a Harvard Loeb Fellow. Working globally, she focusses on delivering sustainable cities through environmentally friendly urban design and integrated public transport networks that also include walking and cycling infrastructure. She is a Steering Group member of the UN Urban Economy Forum, a UK Design Council Built Environment Expert, a member of the UK High Street Task Force (supporting local authorities to transform  Britain's highstreets) and Head of Communications for ConnectedCities. She writes and lectures widely and active on many design review panels. She is a Director of Goldstein Ween Architects.

Keynote Speaker (December 10)

Lučka Kajfež Bogataj

Professor for Climatology, University of Ljubljana. She is one of Slovenia's pioneers in researching the impact of climate change. She served as vice-chair of the Working Group 2 Fourth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and she was the joint recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. She was also a member of the Steering Committee for the Global Climate Observation System at World Meteorological Organisation   In 2016 she became a member of the UNESCO Expert Group on the Declaration on Ethical Principles in Relation to Climate Change. Her areas of research include biometeorology, climate change scenarios and impacts on ecosystems.

January Speakers (Past Speakers)

Keynote Speaker (January 12)

Peter Plastrik

Peter Plastrik is a cofounder of the Innovation Network for Communities (INC), which helps to develop social innovations and social-impact networks. He helped to create the Urban Sustainability Directors Network and the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance and has written extensively about cities and climate change. He has consulted with numerous nonprofit organizations and philanthropic funders. 

With coauthor John Cleveland, he published Life After Carbon: The Next Global Transformation of Cities, Connecting to Change the World: Harnessing the Power of Networks for Social Impact, and Welcome to the Edge of Chaos: Where Change is a Way of Life. He is principal author of seven reports in INC's Climate Resilience Series ( 

Plastrik was born in Paris, grew up in New York City, raised a family in Michigan, and now lives in western Washington state, overlooking Puget Sound.

Keynote Speaker (January 13)

Cliff Hague

Cliff is Professor Emeritus in Planning and Spatial Development at Heriot-Watt University, and a freelance consultant and researcher. He is a Past President of the Royal Town Planning Institute, and of the Commonwealth Association of Planners, and a past Chair of Built Environment Forum Scotland. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Science. Currently he is Chair of the Cockburn Association, a 145 year-old civic society organisation that campaigns on planning and conservation in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is a patron of PAS, a Scottish charity that uses professional volunteers to provide advice to individuals and communities. Cliff has worked extensively in European Union regional development projects, and was a jury member for international design competitions for the Beijing Olympics. He gave the keynote address at the event to restructure the planning profession in South Africa after the end of apartheid. In the UK he has been awarded an OBE for services to planning, and in the Czech Republic a Centenary medal by the Technical University of Brno. He was author of one of the essays in the book Encounters in Planning Thought: 16 Autobiographical Essays by Key Thinkers in Spatial Planning. His latest book (2018) is Leading Change: Delivering the New Urban Agenda through Urban and Territorial Planning. His website is .

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