Dr. Aromar Revi, Director of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) and co-chair of the SDSN Thematic Group on Sustainable Cities, joined a series of events organized by the SDSN Turkey Network on February 16-18 to discuss the role of cities as drivers of sustainable development. SDSN Turkey was launched in June 2014 and is jointly managed by Boğaziçi University and Columbia Global Centers | Turkey.

The program consisted of a meeting with the Mayor of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Kadir Topbaş, a visit to the Istanbul Sariyer Municipality, a reception and roundtable with the members of the SDSN Turkey Network Leadership Council, and a public lecture.

Dr. Revi’s meeting with Mayor Kadir Topbaş was significant, in particular, for the global campaign on an Urban SDG. Mayor Topbaş is a member of the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda and is the President of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). During the meeting, the mayor reiterated his support for the global agenda for sustainable cities. The delegation to meet with Mayor Topbaş included Dr. Revi; Ipek Cem Taha, Director of Columbia Global Centers | Turkey; Selva Gürdoğan, Director of Studio-X Istanbul; and Prof. Mehmed Özkan of Boğaziçi University.

Dr. Revi also visited Şükrü Genç, the mayor of İstanbul Sarıyer Municipality. Mayor Genç introduced Sarıyer, the northernmost district of Istanbul, on the European side of the city. With a long shore along the water, the district boasts both a beautiful coastline and a lush forest. Mayor Genç provided information on municipality projects and strategies to render Sarıyer a more livable district for its citizens and to contribute to Sarıyer’s economic, social and cultural development. Dr. Revi gave a brief talk to the Municipality Council, presenting the concept of sustainable cities. He highlighted the impacts of globalization on cities and drew attention to the dangers for which cities should take precautions to ensure a livable future.

Dr. Revi also visited Boğaziçi University at the invitation of Rector Gülay Barbarosoğlu for a reception with members of the SDSN Turkey Network Leadership Council and Executive Committee, where Co-chair Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nilgün Cılız presented SDSN Turkey’s targets and action plan.

On February 17, 2015, Columbia Global Centers | Turkey hosted a roundtable discussion on sustainable cities at Studio-X Istanbul with 40 experts from universities, the municipality, civil society organizations and private companies. Representatives from the SDSN Turkey Network were on hand to lead the roundtable: Columbia Global Centers | Turkey Director Ipek Cem Taha, SDSN Turkey Network Co-Chair Prof. Dr. Levent Kurnaz, SDSN Turkey Consultant Prof. Dr. Mine Eder, SDSN Turkey Coordinator Bahar Özay and Columbia Global Centers | Turkey Program Manager Rana Zincir Celal.

Dr. Revi presented the current targets and indicators for the Urban SDG and discussed the challenges that urban communities face in implementing an agenda for inclusive, resilient and connected cities. The roundtable was followed by a public lecture by Dr. Revi titled “How can new urban geographies create new histories?” According to Dr. Revi, “cities are the most important creation that humankind has created over the last 5000 years, but also the most deeply confounded one.” This is particularly true at a time when climate change, rapid urbanization and increasing inequality present deeper and more complex problems than ever before. Despite the blizzard which was to paralyze Istanbul for 3 days, the lecture was attended by 30 people and moderated by Prof. Ayfer Bartu Candan of Bogazici University. The video of Dr. Revi’s lecture is available here.

Dr. Revi was also the featured guest on Turkey’s leading independent radio station, Açık Radyo, on their Metropolitika program, a weekly program concerning urban issues hosted by Prof. Murat Güvenç of Kadir Has University and Korhan Gümüş, architect and çivil society leader. The program can be heard here (advance to 5:00 min. to hear Aromar Revi):

In his discussions over three days in Istanbul, Dr. Revi referred to the importance of Turkey in terms of sustainable development. He connected Istanbul’s growing role with two great changes. The first is the shift of the global economy from the North Atlantic to Asia. As a result of this change, the city of Istanbul has a much more important geopolitical position. The second big change is the shift from a rural to urban economy. This shift has serious consequences such as the increase of migration, the decline of agriculture and the threat of famine and water scarcity in the city. As Istanbul’s population density grows at an rapid rate, Dr. Revi argues that the city must ensure good management to address these severe threats.

The SDSN Turkey Network is now formulating a long-term initiative to focus on sustainable cities in Turkey.