Realising just cities, Cape Town – take aways from the conference


Gazing into the December darkness we look back on a couple of intense conference days on the theme of realising just cities. At this third annual conference of Mistra Urban Futures, representatives from the different platforms and nodes of the project had gathered in order to co-create, share knowledge, and create a path forward for sustainable cities. With us in our backpacks we bring inspiration and good meetings with people from all over the world attending the conference in the beautiful city of Cape Town.

The conference consisted of a number of keynote speakers as well as parallel sessions and site visits. Andries Nel, Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, South Africa, gave a thought-provoking talk about spatial injustice, prevalent in the South African history of apartheid as well as present day Cape Town’s townships and gated communities, and more. Spatial patterns reproduce inequality and poverty while influencing who can access the spaces and how they are used.

Lingering on the subject on space, land use and equity, we went on a site visit to Philippi horticultural area. In this context, Philippi represented contesting interests concerning urban land use and a debate about food production, urban resilience, agricultural labour, urban dwelling and informal settlements, as well as gender and power structures.


Olivia Bina’s brilliant talk highlighted the need for universities to reinvent themselves, to expose the norms, to focus on ethics and to find the way back to the basic idea of realising human potential. “If we don’t have that, then, what do we have?” Bina asked. Olivia Bina is principal researcher at the Institute of Social Science at the University of Lisbon and adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Resource Management at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and board member of Mistra Urban Futures.

Further, the parallel sessions explored issues of cultural heritage, food value systems and participatory cities and more. The examples gave a comparative overview of projects and actions from different parts of the world, what challenges we have in common and where we need to access and appreciate differences between the so called global south and global north.

After we left, an internal programme of workshops continued. We look forward to the next annual conference in Sheffield UK and all the things we, as a global network, will have accomplished until then.

To know more, read the conference summary by Mistra Urban Futures.

Join our breakfast event, December 12th
How can we continue working towards sustainable cities on a local and regional level? What changes are needed? Openlab, as host of the Stockholm node of Mistra Urban futures, organises a breakfast event on systemic change in December.

Join us at Share Mingle and Inspire – Improving the system for sustainable development, December 12th, 8.30 AM at Openlab!