USF Joins UN-Habitat Partnership

The Patel School becomes the North American Representative in the UN’s new research, strategy partnership on future cities.


USF President Judy Genshaft holds the signed UN partnership agreement. She is flanked by Kala Vairavamoorthy (left), director of the Patel School of Global Sustainability and Graham Tobin, USF Vice Provost.


USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 11, 2012) – The University of South Florida’s Patel School of Global Sustainability has signed on as the first North American university in a research and strategy partnership with the UN-Habitat Partner University Initiative.


The partnership is focusing on urban resource management for future cities, particularly in the developing world.


In an agreement signed at the World Urban Forum in Naples, Italy, USF and UN-Habitat agreed to establish the Urban Futures research hub at the Patel School which will promote education, professional development and policy advice on emerging cities. The agreement addresses the challenge facing researchers and communities worldwide to develop new technologies, management strategies and educational programs to create liveable and healthy cities, particularly those expanding rapidly in the developing world.


UN-Habitat created the Habitat Partner University Initiative to respond to the challenges of rapid urbanization. By 2030, an estimated 59 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas, including about  55 percent of the developing world, the United Nations reports. Each year, 67 million new urban dwellers are added to the world’s population.


 “The USF Patel School of Global Sustainability’s continued partnership with UN-Habitat is resulting in real and measurable changes in how the international community approach and view the challenges of managing growth in emerging cities and urban environments,” said Kala Vairavamoorthy, director of the Patel School. “This agreement underscores the importance of looking at growth management through a holistic lens in order to create healthy, livable and resilient cities.”


Joan Clos, executive director of UN-Habitat, USF Vice Provost Graham Tobin and  Vairavamoorthy signed the Memorandum of Understanding detailing the terms of the collaboration at the World Urban Forum.  

“I am very happy to be signing this Memorandum of Understanding with the University of South Florida and to welcome them into the UN-Habitat family,” Clos said. “Establishing an urban futures research hub at the university’s Patel School of Global Sustainability is an important moment for the Habitat Partner University Initiative that will not only help foster world class research on this vital issue, but will also set an example that we hope will encourage more such partnerships in the future.”  


The partnership is the result of several years of collaboration between UN-Habitat and the Patel School. Recently, the Patel School was asked by UN-Habitat to develop a draft position paper for their flagship report, “State of Water & Sanitation in the World’s Cities 2012 – Looking ahead to 2050,” which was presented at the 6th World Water Forum 2012 in Marseille, France.


The position paper argues that in order to meet future water and sanitation challenges there is a need for a fundamental change in the way in which water is used and reused. The paper also highlights the fact that urbanization offers great opportunities to implement a new, sustainable paradigm in water and sanitation services.


The partnership is also a natural extension of the mission and goals of both organizations. UN-Habitat's University Partnership Initiative was created to respond to the effects of rapid urbanization. The initiative involves partnering with universities, who produce the leaders, managers and planners required for implementing innovative approaches in city development. The Patel School fosters sustainable urban communities and environments through collaborative research, education and community involvement. Its research generates innovations to help cities around the world reduce their ecological footprint while improving their form and function, making them healthier, more livable and more resilient.

“We look forward to working collaboratively with UN-Habitat to seek solutions to global challenges, nurture sustainable communities and wise urban planning, and boost international understanding,” Tobin said.