Participants of the conference on Development Challenges in Rural and Urban Areas at USP's Marine Campus.
The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) School of Geography, Earth Science and Environment and the Commission on Local and Regional Development of the International Geographic Union (IGU) hosted a conference on Development Challenges in Rural and Urban Areas at the Marine Campus from 25 -28 June 2019.
The conference attracted participants from Australia, China, Estonia, Fiji, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Poland, Romania, and the USA to discuss various issues of rural and urban development.
It began with a trip around the eastern rim of Suva City to get an idea about conflicts of urban expansion, particularly about competing commercial interests and informal settlements between Grantham Road and Fletcher Road.
On June 26 Associate Professor Dr Joeli Veitayaki welcomed all participants including the IGU Professor Dr Elena dell'Agnese, Vice President of the International Geographical Union and all participants for having travelled far distances to contribute to the event. Welcome and well wishes were also expressed by Professor Dr Jerzy Bański, Director of the Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw and Head of the IGU Commission on Local and Regional Development.
Over the following two days 21 papers were presented covering wide areas of rural and urban development in the Pacific Islands, China, the Indian Ocean (Seychelles and Maldives), Israel, and Eastern Europe (Estonia, Poland, and Romania).
Most of the presentations revealed that bringing together rural, urban and regional development challenges is an interesting, but difficult task. Many aspects play crucial roles, starting from historical experience, to the introduction of new technologies and concepts to strengthen research.
With the notion of climate change potential risks to human well-being and the virtual survival of whole island states have added challenges that in the meanwhile are discussed globally.
These challenges call for investigations on how human activities and global environmental changes affect human well-being, economic, social and cultural systems in island societies and beyond like presentations for locations outside the Indian and Pacific Ocean showed.
On June 28 twelve participants started for a field experience to Kadavu, where they received an introduction into challenges and opportunities of a peripheral region of Fiji through the guidance of Professor Michael Sofer from Bar-Ilan University, Israel.
Associate Professor Dr Eberhard Weber, who organised the conference, expressed great satisfaction about the vast success of the activity. Many of the participants joined in this assessment. Efforts have already started to use newly established contacts for future collaborations in research and teaching.
Participants hoped for a concerted response from science, politicians and civil society to address multiple challenges. These responses should draw concrete pictures of potential local and regional futures and ways to shape these futures for the benefit and well-being of people: those exposed to the multiple challenges their island societies as well as societies elsewhere are facing.
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