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Fondation Botnar at World Urban Forum 2020

Fondation Botnar

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Digital innovation for inclusive, healthy, and safe cities 

The 2020 World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi was the largest international gathering for exchanging views and experiences on urban opportunities and challenges. The forum began on 8 February and ended on 13 February. Fondation Botnar attended, with the aim of catalysing discussions around how we can create inclusive, safe, liveable and healthy cities for and with young people. We championed how frontier technologies, including artificial intelligence, innovative digital tools, and data-based platforms can advance the wellbeing of young people living in cities.

Our engagement at the World Urban Forum is a part of our long-term city engagement strategy. This strategy will see us launch ‘hubs’ in selected secondary cities around the world. Later this year, we plan to launch two of these – one in Romania, and one in Tanzania. The aim of these ‘hubs’ is to engage and align stakeholders, and implement programs that leverage AI and frontier technologies to transform them into young people-focused cities.

Our Engagement 

#TechForCities Map

A key part of our engagement at the forum was the map where urban development leaders – from young to old – believe technology could have the most impact in cities. Participants were invited to submit their responses in person at our booth, and online through social media. Hundreds responded, and the global results are in! The three top areas were: Infrastructure, Open data, and Youth design. You can visit the map, share your input, and see how the perspectives differ across region and age group here:

Letter of Intent with UN Habitat

An important and exciting development at the forum was that Fondation Botnar was able to sign a Letter of Intent with UN Habitat to explore the opportunity at the nexus of AI/digital innovation, urban environments, and young people’s wellbeing. We are looking forward to further exploring the opportunity to bring forward a collaborative agenda for the transformation of cities together with young people.

UN Habitat, Fondation Botnar

Youth Assembly – Including young people to shape future cities

At the Youth Assembly our CEO, Stefan Germann took part in the Decade of Action panel. He spoke of how the intersection of youth participation and technological innovation is critical to achieving safe, sustainable, and inclusive cities. He also spoke of intergenerational dialogue and partnerships, encouraging the audience to break down divides by networking and discussing challenges and solutions with all age groups over the next few days.

Leveraging data and technology to drive innovation and cultural change: Data driven innovation and cultural transformation

At our event we brought young leaders and partners from Kenya, India, Ghana and Vietnam together to discuss digital innovation and frontier technologies, including AI for sustainable urban development. They shared examples of innovative youth-led initiatives from around the world and discussed how communities can be empowered communities, with young people at the heart of the transformation.

Empowering adolescents to drive innovation in their cities and communities to achieve cultural and sustained social change

Last year, in collaboration with the International Society of Urban Health (ISUH), we launched the Healthy Cities for Adolescents Program. An overarching goal of the joint initiative is to empower adolescents and this event will be focusing on how adolescents can drive innovation and contribute meaningfully to sustainable urban development. We brought youth and leaders of the programs from Ghana, Colombia, Senegal and external experts to the forum to discuss their projects, highlighting key challenges they face and solutions they have developed. 


Learning from diversity: cultural exchanges, youth action and innovation to advance the sustainable development of cities

Effective engagement across cultures and other differences will result in finding innovative solutions as it provides us with new and fresh perspectives. At this event we explored opportunities for new partnerships to strengthen youth participation in the development of sustainable cities. Our partners from the Global Road Safety Partnership were a major part of this session. 

Foundations and philanthropies roundtable

This roundtable brought together foundations and philanthropies with the aim to reach a common understanding on their role in providing support, investment, and donations to create inclusive and healthy cities. Our CEO, Stefan Germann represented Fondation Botnar, as he told the room that technology could transform cities akin to electricity, allowing us to know human health and activity in real time. He also brought into discussion the role of foundations in a global context, explaining that we can only meet the sustainable development goals through innovation. He believes foundations and philanthropy need to focus on high right, high impact innovation. 

Towards child-friendly public spaces in Sharjah

During this session we shared and and discussed the experiences from the UN-Habitat and UNICEF ‘Building a child-friendly city in Sharjha’. It was an interactive workshop to share how child participation in place making and urban planning can be scaled and in sustainable practices and policies. Our Chief Program Officer, Dr. Susanna Hausmann-Muela was a part of the panel at the event.  

The Future Now.
For Young People

Fondation Botnar
St. Alban-Vorstadt 56
4052 Basel
+41 61 201 04 74