History and Support

Volvo Research and Educational Foundations Support

The Center for Sustainable Urban Development was launched in 2005 with support from the Volvo Research and Educational Foundations (VREF)’s Future Urban Transport (FUT) Initiative. As one of eight VREF Centers of Excellence (CoE), CSUD seeks to understand the complexity of interactions between land use and transport through research and education, including student and professional training programs. CSUD’s current project site is located in the Nairobi Metropolitan Region, Kenya. There are many complexities in urban development and, as cities grow, transportation systems that are socially equitable and environmentally sustainable are key to their success. To that end, VREF awarded CSUD an additional Smaller Project grant in 2007 to collaborate with the University of California, Berkeley, Center of Excellence on a scientific evaluation of current Nairobi traffic conditions to address the larger policy considerations of a Nairobi metropolitan plan with a transport element.

VREF focuses on future urban transport by funding research and education centers (Centers of Excellence) that explore engineering, social and political aspects of urban transport. Currently, half of the world’s population lives in urban areas and within the next generation, it is expected that this proportion is likely to reach three quarters. Meeting the pressing challenge of urban development and mobility provides an opportunity to consider such issues in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner.

The mission and program of the Future Urban Transport initiative are clearly delineated on the Volvo Foundation’s website: http://www.vref.se/.

Rockefeller Foundation Support

CSUD has also received funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. In 2009, Rockefeller awarded CSUD a grant in an effort to deepen our work on collaborative planning in the Nairobi metropolitan area. Specifically, the aim of the project was to rigorously document and evaluate the collaborative planning approach that we established with partners at the University of Nairobi, the Municipality of Ruiru, and other stakeholders; foster local city exchanges to strengthen local policy networks through workshops and stakeholders’ fora; and leverage joint CSUD/University of Nairobi work to make the current Nairobi Metropolitan planning process more inclusive and participatory.

In July of 2007, CSUD and the Rockefeller Foundation convened a “Global Urban Summit” for leaders from the public, private and civic sector at the Foundation’s center in Bellagio, Italy. The Global Urban Summit was a month-long conference series held at the behest of the Rockefeller Foundation as a means to explore potential opportunities in the urban space. The four one-week meetings focused on addressing the vulnerabilities of the urban poor in the Global South, with each week dedicated to a specific theme.

In advance of the UN General Assembly in September 2005, CSUD partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ministries of Cities and Housing of South Africa, Brazil and India to organize a workshop on achieving the Millennium Development Goals in the cities of middle-income countries. Ministers of Cities and Housing from South Africa and Brazil were in attendance, along with ministerial representatives from India, Chile and Mexico.

Shortly thereafter, CSUD organized the official U.S. observance of World Habitat Day with the Rockefeller Foundation, UN-HABITAT and Habitat for Humanity at Columbia University. World Habitat Day is observed yearly to reflect on the state of human settlements, especially the living conditions of the urban poor and their basic right to adequate shelter. UN delegates, donors, local community leaders, Columbia University faculty and students joined CSUD and its partners for the observance.

To learn more about the Rockefeller Foundation’s work in expanding opportunities for the poor and vulnerable around the globe, visit their website: www.rockfound.org