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International Planning in Addressing Urban Inequities

Tue, Feb 23    1:15pm

International Planning in Addressing Urban Inequities

Panel Discussion with Kate Owens, Principal Consultant and Adjunct Professor at Columbia - GSAPP; Aline Rahbany, Urban Programming Technical Director at World Vision International; and Samer Saliba, Head of Practice at the Mayors Migration Council. Within the framework of urban inequities and vulnerabilities of city residents - particularly in the global south - Kate, Aline and Samer come together to share their work in international contexts. From India to Lebanon, Tanzania, Mexico and beyond, they spoke to the challenges, opportunities, as well as growth urbanists face along the way while working in international organizations.


Kate Owens, Principal Consultant; Adjunct Professor at GSAPP Columbia

Advocating for Sustainable Cities: Reflections on International Urban Narratives

Kate has been working at the intersection of sustainable transport, housing, and urban planning for nearly 20 years. Kate’s career has spanned international and domestic planning by helping analyze and design housing and infrastructure projects in more than 30 cities across the globe. Her international experience also includes originating transport infrastructure and urban development projects for the World Bank and advocating for sustainable cities at WRI. Her US experience includes advising cities for HR&A Advisors, managing commercial real estate loans for Wells Fargo and supporting public-private partnerships with Jones Lang LaSalle. She holds a BA in public policy and economics from the University of Chicago and a PhD in urban planning from the University of Michigan. Kate’s PhD work focused on Tanzania’s transition to private real estate markets.

Kate’s talk will frame global development projects within International Non-Governmental Organizations. She will focus on a loan by the World Bank for Tanzania’s green infrastructure, advocating and setting-up an urban finance lab in India and Mexico with WRI, and an asset management strategy with HR&A.


Aline Rahbany, Urban Programming Technical Director at World Vision International

Urban inequities: Putting the aid sector to the test

Aline Rahbany is a Lebanese living in Toronto since 2018. She holds a master’s degree in Public Health from the American University of Beirut, with a focus on health behavior and community development. She has been working in the aid sector for over a decade, mostly with World Vision International, and she has been engaged in several other projects for local organizations in Lebanon. Aline started her career in World Vision in Lebanon. She then moved to the regional office of the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Afghanistan and Pakistan and has held a global role since 2015. As the Urban Programming Technical Director, she works with more than 70 country offices to provide thought leadership, strategy and programming support, as well as capacity building to country offices prioritizing urban poverty, violence and fragility. Aline participates in various global networks and alliances that are driving the urban agenda in the aid sector. She is passionate about inclusive cities and is an advocate for the deliberately silenced and oppressed, especially children and youth.

Aline’s talk will focus on urban inequities that have been surfacing as a result of multiple vulnerabilities shaping the lives of city residents. In places like Beirut - Lebanon, urban spaces are contested and can turn into conflict zones or high security risk areas at any moment in time. In other countries and regions, while the context may differ, the implications of urban fragility are the same. Such inequities are presenting an enigma to the aid industry and requiring innovative approaches by local and international agencies alike. Within this framework, Aline will discuss her urban journey with World Vision, an international humanitarian, development and advocacy organization that is working in more than 90 countries. Aline will share the approaches that they have developed and tested in various urban settings around the world to ensure those who are most marginalized - especially in fragile cities - have their needs and rights met.


Samer Saliba, Head of Practice, Mayors Migration Council Samer Saliba has over 10 years of experience making cities more inclusive of displaced and marginalized people. As the Head of Practice, Samer oversees the Mayors Migration Council’s suite of technical assistance programming that supports city leaders in designing and implementing local policies, plans, and projects that address the needs of refugees and migrants. A key aspect is identifying and unlocking technical and financial resources for cities from international humanitarian and development actors, and strengthening policy coherence with national governments. As the lead urban advisor at the International Rescue Committee, Samer worked directly with the cities of Amman, Athens, Milan, and Kampala, among others, to implement and institutionalize inclusive projects, policies, and plans within city government structures. A Boston son of Lebanese immigrant parents, Samer has a BA in Urban Studies from Boston University, a Master of Urban Planning from NYU Wagner School of Public Service, and is currently a PhD student at The New School’s Milano School of Policy, Management, and the Environment.

Samer will speak to The Global Cities Fund for Inclusive Pandemic Response, an initiative by the Mayors Migration Council. With the vast majority of reported Covid-19 cases in urban areas, cities today are on the frontlines of the global public health crisis and its socio-economic impact. The pandemic presents unique challenges to many urban migrants, refugees, and internally displaced persons due to their legal status, their reliance on informal employment, and their restricted access to public health services and benefits. The Global Cities Fund will provide direct financial and technical support over one year to five low-to-middle income cities that are struggling to implement projects related to public health, livelihoods, and inclusive social services. Cities include: Beirut, Barranquilla, Freetown, Lima, and Mexico City.