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Day Two of the 5th World Urban Forum in Rio. I got really hyped up about the prospect of seeing David Harvey at the dialogue session in the morning, to the extent I made a last minute decision to forego the session I was originally planning to attend. Rumour has it David also spoke at a parallel event yesterday on “Social Forum” which was held in a separate venue outside of the conference area, but I was quite keen to hear him speak, after all the literature review I had done over the summer. David gave a lucid speech about how commodification of markets failed humanity, and reiterated points which reminded us why the conference was themed after the phrase he first coined: Taking Forward the Rights to the City. I was definitely not disappointed, and not surprisingly, all the Q & As from the audience to the panel were directed at him. There was also an awesome woman from South Africa who represented “Shack Dwellers International” and she made a pretty strong statement about how when “you empower women, you empower the community, yet when you empower men, you only empower the individual”. I left feeling really inspired, only to be met outside by the 33 degree heat that melted away any sense I had yet again.

In the afternoon, I attended the special session on Haiti: Building Back Better, which was attended by Anna Tibaijuka, who carried a message from Bill Clinton, the special SG envoy to Haiti; Jean-Max Bellerive, the Prime Minister of Haiti, and a couple of ministers representing the Brazilian Government. The session started 30 minutes late, and I was silly enough to get to the venue some 1 1/2 hours ahead, but I ended up having an insightful conversation with Manoel, a Brazilian architect who had just come back from working in Haiti for the UNOPS (the operational branch of the UN).

Serendipitously, I’ve discovered a really good strategy for talking to great people at these conferences – is to turn up early, get into a really good seat in the front, save the seat next to you, and when you see some these ‘important’ guests starting to pile up in the front looking a little lost, be really polite and offer them a good seat right next to you. They’ll thank you for it, and of course, feel more obliged to engage in a deep conversation with you! Well, I’m all talk now, so I’ll test this theory again tomorrow…

Today was also a day of delightful stress. I received an e-mail this morning which was a direct job offer from UN-HABITAT to work as the Urban Specialist for 12 months in Hanoi, Vietnam. I was to begin promptly next month, which would mean that I would have to drop everything I was doing. As tempting as it was, I decided not to go forward with it. I have too many commitments at home, certain expectations to fulfill, responsibilities I can’t yet quite part with. I did weigh up the pros and cons, pretty much every spare second I had to think in between networking sessions, and although I’m writing about it here rather frankly, saying that it was a sheer torment would have been an understatement. Everyone I spoke to told me how difficult it is to land an internship with the UN, let alone a straight up paid position, which seriously made me think a lot. I’m not anyone special, so I knew that this may as well be my only chance of working with the UN. In the end, I did what was right, not what I wanted to do. I listened to the inner voice, which has never failed me. Yep, I called mum.

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3 thoughts on “WUF 5 Day Two

  1. I really like the idea of catching the attention of the speakers. It’s really hard to initiate conversations with them when you have to compete with the wider crowd.

    Looks like you’re enjoying your trip! Thanks for the updates 🙂

  2. I’m really glad that you decided to stick around! The job offer sounds amazing but it would seriously hamper my abilities to finish up my thesis properly! They’ll call you back again in November. I’m sure of it!

  3. Welcome to the world of blogging! Wise advice whoever that was – I have only just started my PhD and already finding the blog a good way of working through ideas. Glad to see you won’t be taking off on us just yet 🙂

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