International dignitaries planned to gather in Collingwood Sept. 1 and 2 to participate in discussions on small towns and sustainability.
That was until COVID-19 hit and everything went online.
This week, the first Habitat in Towns: Collingwood World Summit Programme will be taking place virtually, and although it would have been nice to have world leaders come to town to stay in local hotels, see local sights and eat at local restaurants, Mayor Brian Saunderson is pleased to virtually show-off progress that has been made locally.
“It’s exciting because it shows Collingwood is recognized as being a unique and progressive municipality,” said Saunderson. “But, it’s also an opportunity for Collingwood because, with the closure of the Shipyards in 1987, we’ve gone through an immense amount of re-creation, re-growth and re-structuring both economically, culturally, socially and environmentally.”
Saunderson said that since 1987, Collingwood has evolved toward being more tourism and entrepreneurial-focused. He also said the summit is an excellent opportunity for the town to address its own internal issues.
“Looking at Black Lives Matter and the climate emergency; this allows us an opportunity to focus on those issues and at the same time, be in a much larger partnership and global network of cities and leaders that are wrestling with some of the same issues,” said Saunderson.
The summit is a pilot project between the Town of Collingwood, UN Habitat (a branch of the United Nations) and the Urban Economy Forum to look at best practices for the UN’s sustainable development goals. Of the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals, the summit will focus on No. 11: to make cities and towns safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.
“It’s fairly broad, but it means sustainability in all its forms such as social (gender rights, racial equality), cultural, environmental (the impact of climate change), as well as economic. This year, with the overlay of COVID-19, that’s one of the issues we’ll be discussing,” said Saunderson.
Saunderson, Councillors Tina Comi and Yvonne Hamlin, and CAO Sonya Skinner, in conjunction with local advocates and community groups, will be making presentations during the summit on a variety of topics.
The summit is planned to take place every year in Collingwood. At the end of the summit, participants will set goals for the next year, which will be revisited to show progress year-over-year.
“I think the local driver for Collingwood is the idea of starting some local projects in conjunction with the UN and various levels of government that can be the focus of the conference in years to come,” he said.
As the summit is virtual, anyone who would like to participate in viewing the presentations can register to watch through the website here.
“While it’s not the conference we had envisioned, over the course of two days, presentations will be made, it’s a way to get things started. I think the program is extremely interesting and will engage a lot of people,” said Saunderson.