The Urban Social Forum is an annual event that Kota Kita co-organizes in order to create a democratic, open and free space for urban civil society to meet and discuss what ways to improve our cities, and to share and exchange knowledge. The 3rd Urban Social Forum was hosted in Indonesia’s second largest city, Surabaya, with the presence of the influential and well-recognized Mayor Tri Rismaharini; this was first time it has been hosted outside of Solo.
With an expanded selection of panels that included ‘human rights cities’, ‘child-friendly cities’, ‘participatory budgeting’, and ‘improving literacy in the city’, a fresh perspective was the large presence of youth. Not only was the over 1,000 participants strongly represented by students and youth leaders from throughout Indonesia, there were many panelists and social leaders presenting their work in booths and musical performances, who were below 25 years of age. The energy, boundless enthusiasm and optimism of the young participants helped to provide a lot of new excitement to the event and to urban civil society movements in general.
Another important characteristic of the event was its international nature – this year the Urban Social Forum received visitors from countries throughout Asia and beyond. To coincide with the upcoming ‘Prep Com 3’ meeting, which proceeds the Habitat 3 global summit in October 2016, a number of urban activists came to the Urban Social Forum to take the pulse of Indonesian activists and their concerns. These activists then connected with Indonesian organizations on Sunday 20th December to realize the Asia Regional Meeting of the Global Platform for the Right to the City. The event received activists from Thailand, Brazil, India, Cambodia, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States.
As the Urban Social Forum grows it signals building momentum -- fresh and creative ideas, renewed enthusiasm, and more networked and active civil society organizations and community leaders all seeking change in our cities. The event helps to break down some of the issues faced in the past, namely geographic isolation, lack of access to knowledge, and very sector-specific approaches. Kota Kita and our partners hope that by continuing to support its growth we can support the further strengthening, confidence building and partnership that essential for urban civil society to flourish.