Editor’s Note: Guangdong recently awarded the “Guangdong Friendship Award” to 49 foreign friends from 23 countries, acknowledging those who have made outstanding contributions to Guangdong’s economic and social development, as well as international exchanges. GDToday presents Friends’ Talk and shares the award winners’ stories with Guangdong.
“It is indeed a great honour for me to receive this ‘Guangdong Friendship Award’,” said Nicholas You, adviser of the Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation, in an interview with GDToday. “It is partially in recognition of 10 years of work with the Guangzhou Award for urban innovation.”
As one of the founders of the Guangzhou Award, You has been involved in it for a decade. Nowadays, the Guangzhou Award has become one of the world’s most famous awards for urban governance.
“I will continue to try my best to build all bridges and platforms,” said You. “Cities and regions can exchange their knowledge, expertise and experience on how can we move forward.”
The Guangzhou Award is a platform for international exchange
As an American Chinese, You first visited China with his parents when he was nine years old. Since then, his family has travelled to China every two years.
“As you can imagine, I have witnessed many changes since that time,” said he. “I think the most amazing aspect for the one who visits China regularly is the social and economic development.”
In order to promote comprehensive and sustainable development, the Guangzhou Municipal Government decided to establish the Guangzhou Award in cooperation with United Cities and Local Government (UCLG) and Metropolis, two global organizations in the field of urban governance, in 2012.
However, how to set the prizes? How to design the rules? Who can win the award? All questions should be answered by an experienced person.
However, where can the committee find the best candidate to answer them?
According to You, he was managing the Dubai Award when Guangzhou won it in 2000, which built a connection between Guangzhou and him.
“I have been involved in many international awards,” he introduced. “So, somebody said maybe we should call Nicholas to see if he can help us with the design of the award.”
Since then, You has been tied up with the city of Guangzhou through the Guangzhou Award.
“I said I will help you for one time only,” said he.
In You’s opinion, some awards focused on the award itself rather than promoting the exchange of knowledge and experience, although they started with good intentions in building an exchange platform.
Finally, he broke the deal. “I’m still here 10 years later,” he said with laughter. “The leadership of Guangzhou has shown that they have taken the learning dimensions of this award very seriously, not only in recognizing excellence.”
“That is why I am still here,” he added.
According to You, the Guangzhou Award has collected more than a thousand examples of innovation in urban governance over the past 10 years.
“Rapid changes are happening, including urbanization, globalization and climate change,” he shared. “We need to innovate and constantly look for new ways to solve tomorrow’s challenges.”
According to him, the Guangzhou Award was created with the intention of learning from the best experiences rather than trying to imitate them.
“It is really a platform for cities and regions to learn from each other.” he summarized.
He told GDToday that he would not only keep collecting experiences from the world, but also work with cutting-edge thinkers and doers so that they can bring knowledge to all the cities in the world.
The Greater Bay Area can be an example of promoting sustainable development
In You’s opinion, the development of Guangdong and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) can provide a solution to address sustainable development, while the world is facing rapid growth and various challenges.
The Greater Bay Area consists of 9 Pearl River Delta cities in Guangdong Province and two special administrative regions. In his view, cities always compete with each other, but cities in the GBA can maintain healthy competition and work together to address global challenges.
“The GBA is going to be a unique prototype for the rest of the world,” said You. “The interesting thing is that the Greater Bay Area will keep the spirits of competition and cooperation to make the region more dynamic, sustainable and inclusive.”
“These three places within the GBA not only maintain something from its relationship with the west, but also have developed their own characteristics,” he stressed. “People like visiting these places because they are different.”
Furthermore, he is impressed by a project called “Guangzhou Encyclopedia”, which is a project to document the development process of Guangzhou, including culture, land, literature and more. The project was launched in 2005, and it is mainly divided into two parts: one is publishing a series of books, and the other is building a database to record all the files.
“While the rapid development is happening, people all over China and the world come and live in Guangzhou,” said You. “As the centre of Lingnan Culture, Guangzhou realized that it has to make an effort to document the changes.”
“We need to know what it was like in the past, how it is at present and how it will develop in the future,” he added.
The Belt and Road Initiative promotes shared development
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative. Over the past decade, the initiative has become a popular international platform for international cooperation, covering two-thirds of the world’s countries (regions) and one-third of international organizations.
As a specialist who has served for UN-Habitat (United Nations Human Settlements Programme), You has witnessed many times how the initiative brings prosperity to undeveloped countries.
He shared that a significant amount of infrastructure has been built in Kenya, including ports, bridges, roads and more, promoting local economic development.
“Perhaps the initiative has the biggest impact on local development in modern history,” he summarized. “I think the Belt and Road Initiative will become more socially inclusive and more environmentally sustainable in the future.”
Reporters | Steven, Hannah, Li Fuying (intern)
Script | Steven, Hannah, Li Fuying (intern)
Video | Zoey
Poster | Lulu
Editors | Wing, James