UIA - President’s Message for COP28

It is a pleasure to address this message to all governmental representatives, participants and those following the proceedings of the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) in my role as president of the International Union of Architects (UIA).

Building is a public act. It depends on political and economic factors and requires interdisciplinary collaboration.

Architects are challenged to design places capable of generating a better and more friendly society, as well as buildings that contribute to the wellbeing of the people that use them and respond to environmental challenges.

Architects are educated and trained to coordinate the knowhow of other disciplines and specialists, use technology intelligently and find solutions within the given economic and legal framework. At the same time, they are active in promoting changes in legislation to improve public policy, optimise the use of land and natural, renewable resources, reduce energy expenditure and improve environmental protection.

What is truly essential and unique for the profession of architect, though, is the ability to translate needs into spatial solutions and respond with design creativity to the particularities of the task, place and context with consideration of all constraints.

As a design specialist, the architect is challenged to understand the needs of both users and investors and interpret them in the interest of society. The profession does not only have an aesthetic, but also a social, ethical and political responsibility.

Uncontrolled urban sprawl all over the world threatens not only the environmental, social and economic balance of the globe, but also its relation to nature and biodiversity. Climate crises, frequent natural disasters, political upheavals and wars in many countries have revealed social, economic and environmental inequalities that disproportionally affect those living in poverty. The world faces the difficult task of how to best respond to today's climatic and social challenges.

Architecture, including territorial planning and urban design, is a discipline of public interest and can only successfully contribute to innovative solutions if the clients are responsible and the legal framework favourable to innovation.

The UIA promotes sustainable architecture in alignment with the UN 17 SDGs. The theme of the 2023 UIA Congress in Copenhagen was focused on “Sustainable Futures, Leave No One Behind”. The Congress resolutions are part of the legacy of the UIA for the coming years.

With publications of selected projects in the UIA Guides on the 17 UN SDGs, the specialised UIA Commission demonstrates the capacity of architecture to contribute with valuable solutions and helps to create a broad awareness of sustainability. With student competitions, like the GGWI (Great Green Wall Initiative) conducted in connection with the 2023 Congress, the Union has been raising awareness amongst the coming generation of architects of the challenges they will face.

The relation between urban and rural areas is in all countries a decisive factor for the climate. Territorial planning is a key issue that needs to be addressed in the climate discussion.

On its 75th anniversary this year, the UIA invites the governments and planning authorities of all countries to address the urgent issue of urbanisation with measures encouraging politicians and clients to cooperate with architects and with progressive legislation allowing innovative solutions.

Regina Gonthier
UIA President