Keynote Speakers

Kotchakorn Voraakhom
CEO and Founder oLandprocess and Porous City Network Chairwoman of the Climate Change Working Group of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA World)

Kotchakorn Voraakhom is a landscape architect from Thailand who works on building productive green public space that tackles climate change in dense urban areas and climate-vulnerable communities. Opened in 2017, Chulalongkorn Centenary Park is the first critical piece of green infrastructure in Bangkok to reduce urban flood risk. With on-site water management, the park can collect, treat, and hold up to one million gallons of water, alleviating overwhelmed public sewage during heavy rainfall. In 2019, Thammasat Urban Rooftop Farm, Asia's largest, was opened. Land process repurposed wasted rooftop space to address food and water scarcity in preparation for future climate challenges. In 2020, Chao Phraya Sky Park was realized. Once an inaccessible and incomplete sky railway, the old ruins are now whole, becoming the first realized bridge park to cross a river in any world capital city. 

Voraakhom got an award from United Nations as Winners of the UN Global Climate Action Awards, Women for Results. Featured in the 2019 TIME 100 Next, a list from TIME Magazine that spotlights 100 rising stars shaping the world's future, CNN Design, and New York Times. She serves as Global Commission on Nature Positive Cities for World Economic Forum. She was also named BBC100 Women, the Green 30 for 2020 by Bloomberg.  

Voraakhom is a Chairwoman of the Climate Change Working Group of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA World), TED Fellow, Echoing Green Climate Fellow, Atlantic Fellow, and Futurity Fellow from BMW Foundation. She is now teaching at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design in exploring landscape architecture-based solutions to working with the water-based city she calls home. 

Hon. Edmund Bartlett 
Minister of Tourism of Jamaica

The Hon. Edmund Bartlett is a dynamic leader who is recognized for his wide-ranging expertise and accomplishments in both tourism and politics. Hon. Bartlett in 2019, facilitated the First United Nations World Tourism Organization's (UNWTO) Conference on Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs), a collaboration between the Government of Jamaica and the UNWTO.  The aim of which was to augment the SMTE's capacity to operate in the sector and enable stronger economic growth through the institution of loan programmes, where such entities will have access to funding agencies to source the capital required for their development and resilience in the face of disasters. 

A man for the people, Minister Bartlett has lobbied for and institutionalized the first Tourism Workers Pension Scheme in the Caribbean, which became effective in January 2020, and is the biggest human capital development game-changer in the history of Jamaica's tourism sector with the commitment of improving the welfare of diligent tourism workers and related industries.

Under his leadership, tourism has been positioned as a catalyst for sustainable and inclusive growth, through job creation, Public Private Partnerships (PPPS), wealth creation and community transformation. Hon. Bartlett firmly believes that all Jamaicans should benefit from the success of this major economic earner and has been the driver of the Tourism Linkages Network, a department under the Tourism Enhancement Fund, an agency of the Ministry of Tourism, which creates a hub within the tourism industry mapping it with other sectors such as Agriculture, Entertainment, and Manufacturing in an effort to ensure that all nationals have the opportunity to benefit from the tourism sector while maximizing the consumption of local goods and services within tourism communities.

Hon. Elizabeth Naa Kwatsoe Tawiah Sackey
Chief Executive of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA)

Prior to her appointment as the first female Chief Executive of the AMA, Hon Elizabeth Sackey served as the Deputy Minister for the Greater Accra Region in the first term of His Excellency President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo's government from 2017 to 2020. Between 2005 and 2017 she represented the people of Okaikwei North Constituency as their Member of Parliament (MP) where she served on the Employment, State Enterprises and Social Welfare, Environment, Science and Technology, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Trade, Industry and Tourism as well as Mines and Energy Committees. She also served as a member of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament during the same period.  She also served as the Assembly Member for the Akweteman Electoral Area from 2002 to 2006.  

Before venturing into politics Hon. Elizabeth Sackey worked as a Chief Clerk for the Ghana Commercial Bank from 1983 to 2005.  She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration from the University of Ghana, Legon. Before that, she pursued a course in Marketing at the Academy of Business Administration where she obtained a certificate in Marketing. 

Hon. Sackey was born on 6th May 1958 and hails from Asere, in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. She began schooling as a child in the Northern Region where she attended the Sakasaka Experimental School from 1964 to 1966, after which she proceeded to Kitson Mills Primary School in Accra from 1966 to 1969. 

She later enrolled at the Mamprobi Girls' School in 1970, completed in 1972 and gained admission to the Accra High School to pursue the GCE Ordinary Level Certificate.

Jay-Ann Gilfoy
President & CEO of Meridian Credit Union, the largest in the province of Ontario and Canada's second largest credit union. 

She joined Meridian in January 2022, with a mandate and focus on leveraging Meridian's unique value proposition to transform its business, achieve its winning aspiration, and secure its future as an inclusive, transparent and people focused financial partner. In collaboration with the Board and senior management, she is responsible for articulating its strategy, delivering on Meridian's purpose of helping Members and customers achieve a better life, creating opportunities within the communities it serves, and generating sustainable business growth.

Jay-Ann's leadership expertise in business transformation, environmental and social impact has been cultivated over more than 20 years as a senior executive in a broad range of roles and experiences in the private and public sector, and co-operative financial services.

Mayor David West
City of Richmond Hill

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David West was re-elected Mayor in October 2022, after first being elected in January 2022. Prior to that, he was appointed to Council on December 4, 2013 to fill a vacancy and was elected in October 2014 and 2018 to continue as Councillor for Ward 4. He has served the residents of Richmond Hill for years as a local business owner and has demonstrated leadership through various volunteer community positions. With the Richmond Hill Chamber of Commerce, he has been Chair of the Government Affairs Committee, a member of the Board of Directors and also served as Chair of the Chamber. A committed contributor to his community, David has volunteered with Yellow Brick House, Mackenzie Health and the Toronto Waldorf School. Before becoming a Councillor, David served on numerous Richmond Hill committees and task forces, including: Yonge Street Subway Task Force; Cultural Leadership Council; Committee of Adjustment; RHCPA Marketing Committee; Community Hub Liaison Committee; Richmond Hill Winter Carnival Committee and more. David was also an active participant in the public consultations held during the development of Richmond Hill's Official Plan and Strategic Plan (2010 to 2014). David's current Committee participation for the 2022-2026 term include Chair of the Affordable Housing Strategy Implementation Committee (AHSIC), Vice-Chair of the Budget Committee of the Whole (BCW), member of the Audit Committee, Economic Development Committee (EDC) and Heritage Centre Advisory Committee (HCAC). As a member of Regional Council he is Chair of the York Region Housing Affordability Task Force, and sits on the Committees for Public Works – Environmental Services, York Region Rapid Transit Corporation, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and TRCA's Partners in Project Green Executive Management Steering Committee. A husband and father, David has called Richmond Hill home for more than 30 years. He is a passionate patron of the visual arts. As lifelong learner, David enjoys reading on a wide range of topics and he appreciates any opportunity to be in the outdoors. Watch for him at community events, he loves to meet and speak with Richmond Hill constituents.

David Amborski
Director, Centre for Urban Research and Land Development
Professor, School of Urban and Regional Planning, 
Toronto Metropolitan University

David Amborski is a Professor at Toronto Metropolitan University's School of Urban and Regional Planning and the founding Director of the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development (CUR) and the City Building Institute. His research and consulting work explores topics where urban planning interfaces with economics including land and housing markets. His specific interests include the area of municipal finance, land development, and land value capture tools. He is an academic advisor to the National Executive Forum on Public Property, and he is a member of Lambda Alpha (Honourary Land Economics Society). As an advisor, he has been on several committees in Toronto, including the Inclusionary Housing Working Group; and Metrolinx, Real Estate Committee and the Project Evaluation Advisory Panel. He has undertaken consulting for the Federal, Provincial and a range of municipal governments. At the International level, he has undertaken work for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the World Bank, the Interamerican Development Bank, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and several other organizations in Eastern Europe. Latin America, South Africa, and Asia. He also serves on the editorial boards of several international academic journals. Recently, David was a member of the Province's Affordable Housing Task Force, and he has been appointed as a member of the Greenbelt Council. The Municipal Provincial Assessment Corporation has appointed him to their Planning Services Advisory Committee. He is also a member of Toronto Mayor's Covid Economic Recovery Panel.

Stephanie (Gawehendase) Burnham, MSc
Cayuga Nation, Wolf Clan. Dillon Consulting Limited

Stephanie is from the Cayuga Nation of the Haudenosaunee People and a member of Six Nations of the Grand River community, the largest populated First Nations reserve in Canada.

Stephanie began her career in Buenos Aires, Argentina where she facilitated the Indigenous Youth discussions for the Indigenous Summit of the Americas in 2005. As an Indigenous rights advocate, Stephanie, along with many Indigenous youth across the Americas, advocated for Indigenous rights recognition and self-determination to land and wellbeing. These conversations, along with traditional teachings she received growing up in her home community have provided the comprehensive balance and strength that guides the direction of her career in planning to this day.

As a planner, Stephanie believes Indigenous nations and their planning practices can lead that way in climate action and play an essential role in planning for a sustainable future. As a planner and engagement lead at Dillon Consulting Limited, Stephanie works with Indigenous communities and municipal clients to rebuild relationships on the land and transform planning legislation, policies and processes to respectfully recognize Indigenous rights to self-determination, sovereignty and decision-making.

Erion Veliaj
Mayor of Tirana 

Erion Veliaj was re-elected as Mayor of Tirana in June 2019, after being firstly elected as the 42nd Mayor of Tirana in June 2015. Prior to his tenure, Veliaj served as a Member of Parliament of Albania and Minister of Social Welfare and Youth from 2013 through 2015. Before joining the ranks of the Socialist Party of Albania in 2011, Veliaj had a long experience as the leader and founder of the youth movement "MJAFT", a civic organization which gained huge popularity for inspiring peaceful protest since its creation in 2003. Veliaj has also worked with several international humanitarian organizations in the Americas, Eastern Africa and Kosovo. Veliaj holds a Master's degree in European Integration from the University of Sussex and a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from the Grand Valley State University.  

Nezihe Aquino  
President & CEO, Vancity Group

Nez Aquino is the Interim President and CEO of Vancity, Canada's largest community credit union. She is also the Interim CEO of Vancity's federally chartered bank, Vancity Community Investment Bank (VCIB). With over two decades of experience in the financial sector, Nez firmly believes that banking plays a vital role in addressing systemic challenges and advancing the well-being of our communities. 

Prior to becoming CEO, Nez served as Vancity's Chief Risk Officer, where she oversaw credit, legal services and enterprise risk management functions while building the organization's capacity to make timely and strategic decisions.

Nez has held progressively senior roles at Vancity since 2006, including leading the branch network, call center, credit adjudication, finance and treasury, and risk management – becoming a senior executive leader in 2015.  

Prior to joining Vancity, Nez worked five years at the Bank of America, building upon expertise that would lead her to take on increasingly complex roles in finance and analytics.  

Beyond her professional achievements, Nez actively contributes to her community through extensive volunteer work. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and has previously held board positions at Megaphone Magazine, Pacific Blue Cross and S.U.C.C.E.S.S. She is also an enthusiastic opera lover and finds joy in cooking and practicing yoga during her spare time.

Mayor Berry Vrbanovic 

Berry Vrbanovic was first elected as Mayor of the City of Kitchener in 2014, after serving as a City Councillor from 1994-2014. 

Mayor Vrbanovic was re-elected in 2018 and 2022, with an outpouring of community support. He is committed to improving the quality of life for residents in Kitchener and throughout the Region of Waterloo. 

In addition to serving on all regular standing committees of Kitchener city council and Region of Waterloo council, Berry is also an appointee and active participant on many local boards and committees. Berry is Co-President of United Cities & Local Governments, President Emeritus (2011-12) of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and is a past member of FCM's Green Municipal Fund Council. 

Tim Coldwell
Director of Sustainability, Breckinridge's

Tim is Breckinridge's Director of Sustainability. In his role, Tim leads the firm's corporate sustainability efforts, chairs Breckinridge's Sustainability Committee and helps develop the firm's strategic partnerships. He has been with the firm since 2012 and has over 35 years of fixed income experience. Prior to Breckinridge, Tim was a vice president at Fidelity Investments where he launched and managed the firm's municipal finance group within Fidelity Capital Markets. He is a member of the advisory committee for the Brookings Institute's Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy Annual Municipal Finance Conference. He is on the advisory board for the Journal of Impact and ESG Investing, and a member of the steering committee of the Intentional Endowment Network.

Ambassador Porfirio Thierry Muñoz Ledo
Consul General of Mexico in Toronto

Porfirio Thierry Muñoz Ledo is a career member of the Mexican Foreign Service since 1986 and was promoted to the rank of Ambassador in 2012. Muñoz Ledo holds a degree in law from the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Azcapotzalco, Mexico, and a master's degree in public policy and public administration from the London School of Economics (LSE) in the United Kingdom. He was appointed Consul General in Toronto in 2016. Prior to this assignment, he served as Permanent Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris, France (2013-2016). At the same time, he was part of the Mexican negotiation team at the XX and XXI Conferences of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Muñoz Ledo served as Ambassador to Morocco (2007-2013) and, in the consular service, as Consul General in Boston, Massachusetts, USA (2004-2007). At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he was Deputy DirectorGeneral for the United Nations System (2000-2001), Advisor to the Undersecretary of State for Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and the United Nations (2001), Director-General for the United Nations System (2001- 2003), and Head of the Cultural Affairs Division (2003). He has previously served in the Embassies in the United Kingdom (1986- 1989), Austria (1989-1994), and France (1998-2000) and in the Permanent Missions to the UN and other international organizations in Vienna (1989-1994) and to the Office of the UN and other international organizations in Geneva (1994-1998)

Virtual Pre-Congress
19-21 September 2023

Naomi Hoogervorst
Programme Management Officer
Planning, Finance and Economy Section. Urban Practices Branch | Global Solutions Division
UN-Habitat | United Nations Human Settlements Programme 

Naomi Hoogervorst is a programme management officer at the Planning, Finance and Economy Section at UN-Habitat headquarters. The Section covers normative and operational work on urban and territorial planning at all scales including urban design and public space, urban finance, and local economic development. Previously, Naomi served with UN-Habitat as an urban planner in Afghanistan and at the Urban Lab at the headquarters managing the Global Future Cities Programme. Before UN-Habitat, Naomi has experience from the private sector, and Non-Governmental Organisations in managing programmes/projects and as a technical expert within architecture and urban development on neighbourhood, city, and national level. She holds a master's degree in Architecture, Urbanism and Building sciences from the Technical University of Delft (NL). 

Arthur Orsini
Youth Engagement Facilitator, Canada

Arthur Orsini started developing walk- and bike-to-school programs in 1996 in Vancouver. He is passionate about the need to involve the target audience in behaviour change strategies - and has collaborated on successful projects in many countries with leaders from as young as nine-years-olds through to retirees. The successes he has achieved in ground-breaking programs in elementary, middle and high schools came from strong student leadership, empowerment and skill-building. Through, Arthur has offered youth engagement training and support to colleagues across Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the USA. He lives in Vancouver and has never owned a car.

Dr. Jorge León Wolpert Kuri
Director of Fundacion Ciudad, General Coordinator of Iberico-American Cities Forum

Throughout my academic and professional trajectory, I have had the opportunity to promote and apply EURET for green buildings, urban sustainable projects, and housing. I have led teams to develop energy efficiency, urban sustainability, and housing public policies at the National level.

I led initiatives on the fields of sustainability for social housing and designed the Urban Containment Perimeters, which regulate the edification of social housing adjacent to public infrastructure, urban services, and employment centers. I have developed and maintain a strong relationship with both the housing and real estate, and the energy and sustainability industries in Mexico. I led the team that developed the first NAMA under the UNFCCC standards initiative formally implemented globally.

Susan Bridge FRTPI
President, The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)

Susan Bridge is the President of the Royal Town Planning Institute 2023. As the previous Chair of the Board of Trustees, Sue has overseen a major review of governance and has driven forward significant investment in the RTPI's London office, as well as a growth in membership to 27,000. She is a Chartered Town Planner with over 40 years' experience in local government and in the development industry. Sue is passionate about the role of Planners in delivering on climate change and is committed to raising the profile of planning and planners in society.

Beatrice Hati Gitundu
Research and Urban Development Associate   
International Centre for Frugal Innovation/Nuvoni Centre for Innovation Research

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