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Local Stories that Empower, Improve and Transform


Dignified Storytelling plays an important role in ensuring that storytelling within rural and urban contexts maintains the voice, integrity and dignity of people and the communities they live in. With the world’s population increasing, rural exodus and urban expansion are inevitable. The urbanization of rural areas and the creation of cities – with expanded access to employment and education – often result in youth leaving rural hometowns to pursue economic opportunities in larger population centers.

This insightful session provided a platform for storytellers as well as urban and rural development experts to discuss how stories from urban and rural areas can challenge stereotypes, amplify local voices, unpack nuances and complexities, and build empathy and understanding.


Integrated approaches to urban and rural development can help move us towards the realisation of several SDGs, including SDG 11 on Sustainable Cities and Communities. 

This event was organised as a series of presentations and a panel discussion featuring experts and storytellers on Urban and Rural Development, who are working to address development challenges around the globe. Following brief presentations from all panelists, a moderator-led discussion allowed for approximately 30-minutes of ideas exchange between the panelists as they shared their perspectives, knowledge, and personal experiences about storytelling within the context of Urban and Rural Development.  Following the panel discussion, audience members had an opportunity to ask the panelists questions about the role of storytelling urban and rural development. The event wrapped up with a brief presentation on the future of District 2020 following the close of Expo 2020 Dubai in March 2022.

Speakers of the Day

Moderated by UN Habitat’s Asa Jonsson, this session featured Co-founder of Voices of Rural India Shivya Nath; Urban Design Artist, Bruce Ramus; and the Director of IFAD’s Communication Division, Hélène Papper. In addition, special guest Neel Shukla provided a historical perspective on Dubai’s transition from a rural community to urban centre, while Sanjive Khosla shared plans for Expo’s legacy, District 2020.  

Shivya Nath

Travel Writer and Blogger

Neel Shukla

Founder of IV-Four

Hélène Papper 

Director of the IFAD Global Communications and Advocacy Division

Bruce Ramus

Light Artist


Rapper and artist

Asa Jonsson

Acting Chief, Strategic Planning, Monitoring and Reporting Branch, UN-Habitat


Sanjive Khosla

SVP – Transition Unit at Expo 2020 Dubai

The event aimed to build awareness and understanding about development themes and the role of storytelling as a tool to communicate information, raise awareness, and induce change. 

Watch the full event