The World Urban Forum

The World Urban Forum (WUF), established by the UN General Assembly in 2001 as a bi-annual event, examines pressing issues facing the world today regarding human settlements and the impact that rapid urbanization has on cities, communities, economics, and climate change.  According to the UNDP, by 2050 more than two-thirds of the world’s population is projected to be living in urban areas. Building sustainable and inclusive cities is one of the world’s most pertinent issues.

The World Urban Forum is a sub-category under UN Habitat and is the world’s premier meeting on cities. An important distinction is that the World Urban Forum allows for high-level participation and cooperation within different constituencies towards the advancement and implementation of UN Habitat’s agenda.  UN Habitat is the leader and focal point for the sustainable urban development “in coordination with all levels of government, stakeholders, and the United Nations system.”

The last WUF, WUF 9, was held in February 2018 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. More than 23,000 people gathered at the second largest United Nations conference and the first non-legislative technical Forum.  WUF9 was the most diverse World Urban Forum with attendees from 164 different countries and the participation of 36 United Nations system organizations. The goals of this forum were to advocate and raise awareness on sustainable development and advance knowledge on sustainable urbanization through inclusive open debates and exchange of best practices.  WUF9 was the first World Urban Forum to directly work with the New Urban Agenda and worked hard to incorporate both the SDGs and the NUA into the conversation.  The relevant stakeholders that participated in the dialogue of WUF9 include heads of state, NGOs, businesses, and local communities.

Outcomes from WUF9 include the adoption of the Kuala Lumpur Declaration, based on the reports of the main sessions during the forum.  This declaration encouraged the acceleration of the implementation of the New Urban Agenda through various frameworks, governance, partnerships, and innovative solutions.  The World Urban Forum demonstrates the importance of a multi-stakeholder dialogue to ensure no voices are left out of the conversation.  The GAPs are an example of this.  The General Assembly of Partners (GAP) is a platform for non-governmental actors to participate in Habitat.  The GAP encompasses 16 different groups that, through participation in the GAP, are given the opportunity to interact with experts, influence language, propose roundtables, and participate in the conference as a whole.

The memo assignment during our discussion this week helped to recognize gaps that need to be filled in WUF10.  Looking forward to WUF10, to be held in Abu Dhabi in 2020, my group felt that a wider range of mayoral voices need to be heard, including that of women and disabled mayors. The tenth session of the World Urban Forum will be the first forum to be held in the Arab region and is “another opportunity to review the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.”

One question that this week’s discussion has left me with is, is it possible to achieve the goal of “sustainable, inclusive cities” without considering the impact they have on rural communities? As cities grow, resources are extracted from the rural for the urban.  However, article 62 does emphasize a strong partnership between the rural and the urban to determine a way to extend the benefits of sustainable cities into rural communities.