The World Urban Forum (WUF) was established by the UN in 2001 to examine rapid urbanization and its impacts on cities, economies, climate change, and policies. This premier conference on urban issues is held every two years for participants to share practices and knowledge on how cities are built, planned, and managed. The objectives of the World Urban Forum include increasing awareness of sustainable urbanization, improving collective knowledge of inclusive sustainable urban development, and increasing coordination and cooperation to advance and implement sustainable urbanization.
WUF9 was held in February 2018 and was the second largest UN gathering in history with over 23,000 participants. It was the first WUF to be held after the Habitat III conference produced the New Urban Agenda. Held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, WUF9 was only the second time the Forum was held in Asia even though the region accounts for about half of the world’s urban population. The host cities of each conference serve as the stage for all the demonstrations related to the conference. Though there are cities all over the world, the proportion of urban citizens in the region should be considered when choosing the host cities. Regional differences can affect how sustainable urban development is implemented and advanced. With the bulk of urban areas falling in Asia, it makes sense to showcase effective sustainable urban development that may be tailored to affect half of the world’s urban population with minimal adjustments.
WUF9 addressed 18 themes of sustainable urban development, including housing, migration, risk reduction and resilience, urban design, women, and youth. These themes were explored by 250 speakers and over 500 events during the second week of February. An outcome of WUF9 was the adoption of the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Cities 2030, which aims to localize and scale up the implementation of the New Urban Agenda in an effort to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities. A final report will be released in October on the Forum that will include recommendations for the UN-Habitat next strategic framework 2020-2025. These recommendations will likely be assessed at WUF10, which will be held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in 2020.
Sustainable urban development is important to consider when thinking of ways to combat food insecurity. Since the highest rates of food insecurity are often found in large cities, sustainable urban development could help alleviate difficulties in accessing healthy food. In fact, adding food insecurity as a theme for WUF10 to explore would highlight the issue and could yield some great ideas to combat this grand challenge.