The World Urban Forum, or WUF, is the global conference for urban issues. Created in 2001 by UN-Habitat, the WUF aims to address issues that are facing the world today: urbanization and climate change among others. The forum is known for being very open internationally and inclusive which is what makes it such an important conference for high-level participants to gather for urban issues. The UN-Habitat website lists the objectives of the forum as:
- raise awareness of sustainable urbanization among stakeholders and constituencies, including the general public;
- improve the collective knowledge of sustainable urban development through inclusive open debates, sharing of lessons learned and the exchange of best practices and good policies; and
- increase coordination and cooperation between different stakeholders and constituencies for the advancement and implementation of sustainable urbanization.
The most recent forum, WUF9, was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in February 2018. It was one of the largest and most attended conferences in the UN’s history with over 23,000 participants. The conference has a host of events, including round tables, speakers, side events, trainings, and outside exhibits.
Some of the main thematic itineraries for the event that where interrelated with inclusive development were Urban Basic Services, Urban Design, Mobility, Public Space, Humanitarian, and Housing. Each “Thematic Itinerary” had several events related to it with different questions of access, equity, and sustainability. The end goal of the conference was to produce the Kuala Lumpur Declaration. The General Assembly of Partners (GAP), which represents the Major Groups and other important stakeholders, were important in writing the final product. The Declaration directly mentions persons with disabilities, and asserts that they are not offered adequate human rights which is a main concern moving forward. This was a big step for the community because of the sheer magnitude of the conference.
As part of the Cities 2030 campaign, the Global Network for Disability Inclusive and Accessible Urban Development (DIAUD) and the GAP Partner Constituent Group for Persons with Disabilities led discussions and panels with all kinds of partners ranging from private sector to academia on building inclusive cities and communities for all.
WUF 10 will be held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in 2020. As we look to the future, I am hopeful that these conferences can affect real change and help cities become resilient and inclusive.