Our class had the opportunity to further delve into inclusive, sustainable cities as we learned about the World Urban Forum, or WUF. The WUF is convened by UN Habitat and is a world conference on cities in a non-legislative forum. The last one, WUF9, was held in Kuala Lumpur in February 2018. WUF10 will be held in Abu Dhabi in 2020. This forum is crucial because it meets more frequently — every two years — versus Habitat where UNGA and all the participants involved with that meet every twenty years. Habitat III helped set the stage for the New Urban Agenda (NUA), where it has a series of long-term visions, commitments, and implementations countries will use to further develop of smart cities and ensure everyone has a right to the city. WUF acts as a checkpoint to see the progress of whatever happens at Habitat, and in this case, it is the NUA from Habitat III.
As I explored the WUF9 website, I learned about the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Cities, one of the biggest results from the forum. The declaration’s goal is to “localize and scale up implementation of the New Urban Agenda” (WUF 9). I especially loved the introduction of the declaration because it aimed toward inclusivity, listing groups such as older persons, women, youth, persons with disabilities, the private sector, and so on that came together to push for this main goal. Issues they attempt to address include the limited opportunities for youth, women, and grassroots to work together in planning, implementation, and monitoring. They also focus on inequitable access to the city, the lack of protection from human rights violations, and gender inequalities. Many of these goals speak to the SDGs as well as what was affirmed in the NUA.
It was interesting to compare the progress and different themes for WUF and how each meeting builds upon the other. For example, WUF7 was held in Medellin, Colombia, and the theme was “Urban Equity in Development — Cities for Life”. Subjects included urban development law, urban planning with social cohesion, and basic services to build the groundwork for equitable cities. The Sixth WUF prior to that was held in Naples and had the broad theme of ‘The Urban Future’ and looked at impending challenges for cities. I think WUF6 helped give groundwork to the challenges addressed in the succeeding WUF sessions because cities continue to double in size and these problems are highlighted time and time again on how to accommodate so many people, ensure that their needs are satisfied, and create a sustainable future. Looking to 2020, WUF10 in Abu Dhabi will revolve around the theme of ‘Cities of Opportunities: Connecting Culture and Innovation’, and it is something to pay attention to when February comes around to see how they will bridge the two areas. It was also interesting to go back on previous forums and see how their websites have evolved and what messages they were trying to convey.
Finally, it is important to note the importance of the General Assembly of Partners (GAP) in their work with the WUF. GAP has three main areas of work: engaging in inclusive dialogue to develop positions on key principles listed in NUA that builds on past discussion such as ‘The Future We Want’, proposing actionable recommendation with evidence for sustainable urbanization, and advocating for outcomes that emerge within GAP to the Habitat III Conference. I found all of these websites and explorations important because developing and improving cities has become a central issue in an increasingly globalized and populated world. I would want to see how different cities around the world have been including these initiatives and see how that has changed over past years with each forum.
“WUF 9 – The Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum.” WUF 9 – The Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum, UN Habitat, 2018, wuf9.org/.