World Urban Forum

Emmanuel Moulin

By Emmanuel Moulin, on March 5th, 2018

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The ninth session of the World Urban Forum (WUF9) took place in Kuala Lumpur (MY) from Wednesday, 7 February, to Tuesday, 13 February 2018, on the theme “Cities 2030 – Cities For All: Implementing the New Urban Agenda.”

The WUF takes place every two years as both a technical forum and an open and inclusive platform for a wide range of stakeholders in urban development.

WUF9 was the first Forum to convene since the adoption of the New Urban Agenda (NUA)  at the Habitat III  conference in Quito (EC) in 2016. The Forum accordingly focused on arrangements and actions for its implementation, with many delegates and participants emphasizing the importance of public, private and civil society cooperation in order to fully achieve the NUA. Many speakers highlighted the NUA as a way of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and called for aligning NUA monitoring and reporting with the follow-up and review process for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) , in particular SDG 11 on sustainable cities: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

WUFWith more than 20,000 participants from 170 countries, thousands of city makers, dozens of national delegations, about a hundred ministers or vice-ministers, the WUF9 was a kaleidoscope of actors of today’s urban world, as well as of hopes and contradictions they carry.

For URBACT it was also an important meeting in which the method of exchange and transnational learning between cities developed by the program for 15 years crossed the European borders. This method should be implemented soon and adapted for other regions of the world under the “International Urban Cooperation” city pairing program. This was the main theme of a presentation during a “side event” organized by the European Commission:  “Cities contributing to the New Urban Agenda implementation through the International Urban Cooperation programme

The central messages of the conference, that cities need better governance, that decentralization of power and change in the way local stakeholders are involved in city making, that  of promoting an integrated approach to urban development, are the ones URBACT has been promoting towards European cities for 15 years.

I would particularly highlight the following messages, which also reflect URBACT’s activities:

  • 8March_Gender_Equal_CitiesBetter governance relies on addressing gender issues : This was the strong message of Maimunah Mohd Sharif, the new Executive Director of UN-Habitat former Mayor of Penang (MY) who highlighted Penang’s introduction of gender-responsive and participatory budgeting during her term as mayor. She stressed the need for acquiring data on women’s unique challenges, such as their safety on public transport. During the women assembly, many other speakers emphasized the importance of collaborative action at the grassroots level. The gender issue was really stressed by many participants as a key element to transform the governance of cities. This is a priority at URBACT which launches the inititative Gender Equal Cities on 8 March 2018.


  • Sustainable_development_goalsMonitoring implementation of the SDG goals: Data collection and mapping are important tools in reporting and monitoring implementation of the SDGs. Many countries and cities see the SDG as an opportunity to provide important information on education, housing, urban and rural basic services, land and water issues, thus linking the SDGs to the lives of grassroots communities. Monitoring implementation of the SDG goals could be also interesting in the future for cities involved in URBACT networks to measure and assess their progress towards the implementation of integrated urban strategy and actions.


  • URBACT_capacitiy_BuildingExchange worldwide on capacity building methodologies for local actors: URBACT can learn a lot from what is done outside Europe. Strengthening the capacity of cities to design and implement integrated and sustainable urban development is clearly seen as a challenge by UN Habitat. The Urban Labs initiative, during which panels of city planners, academics, politicians, financiers, local stakeholders and urban practitioners plan for urban extensions,  city center transformations and urban regeneration emphasizes the importance of evidence-based planning and of understanding the real challenges, including the regional context. Other instruments are being developed to train local stakeholders in specific fields as SHERPA for housing. They are all based on methodologies, which aim at strengthening local partnerships to achieve better results.


  • resilienteuropeClimate change is the main challenge for cities worldwide: Climate change is clearly seen worldwide as the main challenge. Cities are facing carbon emissions, which will exponentially increase if construction (and urbanization) keep their current pace . Two-thirds of urban coastal zones will be threatened by sea-level rise by 2050. The experience of the URBACT network Resilient Europe, which presented at WUF9 how a community, a neighbourhoud, can adapt to rapid social or environmental changes, was very appreciated.

In conclusion I would like to share the thoughts of William Lacy Swing, Ambassador of the United States , Director General of the International Organization for Migration, who called in the closing ceremony for addressing the three megatrends of the 21st century: human migration, urbanisation, and diversity. 4,5% of the world population has been migrating, 3 Million people are joining cities every week and every day cities are becoming more multicultural. Europe is clearly part of at least the first and the third of these megatrends!

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