24 June 2022
World Forum to Address Urban Crises, Urban Recovery
Photo by Peter Berko
story highlights

WUF11 will focus on the theme, ‘Transforming Our Cities for a Better Urban Future’.

The Forum will feature an extraordinary dialogue on urban crisis response and recovery, and special sessions on urban recovery frameworks and on rebuilding communities and neighborhoods after war and natural disasters.

“Partner-driven events” include SDGs in Action, ONE UN, Voices from Cities, Networking, Training, and Urban Library.

As the world is becoming increasingly urbanized, it is expected that by 2050, 70% of its population will live in cities. National, regional, and local governments are coming together with representatives from the private sector and academia, community leaders, urban planners, and civil society to discuss sustainable urban development, urban resilience, and urban governance for a better urban future. The eleventh edition of the biennial World Urban Forum (WUF11) will seek to catalyze transformational change to support these objectives.

Cities are disproportionately affected by global crises like climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflict, and natural disasters. At the same time, local action is critical for the achievement of multiple SDGs, including targets on housing and sustainable transport, reduced inequalities, food security, climate change mitigation, community resilience, and sustainable infrastructure.

The New Urban Agenda (NUA) “highlights linkages between sustainable urbanization and job creation, livelihood opportunities and improved quality of life.” Given its social, economic, and environmental dimensions, sustainable urbanization plays a key role in driving implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

World Economic Forum: the origins

The first UN Conference on Human Settlements took place in Vancouver, Canada, in 1976. The Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements established the UN Centre for Human Settlements as the major UN agency mandated by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to work to provide adequate shelter for all.

In resolution 56/206 of 21 December 2001, the UNGA transformed the UN Centre for Human Settlements into UN-Habitat, and designated the World Urban Forum (WUF) to serve as a “non-legislative technical forum in which experts can exchange views in the years when the UN-Habitat Governing Council does not meet.” The WUF held its first meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2002.

Operating as an open-ended technical think tank, the WUF provides opportunities for debate and discussion about the impacts of rapid urbanization on communities and the challenges of sustainable urbanization. It aims to further advance the outcomes of several UN conferences on sustainable development, including the 2030 Agenda and the New Urban Agenda, which was adopted at the third UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador, in 2016. The NUA stipulates a vision for urbanization to serve as a transformative force towards achieving the SDGs, and links action for sustainable urbanization with specific Goals, enabling cities to be key players in addressing global challenges.

The WUF’s overall mandate is to:

  • Raise awareness of sustainable urbanization among stakeholders;
  • Improve the collective knowledge of sustainable urbanization through open debates and an exchange of best practices and lessons learned;
  • Increase coordination and cooperation between different stakeholders to advance and implement sustainable urbanization; and
  • Provide substantive and strategic inputs from multilateral organizations, subnational and national governments, and others for reporting on NUA implementation.

WUF11: Responding to multiple crises  

WUF11, convening in Katowice, Poland, from 26-30 June 2022, will focus on the theme, ‘Transforming Our Cities for a Better Urban Future.’ Discussions in open dialogue will be guided by the thematic objectives of: equitable urban futures; building resilience for a sustainable urban future; future urban economy and finance; integrated governance in spatial planning for a more just, green, and healthy urban future; transforming cities through innovative solutions and technologies; and greener urban futures.

A WUF11 background paper notes that a sustainable urban future requires overcoming the multiple crises cities are facing today, including the “climate emergency,” devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing inequalities, and ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, and Yemen. The Forum will feature an extraordinary dialogue on urban crisis response and recovery, and special sessions on urban recovery frameworks and on rebuilding communities and neighborhoods after war and natural disasters.

Convening as part of a dedicated track, organized with support from the Global Alliance on Urban Crises, these events will “explore how national and local governments can better prepare and respond to urban crises and use the recovery to accelerate progress” towards greener and healthier cities while leaving “no one and no place behind.” Events taking place under the WUF11 Urban Crises Track will address responses to the “twin urban crises of climate change and inequality,” ways to better manage conflict-induced displacement and enhance the positive impacts of urban migration, and sustainable construction in conflict- and crises-affected contexts, among other issues.

The situation in Ukraine is a prominent feature of the WUF11 Urban Crisis Track. Ukraine. The WUF11 background paper highlights that by April 2022, Poland was hosting 3 million Ukrainian refugees, displaced by the war in their home country, and indicates that the Forum will create dedicated space to focus on the Ukraine crisis by mobilizing action by international and Ukrainian actors alike and exchanging lessons learned from urban recovery elsewhere. Several Ukraine-focused events will explore, among others, how to implement localized durable solutions in conflict-induced displacement contexts and how to rebuild the social contract in fragile contexts.

The WUF11 programme includes numerous dialogues, roundtables, and other events hosted and facilitated by UN-Habitat, the Polish Government, and partners. The five days of meetings will culminate in a set of declared actions released during the closing session. Government, civil society, and private sector representatives will take these recommendations “back to their home cities for further discussion and implementation.”

SDGs in Action: Local responses to global challenges

To back the Forum’s ambition to serve as a marketplace of knowledge and solutions to enable cities’ inclusive, equitable, green, and resilient transformation, WUF11 agenda features six formats of “partner-driven events.”

  • The SDGs in Action platform aims to translate city-level collaboration on culture, economy, society, environment, and governance into shareable, replicable, and scalable action.
  • Representing “critical links to global agendas and commitments at the policy level to leave no one behind in the pursuit of sustainable development,” ONE UN will feature efforts by UN programmes, agencies, and funds to support city-oriented action to achieve the Global Goals.
  • Participants will hear and celebrate Voices from Cities contributing to the debate around sustainable urbanization.
  • Networking events will provide opportunities to connect with urban professionals and stakeholders to “identify approaches to domesticating the New Urban Agenda” and, in so doing, achieving the SDGs.
  • Three-hour training events will focus on “skills, knowledge, tools, methods, and instruments needed to create a future in which cities are more equitable, just, green, and resilient.”
  • Recognizing that information is the currency of transformation and change, the Urban Library will facilitate a deep dive into the latest reports, books, and other publications on ways to localize the NUA.

Together with the WUF11 dialogues and special sessions, these events will facilitate the gathering and exchange of views and experiences on sustainable urbanization while responding both to long-term and immediate challenges to sustainable development.

You can read Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) coverage of WUF11 here.

related events