13 February 2018: The World Urban Forum (WUF) convened for the first time since countries adopted the New Urban Agenda (NUA) in Quito, Ecuador, in 2016. WUF’s ninth session (WUF), which took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, focused on approaches and examples of good practice toward sustainability and inclusivity, under its overarching theme of ‘Cities 2030: Cities for All’. Many speakers called for aligning NUA monitoring and reporting with the follow-up and review process for the urban-related SDGs, in particular SDG 11 on sustainable cities.

WUF9 convened from 7-13 February 2018, and attracted more than 22,000 participants from 165 countries. Discussions took place in parallel streams throughout the week of the conference, including high-level roundtables, special sessions, side events and networking events. At the close of the meeting, WUF9 launched the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Cities 2030, which calls for accelerating NUA implementation and maintaining UN-Habitat as the UN focal point for follow-up and review of the NUA.

The Declaration proposes accelerating NUA implementation by: promoting and adopting frameworks such as inclusive platforms for stakeholder dialogue; engaging with multiple stakeholders and multiple levels of government through partnerships; and undertaking innovative solutions to promote creativity, monitoring and data collection.

The WUF takes place every two years as a technical forum and an open and inclusive platform for a wide range of actors in urban development. In all, five UN-Habitat Assemblies convened: Women, Business, and Children and Youth Assemblies met on 7 February, and Local and Regional Governments, and Grassroots Organizations met on 8 February. Throughout the week, Ministerial-level roundtables and many special sessions convened to discuss concerns and share examples of good policies and practices toward sustainable and inclusive urbanization.

At a side event organized by the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and the UN Office for Sustainable Development on 11 February, Marie Chatardová, President, UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) underscored the need to strengthen urban and sustainable development strategies on the global agenda. She noted that SDG 11 will be up for review when the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) convenes in New York in July 2018. She explained that 47 countries will present their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) to the HLPF, citing ‘tremendous interest’ in this exercise. She also cited research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that indicates 65% of the SDG targets cannot be achieved without the participation of local governments.

Emilia Saez, Secretary-General of United Cities and Local Government (UCLG), stressed that, while local and regional governments are critical to achieving the 2030 Agenda, these actors lack space within the current HLPF review arrangements.

Eugenie Birth, University of Pennsylvania, noted that 12,000 stakeholders are engaged with UN-Habitat through its General Assembly of Partnerships (GAP), a legacy of Habitat III, and that it will be important to maintain an orderly and organized approach. UN-Habitat’s GAP comprises representatives of the nine Major Groups in the UN system, as well as additional groups representing older persons, trade unions, and an LGBT and gender identity group, among others.

The UN Secretary-General reports on implementation of the NUA every four years, with the first report to be submitted during the UN General Assembly’s 72nd session (2017-2018). Habitat III proposed to hold the fourth UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat IV) in 2036. WUF10 will take place in Abu Dhabi in 2020. [WUF9 Website] [Kuala Lumpur Declaration text] [IISD-RS Report on WUF9] [Side Event Web Page]