The world’s premier conference on urban issues
1. The World Urban Forum was established by the United Nations to examine one of the most pressing issues facing the world today: rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and policies. The Forum is organized and convened by the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) pursuant to paragraph 10 of resolution 18/5 of the Commission on Human Settlements, in which the Commission requested the Executive Director “to promote a merger of the Urban Environment Forum and the International Forum on Urban Poverty into a new urban forum, with a view to strengthening the coordination of international support to the implementation of the Habitat Agenda.” Subsequently, the United Nations General Assembly decided, in its resolution 56/206, that the Forum would be a non-legislative technical forum in which experts could exchange views in the years when the Governing Council of UN-Habitat does not meet. At the same session, in paragraph 7 of its resolution 56/205, the General Assembly encouraged local authorities and other Habitat Agenda partners to participate, as appropriate, in the Forum in its role as an advisory body to the Executive Director of UN-Habitat.
2. The Forum is held in a different host city and country biennially, drawing a wide range of experts from every walk of life. Participants at the Forum include, but are not limited to, Habitat Agenda partners, national Governments, local authorities, members of national, regional and international associations of local governments, Global Parliamentarians on Habitat, non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, media organizations, human settlements professionals, research institutions and academies of science, professional associations, the private sector, business and non-profit sectors, foundations, relevant United Nations organizations and other international agencies.
3. The Forum promotes the strong participation of Habitat Agenda partners and relevant international programmes, funds and agencies, thus ensuring their inclusion in the identification of new issues, the sharing of lessons learned and the exchange of best practices and good policies.
4. The Forum is also intended to re-examine the manner in which UN-Habitat and its partners contribute to guiding and enriching policy work on sustainable urbanization through an open dialogue.
5. New ideas and working models are identified in the Forum and these are fed into the medium-term strategic and institutional plan of UN-Habitat and form part of the subsequent work programme.
6. Participation in the Forum rose from 1,200 delegates at the inaugural session in Nairobi in 2002, to over 4,000 in Barcelona in 2004 and over 10,000 in Vancouver in 2006. In Nanjing in 2008, there were 8,000 participants, their numbers reached almost 14,000 at the fifth session in Rio de Janeiro in 2010 and over 8,000 attended the sixth session in Naples in September 2012. One hundred countries were represented at the third session, 146 at the fourth, 150 at the fifth session and the sixth session in Naples saw a record number of 152 countries represented. The seventh session of the Forum will take place in 2014 in Medellin, Colombia.
7. The third session of the Forum, held in Vancouver in 2006 (the thirtieth birthday of UN-Habitat), focused on sustainable urbanization and inclusive cities. One of the messages from the Forum was that the urban population of developing countries is set to double from 2 to 4 billion in the next 30 years. This will require the equivalent of planning, financing and servicing facilities for a new city of 1 million people to be built every week for the next 30 years.
8. The theme of the fourth session of the Forum, held in Nanjing in 2008, was harmonious urbanization. At this session, it was made clear that a society cannot be harmonious if large sections of its population are deprived of basic needs while other sections live in opulence. An important message from this session of the Forum was that harmony in cities cannot be achieved if the price of urban living is paid by the environment. The concept of harmony entails the synchronization and integration of all the Earth’s assets: physical, environmental, cultural, historical, social or human.
9. The fifth session of the Forum was held in Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city in Brazil, and it built upon the technical and substantive lessons of the previous four sessions. It focused on the theme of “Right to the city: bridging the urban divide”. The Forum shared perspectives and viewpoints on the relevance of this concept, identifying what is needed to bridge the urban divide and to facilitate a prompt and sustainable transition from a city that is partially inclusive to one that is fully inclusive.
10. The World Urban Forum is undoubtedly the premier advocacy platform for UN-Habitat to promote sustainable urbanization and share solutions to urban challenges.
Reports on networking events (from the organizers)32
Networking event 32: The dynamics of Palestinian refugee camps in the Near East
Organizer(s): United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
· Issam Miqdadi, UNRWA
· Vijay Neekhra, UNRWA
· Sandi Hilal, UNRWA
· Abdelnasser Ayi, The Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, Lebanon
· Philipp Misselwitz (moderator), University of Stuttgart, Germany
· Muna Budeiri (anellist), UNRWA
The networking event was very well received and approximately 100 participants attended it. The background context for the event was set up by showing the film ‘Salty Coffee’ demonstrating a struggling one day life of a youth from a Burj Barajneh Camp, Lebanon. During the event, officials from Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme (ICIP), United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and invited expert presented and introduced UNRWA, ICIP and the living conditions of Palestinian refugees in the camps and ICIP’s integrated, comprehensive and community driven planning methodology to improve the urban built environment, substandard living conditions, physical and socio-economic conditions in a camp. The presentation stressed on the core heart of the programme which is based on building a full partnership with Palestinian refugees and holistic understanding of needs of the individual, family and the community.
Event presented success stories from the camps from the West Bank which stressed on the crucial role of urban planners in understating logic and reasons of refugee’s needs prior to reaching to any conclusion and interventions. Event also took us through the challenging journey of Nahr-el-Bared Camp, Lebanon from demolition in 2007 to the current re-construction phase and illustrated how important is to be patience with the community when re-creating the same urban fabric.
The presentations were followed up by a Q&A session where some interesting questions were raised to the panel, such as: Is ‘development’ or ‘improvement’ the right word in the context of Palestinian refugees? What is the future of the camps in a situation of saturation and limited carrying capacity? What should be the strategy for the adjacent areas? Overall, the networking event was received well and appreciated by the professional audience. The ICIP, UNRWA looks forward to such networking event in the next World Urban Forum.
32We are pleased to reflect the received reports submitted by the partners who organized the events. The reports have been just edited in terms of format, not in terms of content.