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Sustainable urbanisation in focus as 11th urban forum opens in Poland

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam
28 June 2022   |   2:48 am
Forty-six years after the globe first woke up to the challenges of swelling urbanisation, the 11th World Urban Forum (WUF11) session of the world’s largest gathering of stakeholders

[FILES] Polish city of Katowice

Forty-six years after the globe first woke up to the challenges of swelling urbanisation, the 11th World Urban Forum (WUF11) session of the world’s largest gathering of stakeholders in the urban sector opened in Katowice, Poland, yesterday.

The conference began with a call to double efforts for tackling the challenges presented to cities by COVID-19, climate emergency and conflict.

The yearly event, convened by United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), is held at a critical juncture for urban development.

With only eight years left to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 of making cities and human settlements “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable,” urban areas and residents around the world are facing acute pressure.

Those strains would naturally increase, as the population of people living in urban areas had been predicted to rise globally from 56 per cent in 2021 to 68 per cent in 2050, a 2.2 billion increase, mainly in Africa and the Middle East.

“While the current reality is undoubtedly very difficult, we must maintain our focus and double our efforts on sustainable development,” United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, said.

She noted that the event’s theme, Transforming Our Cities for a Better Urban Future, “could not be more fitting.”

The five-day programme, which is being co-organised with the Polish government and the city of Katowice, has been significantly modified to reflect the conflict in neighbouring Ukraine. More than three million Ukrainians have taken refuge in the Central European nation since the tension began on February 24 this year.

Contributions are expected from international figures on urban crisis recovery and response, as well as a special session had been organised by Poland on the post-crisis and post-disaster reconstruction of urban spaces and population return.

Minister of Development Funds and Regional Policy, Grzegorz Puda, said: “The Polish government is proud that Poland and Katowice are hosting an event where the future of cities is being shaped.”

This is a region that has come a long way – from communist rule, which had little regard for human life, let alone its quality – to democratic governments working for the common good.”

Mayor of Katowice, Marcin Krupa, observed: “Our city has undergone enormous changes in the last two decades. I believe that cities are the engines of change towards creating a better world – one that is safer, more sustainable and inclusive. WUF11 will provide fertile ground for fruitful discussions and serve as an inspiration for action.”

The forum is the first big international gathering to be staged since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 16,000 people are participating, including over 50 ministers and deputy ministers, 800 government officials and representatives and 400 speakers.