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Nations seek urgent urban action as WUF11 ends in Poland

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam
04 July 2022   |   4:21 am
Following a broad consensus reached by delegates at the Eleventh Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF11) in Katowice, Poland, the talk came to an end last week, with calls for urgent urban action.

Following a broad consensus reached by delegates at the Eleventh Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF11) in Katowice, Poland, the talk came to an end last week, with calls for urgent urban action.

The five days of debate and discussion, with 400 events featured 700 speakers from government, civil society, communities, academia and the private sector.

The enthusiasm generated by participants throughout WUF11 was however, balanced by warnings that there could be no further delays in taking urgent action to deliver sustainable urbanisation, given the multiple crises confronting world cities.

The World Cities Report 2022 – Envisaging the Future of Cities warned that the global urban population was back on track to grow by another 2.2 billion people by 2050.

The large-scale flight from major cities in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to the perceived safety of the countryside or smaller towns was a short-term response that will not alter the course of global urbanisation, it found.

The report identified three potential scenarios for the world’s cities. In the worst-case or “high damage” scenario, the number of people living in poverty could increase by more than 200 million by 2050.

The “pessimistic” scenario foresees a reversion to the status quo before the pandemic, a business-as-usual approach, which would lock into cycles of poverty, poor productivity, inequality and unhealthy living for decade

In the optimistic vision, by 2050 there could be 260 million people lifted out of poverty compared to the pre-COVID baseline. Governments and donors would invest in urban development sufficiently to create just, resilient, healthy and prosperous cities everywhere.

Meanwhile, new friendships and partnerships were formed, new agreements reached and bold ideas formulated among the 17,003 people from 155 countries who attended WUF11.

Those conversations culminated in a set of declared action, which will take the sustainable development agenda forward to the Twelfth Session of the World Urban Forum in Cairo, Egypt in January and beyond.

The closing ceremony concluded with the torch for WUF12 being officially passed to the Egyptian government, represented by the Minister of Local Development, General Mohammed Sharawy, in a short signing ceremony.

“What we have witnessed here was a rich experience with many inspiring topics,” he said. “I am extremely proud that Cairo is the first African city to stage the World Urban Forum since Nairobi staged the first event in 2002.”

The enthusiasm generated by participants throughout WUF11 was however balanced by warnings that there could be no further delays in taking urgent action to deliver sustainable urbanisation, given the multiple crises confronting world cities.

Addressing the closing ceremony, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, said: “The climate emergency, pandemics, the housing crisis, violence and conflict, all converge in cities.

“If we want to transform to a better urban future, we will have to increasingly deal with urban crises. We have no excuse not to be prepared.

“We don’t have much time to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal targets of 2030. We have only 7.5 years, 90 months or 2,742 days left to implement the New Urban Agenda in order to achieve the SDGs. So, what shall we do? The time to act is now,” She said.

Sharif announced that the global observance of the World Habitat Day this year would be on October 3 in Belkiser, Turkey.

The Executive Director warmly thanked, State Secretary at Poland’s Ministry of Regional Development and Funds, Małgorzata Jarosińska-Jedynak, the Mayor of Katowice, Marcin Krupa and the local organising committee.

“The Government of Poland as well as the city of Katowice have exceeded all expectations helping us make WUF11 a most memorable and accessible event,” she said.

Jarosińska-Jedynak responded that WUF11’S declared actions must be a basis for action. “This is the time for bold steps and bold action,” she said. “The World Urban Forum has given us energy and enthusiasm to push for change in our cities for a better future.”

Speakers acknowledged the special Urban Crises Track created at WUF11 on responses to conflict and disaster, prompted by the conflict in neighbouring Ukraine, and Poland’s hospitality to an estimated three million Ukrainian refugees.

The Executive Director thanked the President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, H.E. Collen Kelapile, for leading the Group of Friends of Sustainable Urbanisation and UN-Habitat in New York, which is putting its full weight behind the New Urban Agenda.

She acknowledged the contributions of President of the UN-Habitat Assembly and Co-Chair of the Advisory Group, H.E Madame Martha Delgado for her work to bring the key messages from all the constituencies of WUF11 to the UN-Habitat Assembly next year.