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Nigeria, others for talks in Abu Dhabi on urban sustainability

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Forty-four years after the world was first woken up to the challenges of swelling urbanisation, the tenth session of the World’s largest gathering in the urban sector will open this weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Coming 44 years after a similar meeting gave birth to the United Nations (UN) watchdog on urban issues, the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), no fewer than 15,000 people are gathering to examine the theme, “Cities of Opportunities: Connecting Culture and Innovation”.

The World Urban Forum (WUF), UN-HABITAT’s premier international meeting on the state of the world’s growing cities, is held every two years. There will also be the UN-Habitat Better Cities Film Festival and an Urban Expo featuring over 180 exhibitors from 67 countries including Nigeria.

The weeklong event comprising dialogue sessions on themes ranging from frontier technologies and sustainable cities to urban planning and heritage preservation as well as stakeholder roundtables, bringing together key decision-makers, practitioners, and thought leaders.

There will also be special sessions on fascinating topics including the relationship and role of culture and innovation to inequality, migration, climate change and youth as well as sustainable urban development in the Arab region, and five assemblies which will take place simultaneously bringing together women, youth, local and regional governments, grassroots groups and business leaders.

The forum is one of the most inclusive gatherings on urban challenges. It operates as a forward-thinking, open-ended think tank, providing a platform for multi-stakeholder dialogue, collaboration, and public-private cooperation. It is a platform designed to raise awareness of sustainable urbanization, improve collective knowledge and increase cooperation between stakeholders.

As a non-legislative forum open to all, it provides the opportunity for thousands of participants involved in all aspects of urbanization to share practices and knowledge on how cities are built, planned and managed.

Participants include national, regional and local government, NGOs, community-based organizations, research institutions, the private sector, development finance institutions, the media, UN agencies and other stakeholders. The first WUF took place in 2002 in Kenya and eight other WUFs have taken place. The last Forum (WUF9) took place in Kuala Lumpur in February 2018.

WUF will be hosted for the first time by an Arab nation – Abu Dhabi, the capital and the second-most populous city in the United Arab Emirates and capital of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

WUF10 will be jointly organized with the Abu Dhabi Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities, along with partners including the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and General Secretariat of the Executive Council.

Hosting the WUF10 will be a significant opportunity for Abu Dhabi to further showcase its achievements and role in promoting and implementing sustainable urban development as well as playing an immense role in innovation and cultural exchange. It will be an opportunity to welcome more than 25,000 international visitors, including urban experts and local and regional leaders, to foster diverse dialogue and discussion to overcome the challenges of implementing the NUA.

WUF10 is an opportunity to increase local and regional knowledge on sustainable urbanization issues and could be leveraged to learn from global lessons and increase cooperation with stakeholders on a global scale.

It will be a packed week Executive Director of UN-Habitat Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif said: “The host city Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates government and UN-Habitat are joining forces to ensure that the meeting makes a lasting contribution to new ideas and new solutions in line with the theme – Cities of Opportunities: Connecting Culture and Innovation.”

For the first time, culture, creativity, and innovation will be at the centre of the global conversation about the liveability, vitality and sustainability of cities. Creativity and cultural diversity have always been key drivers of urban success. While technology shapes the invisible infrastructure of smart cities, culture and creativity are necessary to protect the quirkiness that gives cities their own character that connects and inspires us.

At WUF10, the culture will be positioned as a key driver for urban sustainability and a strategic asset for creating cities that are more inclusive, innovative and sustainable.

Chairman, Abu Dhabi Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities, Mr. Falah Al Ahbabi, emphasized, “With two-thirds of our global population expected to live in cities by 2030, and cities producing as much as 80 per cent of global GDP, urbanization will provide the greatest opportunity to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

As the first Arab city to host a WUF, efforts are being made to raise the profile of urban stakeholders from the region. Recent Arab urbanism offers examples of inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable human settlements for all.

Abu Dhabi and UN-Habitat will use the forum to demonstrate to the world that cities are the solution to some of the toughest common challenges and that implementation efforts are in realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.


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