Summary report, 7–13 February 2018

9th Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF9)

The ninth session of the World Urban Forum (WUF9) took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from Wednesday, 7 February, to Tuesday, 13 February 2018, on the theme “Cities 2030 – Cities For All: Implementing the New Urban Agenda.” WUF9 was the first Forum to convene since the adoption of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) at the Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador, in 2016. The Forum accordingly focused on arrangements and actions for implementation, with many delegates and participants emphasizing the importance of public, private and civil society cooperation in order to fully achieve the NUA. Many speakers highlighted the NUA as a way of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and called for aligning NUA monitoring and reporting with the follow-up and review process for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 11 on sustainable cities.

Najib Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia, opened WUF9 at an official ceremony on Thursday, 8 February. WUF9 welcomed UN-Habitat’s new Executive Director, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, former Mayor of Penang, Malaysia.

The week of meetings began with five World Assembly meetings of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) constituency groups that previously provided input to the Habitat III process. Dialogues, special sessions, networking events and exhibitions took place at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and at various venues around Kuala Lumpur during 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.

The WUF takes place every two years as a technical forum and an open and inclusive platform for a wide range of stakeholders in urban development. Stakeholder roundtables at WUF9 took stock of NUA implementation, considered how to strategically engage with the UN system, and discussed strengthening and scaling up their work.  The media roundtable highlighted the value of UN-Habitat’s Urban Journalism Academy initiative, which has conducted 26 training exercises on five continents. At the roundtable of grassroots organizations, Slum Dwellers International (SDI), the Huairou Commission, Cities Alliance and United Cities and Local Governments called on delegates to view grassroots organizations as equal partners, and highlighted multi-stakeholder partnerships as essential for devising innovative solutions to the challenges of urbanization.

At the close of WUF9, delegates adopted the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Cities 2030.

This report provides a summary of WUF9 high-level events and most special sessions.


The first UN Conference on Human Settlements took place in Vancouver, Canada, from 31 May-11 June 1976. This meeting led to the Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements, which officially established the UN Centre for Human Settlements as the major UN agency mandated by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to pursue the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. In resolution 56/206 on 21 December 2001, the General Assembly transformed the UN Centre for Human Settlements into UN-Habitat.

In the same resolution, the General Assembly decided that the WUF, designated as an advisory body, would be a “non-legislative technical forum in which experts can exchange views in the years when the UN-Habitat Governing Council does not meet.” The WUF provides opportunities for debate and discussion about the challenges of urbanization and operates as an open-ended think tank.

UN-Habitat notes that cities face unprecedented demographic, environmental, economic, social and spatial challenges, with six out of every ten people in the world expected to reside in urban areas by 2030. According to UN-Habitat, more than 90% of this growth will take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. For the first time in history, more than half the world’s population now lives in cities. Given this growth, urban areas are central to sustainable development efforts.

The WUF aims to further advance the outcomes of several UN conferences on sustainable development, including the the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDGs, and the NUA that was adopted at the Habitat III conference in Ecuador in 2016.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT CONFERENCES: UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED): UNCED, also known as the Earth Summit, took place from 3-14 June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The principal outputs of UNCED were the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Agenda 21 (a 40-chapter programme of action) and the Statement of Forest Principles. Agenda 21 acknowledged rapid urbanization, noting the increase in the size and number of cities “calls for greater attention to issues of local government and municipal management” and highlighting that if cities are properly managed, they can “develop the capacity to sustain their productivity, improve the living conditions of their residents and manage natural resources in a sustainable way.” IISD-RS coverage of UNCED can be found at:

World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD): WSSD took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August – 4 September 2002. The conference reviewed achievements toward UNCED commitments and adopted the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, which, among other matters, called for achieving a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. It also urged action at all levels to: improve access to land and property and provide adequate shelter and basic services for the urban and rural poor; increase decent employment, credit and income; remove unnecessary regulation and other obstacles for microenterprises and the informal sector; and support slum upgrading programmes within urban development plans. IISD-RS coverage of the WSSD can be found at:

UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20): The third and final meeting of the Preparatory Committee for Rio+20, pre-conference informal consultations and Rio+20 convened back-to-back in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 13-22 June 2012. During those ten days, government delegations concluded negotiations on the Rio outcome document, “The Future We Want,” and held, an Urban Summit that involved roundtables on, inter alia, multi-level governance and how cities across the world can learn from each other. Governments also agreed to launch a process to develop a set of SDGs, and to establish a High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) to follow up on the implementation of sustainable development. IISD-RS coverage of Rio+20 can be found at:

HLPF: The 67th session of UNGA adopted resolution 67/290 on the format and organizational aspects of the HLPF on 9 July 2013. It decided that the HLPF, consistent with its intergovernmental, universal character, will provide political leadership, guidance, and recommendations for sustainable development, and will follow up and review progress on the implementation of sustainable development commitments. Five HLPF sessions have convened, the first in September 2013 and subsequent session in July each year at UN Headquarters in New York. The HLPF has a system of Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) in which countries present their progress toward the SDGs and a global review of selected SDGs is conducted each year. SDG 11 on sustainable cities will be reviewed at the HLPF in 2018. IISD-RS coverage of the 2017 HLPF can be found at

HABITAT CONFERENCES: UN Habitat conferences take place every 20 years. UNGA convened Habitat I in Vancouver, Canada, in 1976. The conference recognized that shelter and urbanization are global issues to be addressed collectively, and created the UN Center for Human Settlements (UNCHS-Habitat). 

Habitat II convened from 3-14 June 1996 in Istanbul, Turkey. The Habitat Agenda and the Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements, adopted by 171 governments during the Conference, outlined more than 100 commitments and strategies to address shelter and sustainable human settlements, emphasizing the themes of partnership and local action. The Habitat Agenda set the twin goals of achieving adequate shelter for all and the sustainable development of human settlements. After much debate, the Conference also reaffirmed its commitment to the full and progressive realization of the right to adequate housing.

Habitat III took place from 17-20 October 2016 in Quito, Ecuador, after a series of three preparatory committee meetings to prepare a draft negotiated text. Following negotiations, Habitat III adopted the NUA, a global, non-binding agenda for making cities safe, sustainable and resilient.

NEW URBAN AGENDA: The NUA adopted at Habitat III aligns with many of the SDGs, including SDG 11 on making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. In preambular text, the New Urban Agenda also sets out aims to end poverty and hunger (SDG 1 and 2), reduce inequalities (SDG 10), promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth (SDG 8), achieve gender equality (SDG 5), improve human health and wellbeing (SDG 4), foster resilience (SDGs 11 and 13), and protect the environment (SDG 6, 9, 13, 14 and 15). The Agenda promotes a vision for cities that is grounded in human rights, and recognizes the need to give particular attention to addressing multiple forms of discrimination, including discrimination against people in slum settlements, homeless people, internally displaced persons and migrants, regardless of their migration status.

The “Quito Implementation Plan for the New Urban Agenda” comprises the major part of the outcome document. The Plan includes three sections: transformative commitments for sustainable urban development, effective implementation; and follow-up and review. The section on implementation emphasizes the need for establishing strong urban governance structures, planning and managing urban spatial development, and accessing means of implementation.

The UN Secretary-General reports on implementation of the NUA every four years, with the first report to be submitted during UNGA’s 72nd session (2017-2018). Habitat III proposed to hold the fourth UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat IV) in 2036. The NUA also calls for an independent assessment of UN-Habitat, which will consider the possibility of establishing universal membership of its governing body. The assessment is expected to come up with recommendations to enhance the UN-Habitat’s effectiveness, efficiency, accountability and oversight.

WUF: WUF1 took place from 29 April-3 May 2002 in Nairobi, Kenya, on the theme of sustainable urbanization, and discussions focused on: the effect of HIV/AIDS on human settlements; violence against women; basic services and infrastructure, including provision of water and sanitation; and the need for secure tenure. Subsequently, WUF sessions have been held every two years with themes ranging from “Sustainable Cities — Turning Ideas into Action” to “The Urban Future.” WUF sessions have previously convened in Barcelona, Spain; Vancouver, Canada; Nanjing, China; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Naples, Italy; and Medellín, Colombia. IISD-RS coverage of WUF3 can be found at, and of WUF7 at

WUF9 is the first such Forum to convene since the adoption of the NUA.



Moderator Kimberley Leonard, Sky News presenter, welcomed participants on Wednesday, 7 February, and called attention to their common goals of assisting all to live with dignity and to save the planet.

Noh Omar, Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, Malaysia, observed that more than 50% of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, and stated that cities must be reformed to be safe, inclusive, sustainable and prosperous. He noted that WUF is hosting a Grassroots Assembly for the first time, aiming to give a platform to local leaders.

Magdalena Garcia Hernández, Women’s Constituency, General Assembly of Partners (GAP), emphasized the importance of good governance and UN frameworks such as the NUA in advancing gender equality and fighting social discrimination.

S.M. Shaikat, UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board, underscored the challenges facing urban youth, such as finding employment, affordable healthcare, and education. He added that the NUA is a “comprehensive solution” to fulfilling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and becoming accountable to future generations.

Violet Shivutse, Chair, Governing Council of Huairou Commission, called for stronger partnerships and empowerment of grassroots women in business.

Reem Al-Saud, Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, Saudi Arabia, highlighted her ministry’s inclusive urban strategy that engages women and youth and is aligned with the NUA.

Zoleka Mandela, Ambassador for the Global Initiative for Child Health and Mobility, called for strong action against drunk driving, and for cities to provide adequate safe crossing places for children, noting that her own child was killed by a drunk driver.

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, UN-Habitat, welcomed the audience to Kuala Lumpur and to WUF9, her first Forum as Executive Director. As she opened the Assemblies, she underscored the NUA’s emphasis on inclusivity and noted UN-Habitat’s role as the focal point for its implementation.


Five UN-Habitat Assemblies convened during WUF9. Women, Business, and Children and Youth Assemblies met on Wednesday 7 February, and Local and Regional Governments, and Grassroots Organizations met on Thursday 8 February.

WOMEN’S ASSEMBLY: On Wednesday, Sri Husnaini Sofjan, Huairou Commission, introduced the sessions and welcomed Executive Director Maimunah. Maimunah highlighted Penang’s introduction of gender-responsive and participatory budgeting during her term as mayor. She stressed the need for acquiring data on women’s unique challenges, such as their safety on public transport.

Maria Noel Vaeza, UN Women, called for women’s representation in all areas of governance. Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hasan Shahabudin, President, National Council of Women’s Organisations, Malaysia, called for a “morally strong urban society” that includes parental oversight of children’s use of social media.

Plenary discussions: Two plenary discussions took place, on: implementing the NUA; and regional perspectives on challenges in localizing the SDGs.

Julia Bentley, Canadian High Commissioner to Malaysia, shared her government’s vision of gender equality as an essential pillar of sustainable development. Ana Falu, Advisory Group on Gender Issues, called for the establishment of a major program focusing on the nexus of women, infrastructure and planning. Kathy Klein, GAP Older Persons Group, underscored that the biggest obstacle for ageing communities is their lack of visibility, including in data collection. Suneeta Dhar, Jagori, India, presented her organization’s work in creating safer cities for women, highlighting some gains in criminal law and policing reforms, and on ending impunity for sexual violence. Other speakers emphasized the importance of collaborative action at the grassroots level, and noted that SDG 11 will be reviewed at the HLPF in July 2018.

TEDx-style presentations: Clare Short, Chair, Cities Alliance, said women should not only be engaged in policy making in large numbers, but must become a transformative force in society. Rose Molokoane, SDI, highlighted the growing influence of grassroots organizations since Habitat I, and their ability to participate in decision making. Ivy Josiah, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, described how market women in Manila had successfully campaigned to be included in renovation planning of the market facilities, after which the local council created a new seat specifically for them. Ellen Woodsworth, Women Transforming Cities, Canada, described her organization’s work in promoting gender-sensitive cities through café-based events and collaborations. Other speakers highlighted efforts to empower women, and particularly grassroots women, at all levels of governance.

Thematic working groups: In the afternoon, participants split into 11 groups to discuss: strengthening women’s role in local governments; safe and accessible public spaces; rural-urban links and food security; slum upgrading and basic gender-responsive service delivery; legislation in the framework of the Right to the City; land and property ownership; economic inclusion of women and girls; inclusion of women with disabilities in an urban environment; humanitarian crises and migration; and “engendering the Right to the City.”

Groups reiterated their key messages, which included the importance of disaggregated data collection, building partnerships, and challenging patriarchal norms in cities. Jan Peterson, Honorary President, Huairou Commission, encouraged participants to monitor gender-related developments in their own cities and to report back in upcoming meetings on implementation efforts taken since Habitat III.

Closing: Several speakers, including Violet Shivutse, thanked Peterson for her work helping and mentoring women, and the International Women Communication Centre presented Peterson with an award.

Women’s representatives summarized themes that had emerged during the day, including the importance of: putting resources behind the commitments made in Quito; partnerships with stakeholders; designing “gender-friendly cities;” and changing social norms. They also stressed the role of an online platform, created with UN-Habitat, in enabling those unable to be at WUF9 in person to take part in the Women’s Assembly.

Concluding the session, Maria Noel Vaeza, UN Women, called for: the removal of discriminatory policies that prevent women from engaging in local governments; additional statistics on women in order for governments to address their needs; and financing for women, particularly in business.

BUSINESS ASSEMBLY: On Wednesday, moderator Nicholas You, Co-President, Global Cities Business Alliance, reminded participants of the NUA’s call for businesses to apply their creativity and innovation toward solving sustainable development challenges.

Advocating for the “Global Goals”: In the morning, participants heard a panel discussion on how the NUA and SDGs provide a clear framework for businesses to invest in sustainable development while also serving the interests of their employees and shareholders. Eugenie Birch, Co-Chair, GAP, stressed: the role of legislation in creating an enabling environment in which businesses can thrive; the importance of building the capacity of local governments; and considering environmental impacts when planning urban development. Danielle Grossenbacher, International Real Estate Federation, called for creative solutions to increase the affordability of land, and to improve building techniques and materials. She requested that participants share smart affordable housing examples from around the globe through the Federation’s website. Other panelists discussed examples of how business and cities can work together to raise awareness of the socioeconomic case for sustainable urbanization, including promoting sustainable consumption and production, and reducing inequalities.

During the lunch hour, Executive Director Maimunah noted that private companies offer the talents necessary to address the global urban challenges, and explained that the role of business in the development of smart cities cannot be overestimated.

Technology and Innovation for Development: Moderator Eduardo Moreno, UN-Habitat, emphasized that harnessing technological innovation is essential to achieving sustainable development, and can have a transformative impact on how cities plan housing, transport, basic services, healthcare, education, and jobs for future generations. Panelists agreed that technology is necessary to fill the local-level “data gap” and help business and governments prioritize decisions and investments required to meet sustainable development targets. Participants provided inputs on technology’s role in implementing the NUA and what is needed to ensure that cities capture the benefits of new technologies and innovations.

Financing the NUA: Transformative Actions by Development Finance Institutions: Moderator Sameh Wahba, World Bank, noted the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the NUA has provided a fresh impetus to strengthen partnerships with business towards enhanced, transformative investments in urban development. He added that sound fiscal performance of local governments is fundamental to achieving the NUA. Panelists discussed developing strong governance frameworks that allow financial institutions to engage more effectively with local municipalities, and the financial bias towards major urban centres with secondary cities lagging behind.

Building Effective Public-Private Cooperation: Moderator Roland White, World Bank, said achieving the NUA and SDGs requires both a catalytic vehicle for transformative investments in urban development, and a facilitation mechanism for cooperative partnership, drawing together committed public and private sector organizations and stakeholders, and all levels of government. Panelists considered: diversifying economies to build cities’ resilience to adversity; providing slum dwellers with access to decision-making processes; and building capacity at the local level to accelerate change while becoming more efficient.

CHILDREN AND YOUTH ASSEMBLY: On Wednesday, the Youth Assembly opened with a video message from Idris Haron, President, World Assembly of Youth, Malaysia, who called for the inclusion of youth in urban development. Ediola Pashollari, Secretary-General, World Assembly of Youth, called for: ensuring opportunities for young people; youth empowerment; and ensuring the NUA supports the achievement of the SDGs. Donovan Guttieres, UN Major Group for Children and Youth, explained that the Youth Declaration from the Assembly will be presented to WUF9.

Thematic working groups: Groups convened on: youth, livelihoods and Indigenous youth; peace, safety and security; human rights and participation; challenges facing youth migrants and refugees; health and livability; urban resilience and climate change; culture and public spaces; LGBTI and the city; and “place-making in cities for youth.”

Participants raised many different proposals to benefit urban children and youth, including strategies to ensure that youth have opportunities in non-urban areas. LGBTI rights campaigners highlighted examples of positive actions to address violence against LGBTI youth, such as free “inclusive yoga” sessions that paired LGBTI youth with drop-in participants; and a photo exhibition, “This Is Also A Family,” which presented non-stereotypical family configurations such as same-sex couples and single people with pets.

Sessions on “ideation and decision thinking” and a Children’s Assembly took place concurrently with the thematic working groups.

Dragon’s Den for Youth Projects: In the early afternoon, teams presented their Urban Youth Projects, which were designed to tackle urban issues, to a panel of experts. The teams focused on waste management, lack of public spaces, access to quality education, air pollution, lack of affordable housing, and improving the image of nuclear energy.

Highlights from the breakout group outputs were also presented, with a view to using them as a basis for a Youth Declaration to be produced at a later date.

Closing: Douglas Reagan, UN-Habitat, moderated the session, which reflected on critical moments in progressing the youth agenda. Ahmad Alhendawi, the former Youth Envoy to the UN Secretary General, noted that responses to the economic crisis, the Arab Spring, and the rise of radical extremism could be opportunities for integrating actions to fulfill the SDGs.

Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, Deputy Executive Director, UN-Habitat, highlighted the role of youth in achieving sustainable development, noting that the UN has appointed a Special Envoy on Youth for the first time. She urged youth to transform passion into action, stating that “hope is not sufficient without a strategy.” She recommended strategic planning and monitoring, and cautioned that such efforts should not become disconnected from the grassroots level. She concluded by encouraging youth to take leadership roles, and to hold other leaders accountable.

Children and youth representatives called for the active engagement of youth at all stages of decision-making in urban development, and warned that engagement efforts should be genuine and not tokenistic. They urged moving away from a growth-centered paradigm to one that is people and planet-centered, with human rights and justice at the core.

WORLD ASSEMBLY OF LOCAL AND REGIONAL GOVERNMENTS: On Thursday, moderators Emilia Sáiz, Secretary General, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), and Bernadia Tjandradewi, Secretary-General, UCLG-Asia Pacific, welcomed participants, and underscored that local governments need to be agents of change. Mayors and leaders of Surayaba, Soria, Bangangté, Cordoba, and the Iskandar and Rabat-Salé-Kénitra Regions delivered introductory remarks, many urging increased citizen engagement and recognition of local and regional governments in establishing sustainable and inclusive cities. Carlos Martínez Mínguez, Mayor of Soria, called for “ethics of action and responsibility,” which, he said, could lead to transparent, effective, and fair policies and plans in urban areas.

Governance of proximity at the heart of the NUA: Leaders from Jakarta, Barcelona, Melaka, Sala, Ksar, Cape Town and partners took part in this discussion. In his opening remarks, Greg Munro, Secretary General, Commonwealth Local Government Forum, called for global leaders to place their trust in local and regional governments, and allow local residents to be engaged at the core of decision making. Many speakers highlighted the unique position of mayors in relation to social issues, environmental challenges, and the economic realities of their cities. Mercè Conesa, President, Barcelona Provincial Council, called for a governance system that is decentralized, open, and collaborative, adding that such a system would require citizen involvement. Víctor Pineda, President, World ENABLED, called for a global compact for accessible and inclusive cities, and to give individuals with disabilities a “seat at the table.”

Assessing the implementation of the NUA: Leaders from Fukuoka, Sweden, Buenos Aires, the Basque region, Catbalogan, Mannheim, Nablus, Catalonia and partners shared innovative experiences in implementing the NUA. Peter Kurz, Mayor of Mannheim, called for harmonizing NUA and SDG indicators. He said monitoring would be key to ensuring that Habitat III has more impact than the previous two Habitat conferences. Clare Short, Cities Alliance, called for: increased support to small and medium-sized cities; consultation with the urban poor; and equality of leadership between men and women in government.

Key priorities of local and regional governments in the NUA: Joan Clos, former Executive Director of UN-Habitat, opened discussions. He invited participants to consider whether urbanization is is essential to development. Panelists and local leaders from various cities including Sante Fe, Yakutsk, Chefchaouen, Malmö and Hebron, as well as representatives of Morocco and other partners, called for increased capacity at the local level and discussed: cities with extreme climates; the implementation of the NUA in cities facing crises; addressing the needs of urban migrants; and the need to understand the health, biodiversity and other concerns of their citizens.

Closing: Frédéric Vallier, Secretary General, Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), presented the text of a declaration from the Assembly, which highlights: the inclusion of the Right to the City in the NUA; a commitment to strengthen a partnership approach with all levels of government; and a commitment to women’s participation. Other speakers emphasized renewing the relationship between the UN and regional and local governments, and addressing rural-urban migration at its points of origin. UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah concluded the Assembly, inviting local and regional governments to work with the UN to advise on implementation and monitoring of the NUA for safe, resilient and sustainable cities.

GRASSROOTS ASSEMBLY: Opening this Assembly on Thursday, Joan Clos, former Executive Director of UN-Habitat, said grassroots representation is fundamental to creating a legitimate process in urbanization, which has become politicized due to competing interests.

Rose Molokoane, Slum Dwellers International (SDI), outlined SDI’s study of 103 cities since Habitat III, and called on the UN system to create a platform for the participation of grassroots organiations, saying they deserve their own as they prefer not to be absorbed into Major Groups.

Relinda Sosa, President, National Confederation of Women Organized for Life and Integrated Development, Peru, speaking on behalf of Latin American grassroots organizations, emphasized the importance of alliances among grassroots organizations and strengthening these in order to be effective in decision making processes.

Rene Hohmann, Cities Alliance, emphasized that grassroots organizations act as agents of change and are the only constituency already implementing the SDGs, while others are “still stuck in their comfort zones.”

Two consecutive plenary discussions took place, first on the impact of grassroots partnerships and tools in NUA implementation, and second on facilitating leadership and the groundwork necessary to realize the commitments of inclusivity, partnership and “leaving no one behind.”

Grassroots partnerships and tools: Grassroots representatives Violet Shivutse and Sekai Chiremba reported on progress in NUA implementation in Kenya and Zimbabwe respectively, highlighting the key role of women and local communities in urbanization, and the importance of partnerships among grassroots organizations, particularly in information collection.

UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah stressed the importance of having grassroots organizations as partners, and applauded WUF9 for providing the space for critical reflection among diverse stakeholders.

Facilitating leadership and groundwork: Grassroots representatives Janet Adu and Fides Bagasao shared their perspectives from Ghana and the Philippines, noting challenges for: government changeover; political mobilization; and disaster response and recovery, including from climate-induced disasters.

Breakout discussions and report-backs: Participants then broke into regional groups for discussion. African, Asian, Latin American and ‘Other’ regional groups considered their contributions to the UN-Habitat agenda, the role of partnerships and how they can become more effective, and strategies that would ensure grassroots constituencies are successful.

Moderator Beth Chitekwe-Biti, SDI, then invited the four regional groups to report back.

Groups from “Other” regions noted the role of partnerships in giving women a voice, particularly in the informal economy and in farming. Asia reported on mapping and community profiling, promoting community savings and basic services, and making common spaces safe for women, among other activities. They urged giving greater prominence to grassroots activities and sharing the practices and work on the ground. All groups urged that grassroots organizations are given a place at the policy table. Africa outlined informal community data collection and mapping as important tools in reporting and monitoring implementation of the SDGs. Latin America highlighted opportunities that had been provided during drafting of the NUA, when they provided important information on education, housing, urban and rural basic services, land and water issues, thus linking the SDGs to the lives of grassroots communities.


On Thursday morning, moderator Julie Gichuru, Kenyan TV anchor, opened the Ministers’ Roundtable and invited speakers to focus on the transformative potential of the NUA. Noh Omar, Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, Malaysia, welcomed the 61 visiting ministers, and described his ministry’s efforts to promote inclusive sustainable urban development.

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, UN-Habitat, pointed to the increasing recognition of planned urbanization as a tool for sustainable development, and stressed the importance of partnerships in the efforts to localize the NUA and the SDGs. Erik Solheim, Executive Director, UN Environment, noted that city development is “a domestic affair,” and offered the UN’s support to share knowledge and good practices from around the world. Corina Cretu, European Commission, stressed that multi-level governance is a prerequisite to successful implementation of the NUA.

PANELS: Two consecutive panels discussed critical urban issues and countries’ concrete initiatives to implement the NUA domestically.

In the first panel, India spoke about its goal to provide every citizen with housing by 2022. Paraguay highlighted its issues tackling inequality in cities, and the US spoke of the importance of data mining to devise policies against homelessness.

In the second panel, Indonesia described its work to reduce informal settlements. Lesotho highlighted that urbanization is a process that cannot be halted or reversed. Mexico argued in favor of a “transversal” and long-term vision for sustainable urban development. Palestine said it maintains a policy of partnerships and bottom-up approaches. Algeria described its main urban challenges as being the lack of housing, persistence of informal settlements, and the need to reform legal frameworks.

STATEMENTS: China highlighted its commitment to sustainable urbanization, underlining the theme of the Shanghai 2010 World Expo, “Better City, Better Life.” Germany pointed to the pivotal role of digital transformation in the implementation of the NUA. Japan spoke of the importance of knowledge sharing with stakeholders. Kenya described its municipal and informal settlement programmes and commitment to integrated development. Mongolia noted challenges specific to post-socialist countries. Myanmar welcomed its collaboration with UN-Habitat. Bahrain spoke of the need for consolidated plans and sizeable budgets. Bangladesh underlined its plans to upgrade slums. Yemen explained the challenges of implementing the NUA in a war-torn country, with cities either suffering destruction, facing the pressures of receiving war refugees, or being unable to obtain financial support due to difficulties in transferring money. Morocco highlighted that the Arab region’s perspective on the NUA was articulated in the Rabat Declaration of 2017. Vanuatu noted his country’s focus on decentralization. South Africa underlined the need for a multi-stakeholder approach to the NUA. Argentina said it was working on territorial planning and local consensus building with UN-Habitat. Uganda underlined the need for good financing. Switzerland expressed commitment to supporting municipalities towards building strong urban-rural linkages. The Philippines outlined its five-year development plan. Senegal spoke of the importance of growth, human capital and security; and Sudan underlined the need for strong partnerships.


On Thursday afternoon, the opening ceremony began with a cultural presentation including Malaysian dances of various ethnic traditions, and a video of WUF9 highlights.

Rosario Robles, Secretary of Agricultural, Territorial and Urban Development, Mexico, emphasized the importance of urban development as a tool for reaching the SDG targets. She called for rethinking urban governance, and committing to “paradigm changes” that provide citizens with higher standards of living.

Corina Cretu, European Commission, drew parallels between the NUA and the EU’s own vision for sustainable urban development, and noted the EU’s commitment to developing partnerships to that effect.

Najib Razak, Prime Minister, Malaysia, then welcomed participants from 193 countries to WUF9. He noted that Asia faces challenges to successfully managing the urban transformation, and that his country established an economic transformation plan in 2010 that has kept economic development strong and unemployment rates at a minimum. He explained that this, along with other innovative strategies, help to ensure that Malaysians enjoy a high quality of life. He concluded by wishing all a productive and memorable stay in Kuala Lumpur.

WUF9 was officially launched when Prime Minister Najib and Executive Director Maimunah, accompanied by Minister Noh Omar, placed the WUF9 letters and number on the Forum’s backdrop. The event closed with a song on leadership performed by the students of Limkokwing University.


High-level roundtables took place in consecutive morning and afternoon sessions over three days from Friday, 9 February, to Sunday, 11 February.

CITIES FOR ALL WITH HOUSING AT THE CENTER: On Friday morning, Greg Budworth, Compass Housing Services, Australia, moderated the panel discussion with co-chairs Soledad Núñez, Minister of Housing and Habitat, Paraguay, and Hardeep Singh Puri, Union Minister, Ministry of Housing and Urban Afairs, India.

On addressing inequality in cities, Azman Mokhtar, CEO, Khazanah Nasional, Malaysia, stressed that “prevention is better than cure,” and highlighted that basic infrastructure and accessible markets are key. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, UN-Habitat, stated that well-designed urbanization plans contribute to inclusiveness and generate economic value.

India and Mali shared country experiences of providing ‘social housing’, with India highlighting the role of civil society in ensuring a collaborative approach towards providing all Indians with a home by 2022, and Mali mentioning its tax breaks to developers, which has had the secondary benefit of establishing industrial areas.

José Carrera, Development Bank of Latin America, highlighted the potential to address social exclusion through housing initiatives. He argued that questions of productivity are important for cities, which, he said, do not only provide goods and services but also create opportunities for investment, employment and growth. Lamia Kamal-Chaoui, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, preferred “inclusive growth” to “inclusive cities” and, with several other speakers, encouraged broadening the focus from building houses to managing the land, so as to ensure that new housing is integrated with transport routes and access to services and jobs. Countries highlighted national initiatives, including: an energy-welfare partnership in Seoul that has created jobs in retrofitting homes for energy efficiency; action by Ugandan slum dwellers to gather data on slums for planning purposes; and Thailand’s “cities without slums” housing development strategy that is working with civil society partners. India and SDI proposed in-situ slum development as a way forward. India argued that trust needs to be built between governments and slum dwellers to enable cooperation and for slum dwellers to feel confident they can return after upgrades are completed.

On the critical factors for affordable housing, the Netherlands and Morocco specified green growth, spatial design and cooperation across sectors, including with citizens. Panelists underscored the importance of strong leadership. Singapore highlighted its ethnic integration policy through housing, which prevents stratification by race.

The co-chairs concluded that location, public spaces and access to services need to be considered when providing housing to all. They warned that inequality leads to anger and violence, and makes cities uninhabitable. India stated that housing is fundamental to human existence, and that “we must act to provide it.”

URBAN DIMENSION OF CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION: Moderator William Cobbett, Cities Alliance, introduced the session on Friday afternoon, saying cities will be key to implementing the global agendas of sustainable development, climate action and the New Urban Agenda (NUA). Ministers from Botswana and Kiribati co-chaired the session.

In a keynote address, Zaini Ujang, Secretary General, Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water, Malaysia, presented his country’s Green Technology Master Plan that identifies 16 sectors as areas with high potential to transition the economy towards sustainability. He stated that to move from reform to delivery capability requires boldness and quality of execution.

Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, Deputy Executive Director, UN-Habitat, identified strategies to scale up city climate action plans, including: strengthening mid-level governance; building networks of local officials such as the Global Covenant of Mayors; and providing the scientific basis for climate action through giving local officials understandable tools.

Nonofo Molefhi, Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development, Botswana, reiterated the call for decisive leadership and noted that the brief “shelf life” of politicians leads to expedient rather than bold decisions on issues that really matter.

Kobebe Taitai, Minister for Internal Affairs, Kiribati, said addressing climate change will involve changes in people’s social values, ethics and morals. He urged achieving “the bold scenario” envisioned by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Panels: In the first panel, urban and civil society leaders from Germany, Morocco, France and Norway discussed the threat of climate change to cities, and highlighted that carbon emissions will exponentially increase if construction keeps pace with the current rate of urbanization. Germany noted that two-thirds of current urban coastal zones will be submerged by sea-level rise by 2050. Panelists highlighted approaches including: sharing innovative ideas through the Global Compact of Mayors; reviewing legislation in most countries to allow greater participation of women in decision-making processes and development of adaption plans; and the CitiesIPCC conference, which is the first event where mayors and scientists will convene to generate a research agenda on the role of cities in reducing the impacts of climate change.

In ensuing discussions, C40 Cities noted the importance of implementing new building codes, retrofitting for energy efficiency, and ensuring at least a 30% shift away from car transport to walking and cycling. Participants called for improving the flow of climate finance to cities and for making a strong case for local stakeholder involvement in urban transitions. One participant noted that no city in Malaysia holds local council elections, and questioned how climate-induced temperature rise should be addressed in this context.

In the second panel, city planners and donors outlined challenges for mitigation and adaptation in rapidly growing cities, and ways to access the necessary finance. Liberia proposed that foreign corporations engaged in the extraction of timber, fish and minerals in developing countries should address climate change impacts through their corporate social responsibility actions. Other speakers highlighted challenges for: developing practical standards for sustainable infrastructure construction; convincing investors that sustainable infrastructure poses fewer risks; dealing with uncertainty in planning “smart cities”; and promoting urban resilience, for example, by planting trees not only as decorative elements but as part of an urban ecosystem.

URBANIZATION AND DEVELOPMENT: INVESTING IN THE TRANSFORMATIVE FORCE OF CITIES: On Saturday morning, Isidoro Santana, Minister of Economy, Planning and Development, Dominican Republic, and Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Ghana, co-chaired the session, and Julie Gichuru, news anchor, Kenya, acted as moderator. Naison Mutizwa-Mangiza, UN-Habitat, presented the organization’s action framework, through which it assists member states in implementing the NUA in areas of policy, legislation, planning, economic development and local action. Santana described his country’s challenges, which, he noted, are typical of small island developing states, such as vulnerability to climate change, and the prevalence of informal settlements. He explained that, though only two levels of government exist in his country – national and local – several policies now focus on empowering governments at the intermediate subnational or provincial level, and on increasing resilience to environmental factors. Mahama welcomed urbanization as “a positive force” and highlighted Ghana’s policies for leveraging the potential of industry as well as for developing synergies with the Sahel region. Referring to the Roundtable theme, Corina Cretu, European Commission, noted that investing in the transformative force of cities means empowering them. She outlined the EU’s Urban Agenda, which takes an integrated approach based on “equal partnerships” with diverse stakeholders, tangible action plans, and a limited set of priorities. Minata Samate Cessouma, African Union, said that cities are a cornerstone of the African continent’s structural transformation, and referred to the African Union’s Agenda 2063. She argued that the large scale of the informal economy is one of the greatest governance challenges faced by African cities, and described various pathways, such as micro-financing, that can help with formalizing various sectors.

The World Bank highlighted the challenge to provide coordinated infrastructure development while countries are still at an early stage of urbanization, and the need for two billion more jobs by 2050 for rapidly rising urban populations. China highlighted its rural vitalization strategy in smaller cities and towns around major urban centres for “livable, workable and eco-friendly” development. Magdalena García Hernández, Director, MIRA, Mexico, stressed that productivity also depends on the unpaid reproductive and care work of women.

Participants made suggestions, including: producing a “state of the world’s cities” report, urban leadership training, knowledge exchange among cities, promoting gender equity in public leadership, and ensuring accountability at all levels of government, including the fight against corruption. The moderator concluded by emphasizing the need to include the young in the sustainable urbanization process.

INTEGRATED TERRITORIAL APPROACH TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: On Saturday afternoon, Partha Mukhopadhyay, Centre for Policy Research, India, moderated the session, and Ana Paula Chantre Luna de Carvalho, Minister of Spatial Planning and Housing, Angola, delivered the keynote address. Eugenie Birch, University of Pennsylvania, described the integrated territorial approach as a portfolio of approaches to reduce urban disparities, saying such approaches have existed for over 100 years.

Panelists from Ecuador, Rwanda, China, France, Turkey, Germany, Indonesia, Algeria, Mauritania, the Huairou Commission, World Bank, Commonwealth Association of Planners, and UN-Habitat presented approaches in their respective countries and organizations to promote integrated territorial development. Shi Nan, Urban Planning Society, China, noted policies that have capped in-migration to Beijing and are directing investment toward surrounding areas so as to reduce pollution and resource pressures on the capital. Nicolas Buchoud, Grand Paris Alliance for Metropolitan Development, identified spatial inequalities – “drinking margaritas upstairs while refugees are sleeping on the street” – as a challenge to be met by city-based community consultations, trust building, and redevelopments such as Les Grands Voisins, which promotes social, economic and culturally diverse activities at the site of an old hospital. The World Bank warned that spatial disparities affect national unity and create conflicts, and recommended moving from sector-specific solutions to area-specific investments that benefit local people.

The panelists, highlighting the social exclusion found within cities, called for citizen participation, to reflect and integrate on-the-ground realities in planning. Many speakers underscored the need for cooperation among all levels of government, as well as sectoral integration.

Marcelo Cabrera, Mayor of Cuenca, Ecuador, drew attention to his city’s encouragement of participatory planning through assemblies where all citizens can vote. Kundhavi Kadiresan, Food and Agriculture of the UN (FAO), called for better urban-rural linkages and highlighted the importance of understanding food and nutrition security in both urban and rural areas, noting that the nature of the issue varies in different locations.

Ani Dasgupta, World Resources Institute, presented three tools his organization uses to assist policymakers. The tools enable integration: of climate, sustainable development and NUA goals; among sectors; and between local governments. Some panelists added that coherence between the SDGs and NUA can only be achieved when policies are co-produced with citizens, which requires political will.

Participants raised the need to bridge the difference between long-term objectives and short-term political goals, and highlighted disparities between day and night urban populations.

In closing, participants heard a video message from Ilona Raugze of the EU ESPON programme for EU cohesion. Raugze recommended promoting the territorial dimension in development starting with small, bottom-up initiatives that can engage different actors.

Panelists summarized their contributions, highlighting the importance of: people’s participation; data collection and analysis; and the horizontal and vertical integration of governance structures and planning processes. Buchoud noted that the soon-to-be-completed Casablanca-Tangier high-speed rail project may serve to demonstrate how to overcome some of the constraints to territorial development as it is “at the junction of worlds.”

INNOVATIVE GOVERNANCE FOR OPEN AND INCLUSIVE CITIES: Diana López, UN-Habitat, introduced the session on Sunday morning, and Philipp Rode, London School of Economics, moderated, with session co-chairs Mosharraf Hossain, Minister of Housing and Public Works, Bangladesh, and Neal Rackleff, Housing and Urban Development Department, US. In opening remarks, Mohammad Mentek, Secretary General, Ministry of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, Malaysia, highlighted his government’s establishment of 14 Urban Transformation Centres that are providing low-cost, rapid and high-impact public services close to where citizens live and work. Raf Tuts, UN-Habitat, said the NUA is a governance-oriented framework that requires urban leadership based on subsidiarity, multilevel governance and continued learning.

Rode described open cities as places where inclusivity and trust, built at the local level, implies “the Right to the City” and its services. Rackleff described urban reforms in US cities, where decision making has been transformed through providing better data and information to leaders. Hossain shared experiences from 13 slum upgrading programmes in Bangladesh, highlighting waste management as one of the biggest challenges.

Carlos Martínez Mínguez, Mayor of Soria, Spain, reminded participants that the best way to have a responsible government is to hold them accountable. Brittany Lane, Open Government Partnership, cited examples from the US, Tanzania and Spain, noting that local politics present an opportunity to rebuild trust while simultaneously improving quality of life for local citizens. Dieter Zinnbauer, Transparency International, offered three avenues to address the trust deficit and to tackle corruption, including: visibility of budget, tender and contract processes; transparency of real estate ownership to avoid money laundering; and simple feedback mechanisms, such as service-rating stations at airports and hospitals.

Joseph Kokonyangi Witanene, Minister of Urban Development and Habitat, Democratic Republic of Congo, lamented the corruption and loss of trust in his country even among ministers, as well as the lack of urban regulations and town plans in new provinces after decentralization.

Pascal Smet, Minister of Mobility and Public Works, Belgium, suggested that, while a strong and critical media is a necessary element of a democratic system, constantly treating politicians as suspects is destructive to the functioning of democratic processes.

Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director, ActionAid India, warned that overcrowding, with 70-80% of people currently living on 10-20% of urban land, will lead to large-scale illegal occupation of land and empty buildings, unless policies to address urban migration are prioritized.

In comments from the floor, Denitsa Nikolova, Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Public Works, Bulgaria, highlighted critical factors in improving urban governance, including digitalization, decentralization and enabling local leadership to become more efficient. Cécile Riallant, International Organization for Migration (IOM), underscored trust and participatory decision making as key to taking vulnerable groups “from policy objects to subjects.”

SUSTAINABLE URBAN DEVELOPMENT FOR PEACE AND SECURITY: On Sunday afternoon, Jeanette Elsworth, UN-Habitat, moderated, and Dorji Choden, Minister of Works and Human Settlement, Bhutan, and Hassan Abdelgadir Hilal, Minister of Environment, Natural Resources and Physical Development, Sudan, co-chaired the session. In opening remarks, Choden questioned what is required to create a safe city, stressing the need to look at both physical planning as well as “softer issues” such as job creation and inclusivity. Hilal underlined the need for inclusive national urban policies, stating that “sustainable peace and development are two sides of the same coin.”

Wael Al-Ashhab, UN-Habitat, stressed that his agency’s mandate includes both long-term development as well as crisis management. He described efforts to profile cities and to devise an urban planning strategy in Darfur, South Sudan. Kevin Nelson, US Agency for International Development (USAID), described a programme that seeks to tackle crime by redesigning public spaces in Latin America. Emilia Sáiz, Secretary-General, UCLG, drew attention to “Madrid’s commitment to peaceful cities” and its emphasis on violence prevention.

Abdul Baqi Popal, Deputy Minister of Municipalities, Afghanistan, underlined three ways in which governments can promote peace in cities: prioritizing inclusive policies; devising national programs; and engaging local communities. Lana Louise Finikin, Sistren Theatre Collective, Jamaica, said that grassroots women groups have been working in urban violence prevention for decades with proven results, and they should be included in the policy-making process. Achim Wennmann, Executive Director, Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, shared insights on legal and judicial architectures that have been shown to promote peace, adding that peacebuilding is about “managing the space of the unforgivable.” Taysir Mahmoud Mousa Taha Abu Sneineh, Mayor of Hebron, Palestine, emphasized the need for comprehensive approaches and investment in education in conflict zones.

Speaking from the floor, government and UN representatives in conflict and post-conflict situations discussed examples of community projects and their value, mentioning, inter alia: training in carpet weaving and other skills for internally displaced women who have resettled in parts of Afghanistan; and a joint water project that resolved conflict between farmers and nomadic pastoralists in Darfur. Others noted the value of community policing and promoting food security.


Special sessions took place in parallel in the morning and afternoon, from Friday, 9 February, to Monday, 12 February. A further two parallel sessions took place on Tuesday, 13 February.

UNLOCKING POSITIVE IMPACTS OF MIGRATION IN CITIES: On Friday morning, Christophe Lalande and Jesús Salcedo Villanueva, UN-Habitat, introduced moderator Clare Short, Cities Alliance, who underlined the variety of processes that migration can refer to, including international or internal movements of people, as well as asylum seekers, refugees, or economic immigrants. She also noted that, in an age of austerity, the diversity, creativity and dynamism that migration can bring to cities is too often overlooked.

Short then introduced the panel, which included representatives of local authorities, the UN, governments and civil society. Panelists noted recent advances at the multilateral level, underscoring the many references to migration in major UN documents such as the SDGs and NUA, as well as in the recently released zero draft of the Global Compact for Migration. They then discussed good practices in managing immigration flows, underlining the importance of data-driven policies, as well as policies that promote quick and comprehensive integration, including the “out of camps” policies that seek to phase out or avoid establishing refugee camps, in favor of recognizing cities as legitimate places for refugees to reside and exercise their rights. Several speakers spoke of the difficulty for cities to absorb a large influx of migrants. One panelist acknowledged the sometimes-problematic relationship between local and national authorities on immigration policies, referring to examples in Greece. Another highlighted that, while migration is always a matter of national policy, it manifests itself at the local or municipal level. Other themes included transforming the narrative around migration governance, including equipping the media to reflect the nuances of migratory flows, rather than sensationalizing the issue. Short concluded the session by reminding the audience that “we were all immigrants once” and, with UN-Habitat, thanked the panel for their contributions.

SECURITY OF TENURE, LAND MARKETS AND SEGREGATION: Also on Friday morning, moderator David Mitchell, RMIT University, moderated the session, which focused on the “prosperity dividends” to be gained from implementing the NUA and the SDGs. Panelists sought to: provide clear guidance from multi-sector perspectives on how tenure security can help harness land value in order to develop and sustain inclusive urbanization, particularly in relation to the provision of housing, livelihood generation and financing of critical infrastructure; clarify the roles of various sectors and partners; and highlight successes from cities around the world.

Mexico, South Africa, the EU and Zimbabwe noted challenges to implementing land tenure and security policies, including: lack of standardized data, outdated cadaster and information systems, a pace of urbanization that far exceeds the technical capability of city administrations to plan for expansion, historical inequity, and corruption driven by slow bureaucracies. Technical presentations pointed to political will and capacity to implement plans as necessary ingredients for overcoming urban challenges. They recommended underpinning essential development infrastructure with sound and inclusive approaches to land and security of tenure. William Cobbett, Cities Alliance, said dysfunctional property markets are the most significant challenge, and suggested that this is a political and not a technical problem.

INFORMAL SETTLEMENTS AND SLUM UPGRADING: On Friday afternoon, Monika Glinzler, South Africa, moderated the session. Panelists from Brazil, the European Commission, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, TECHO International and UN-Habitat discussed the importance of slum upgrading in order to ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing, underscoring that people must be at the core, working together to transform cities. An audience member from Kenya concurred, noting that communities “know exactly what they want and where they need to go.”

TECHO International explained that the main challenge in Latin America is to deliver high-impact solutions with long-term development potential. Brazil showcased her country’s experience, including financing urban integration, housing, land adjustment, environmental recovery and social inclusion, in a holistic and participatory way. Papua New Guinea stressed that land tenure is necessary for people in his country to invest in their land. On good practices in capacity building, panelists highlighted that civil society organizations serve to link community and local governments.

Participants from Nigeria, Kenya, and Mauritania called for more access to financing, and one participant proposed empowering slum dwellers through self-organized savings groups. The European Commission acknowledged that grants for slum upgrading are limited, and drew attention to its support for innovative investment options aimed at transforming informal settlements into liveable housing. Brazil added that slum upgrading is much cheaper than the alternatives. UN-Habitat explained that in addition to financing at other scales, the agency provides capacity building for community-level financing, to encourage upgrading of informal housing.

LEVERAGING DIVERSITY AND CULTURE, SHAPING THE CITIES FOR ALL: Also on Friday afternoon, moderator Jyoti Hosagrahar, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), introduced the session co-organized by UNESCO and UN-Habitat. She highlighted UNESCO’s focus on “the operational aspects of culture,” which, she said, are those on which concrete interventions and policies can be devised. She then stressed that culture is a crosscutting issue for the SDGs and the NUA. Some participants drew attention to the NUA’s acknowledgement that culture is essential to “humanizing” cities and empowering citizens to play an active role in the development agenda. Others stressed the need for developing statistical and non-statistical indicators to demonstrate how culture contributes to the SDGs. Panelists highlighted good practices in leveraging cultural diversity in cities, for example, through creating “urban laboratories,” which are participatory experiments in including citizens in the urban planning process. Panelists and participants discussed the importance of, inter alia: defining culture as dynamic and hybrid, rather than fixed, in order to avoid considering an influx of new and diverse cultures in cities as a threat; and valuing both high and low-brow culture, considering that both have an important role to play in a city’s dynamism and creativity. Several speakers concurred that more research on cultural diversity in cities is needed, with some questioning the cultural impact of building affordable housing away from city centers. Hosagrahar concluded the session by stressing that cultural diversity in cities is first and foremost about inclusivity.

LOCAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, PRODUCTIVITY AND YOUTH EMPLOYMENT: On Saturday morning, Gulelat Kebede, The New School, New York, moderated the session, and Ananda Weliwita, UN-Habitat, made opening remarks. Panelists from the International Labour Organization (ILO), Interloc Development, The New School, the Municipal Council of Nicaragua and Cardiff University called for a broader understanding of productivity that takes into account social and environmental implications, and for harnessing urban citizens’ capacities to achieve a variety of broadly-defined productivity objectives. All acknowledged the important role of local actors in development and decent job creation, with many underscoring the importance of organizing workers, and of creative partnerships between workers and all levels of governments. Alison Brown, Cardiff University, emphasized that economic inclusion is crucial to job promotion and local economic development.

Edmundo Werna, ILO, stated that labor-intensive employment must be available at the local, not just national level, and noted the risks to urban areas from youth unemployment. Michael Cohen, The New School, suggested that local governments generate indicators for the NUA on issues of special interest to them, rather than wait for the UN to provide common indicators. Yoel Siegel, Interloc Development, underscored the need to leverage resources and assets found within cities, and Helen Arlines Toruno, Cooperativas Nicaragua, highlighted that women entrepreneurs in her country have gained a voice in local government by organizing themselves.

Audience members highlighted the lack of jobs for youth and employment challenges caused by “the machine economy” and called for a paradigm shift to address these issues.

URBAN LABS FOR URBAN EXTENSION AND URBAN RENEWAL: Also on Saturday morning, Fernando de Mello Franco, Secretary of Urban Development, São Paulo, Brazil, moderated this session, which focused on strengthening partnerships and scaling up the results achieved by urban labs in implementing the NUA, and ensuring cities become more inclusive.

Rogier van den Berg, UN-Habitat, in a keynote address, described the work done in UN-Habitat’s Urban Labs initiative, including planned urban extension, city center transformation, and urban regeneration. He emphasized the importance of evidence-based planning and understanding the real challenges, including the regional context. He highlighted examples of this from refugee settlement work in Kenya and the planning of the Future Saudi Cities Programme.

A panel of city planners, academics, politicians, financiers and urban practitioners shared their experiences, reflecting on the complex challenges facing urban leaders, including: ensuring participation at all levels and “leaving no one behind”; accommodating rapid urbanization in low-resource environments; dealing with a global migration crisis driven by environmental factors and conflict; flooding in urban areas; and educating a new generation of city planners faced with unprecedented layers of complexity and uncertainty.

To address these complexities, they highlighted needs for: projects that end poverty and address both wealth and gender inequalities; projects that are bankable and implementable; stakeholder involvement at all levels; priority setting, starting with low-hanging fruit; private-sector and financier involvement from the start; and a governance structure that outlines exact resource responsibilities.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING FOR ALL: On Saturday afternoon, Christophe Lalande, UN-Habitat, introduced moderator Horacio Terraza, World Bank. Joan Clos, former UN-Habitat Executive Director, delivered introductory remarks, during which he said that lack of access to affordable housing is a symptom of global inequality. Clos argued that urbanization implies compact cities, and that affordable housing must be near the city and close to jobs, rather than in city outskirts. Panelists described their countries’ main challenges, gave examples of good practices, and proposed frameworks to conceptualize affordable housing. One speaker suggested affordable housing can be addressed through innovative thinking, governmental policies and public-private partnerships, while another suggested that affordable housing ought to add value by promoting economic growth, in addition to being socially inclusive and environmentally sound. Several interventions underlined that governments need to implement a public regulatory framework in order to finance affordable housing at a large scale rather than through a few scarce projects. One panelist, speaking about Mexico, stated that corruption should be eradicated as a precondition for affordable housing, saying that housing is largely managed by a corrupt private sector in his country. In concluding remarks, panelists pondered how affordable housing can contribute to the SDGs, and Clos stressed that housing affordability should be embedded in the process of urbanization, as opposed to being an afterthought.

ACCESS TO BASIC SERVICES FOR ALL: Also on Saturday afternoon, Arjun Thapan, WaterLinks, India, moderated the session. In two consecutive panel discussions, representatives from companies and organizations in the basic services sector in India, Algeria, Argentina, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Japan and China discussed approaches to measuring and delivering access to basic services.

In opening remarks, Zamri Fazillah Salleh, Malaysia, stressed the importance of planning to ensure adequate service delivery, and outlined his government’s new urban development initiative to create a quality living environment for people at all levels and ages, including through providing environmental services, education and recreation facilities in public spaces, and access to fresh water.

During the first panel, speakers discussed: how basic services can reach the “furthest first,” thus focusing on the most vulnerable urban households; mobility challenges and “smart transport” technologies, including electric vehicles, bicycle sharing and smart vehicle innovations in China; and the application of technologies such as remote sensing and water point mapping to monitor services.

In the second panel, a speaker from Argentina described urban expansion patterns that lead to socio-spatial fragmentation within and between cities, and highlighted consensus building as a key strategy for tackling the phenomenon of structural poverty. Panelists highlighted: partnerships between service providers in the transport sector; institutional strengthening at local and national levels; partnerships among different departments, and between city authorities and public operators; the challenges water utilities face, including intermittent supply, water loss and low coverage; and zero-based and integrated approaches to resource use. Participants lamented the dearth of financial resources to overcome the challenges.

SMART CITIES AND THE GROWING ROLE OF FRONTIER TECHNOLOGIES IN SUSTAINABLE URBANISATION: On Sunday morning, Bert Diphoorn, Akvo Foundation, moderated the session. In introductory remarks, Andre Dzikus, UN-Habitat, noted the UN Secretary-General’s establishment of a working group on this topic at the Chief Executives Board for Coordination. He underlined that leveraging data and new technology offers opportunities to improve participation in governance, as well as accountability in service delivery. He urged participants to focus on bridging the digital divide.

Panelists presented experiences in creating smart cities, including: the development of Malaysia’s Cyberjaya, a purpose-built technology hub; Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative, which invests in technology infrastructure and capabilities in the city-state; Catalonia’s “urban assembly,” a representative group that will involve local authorities and civil society in equal measure; and China’s “smart planning” in transportation. They discussed outcomes from partnerships with the private sector and pilot projects, as well as what conditions need to be in place before smart cities can emerge in developing countries.

Audience members raised questions and concerns around the impact of technology, and particularly artificial intelligence, on human lives. A representative of the Workers and Trade Unions Major Group highlighted that, for workers, efficiency and automation often result in unemployment. The panel ended by reiterating their definition of a smart city, with some saying it is an ecosystem that goes beyond technology to create a city that attracts and retains people by improving their lives, and others stressing that the term must also include resilience and inclusivity.

RESTORING HOPE: BUILDING BACK CITIES AND COMMUNITIES TOGETHER AFTER DISASTER: David Evans, UN-Habitat, opened the session on Sunday morning. Explaining that, “our actions should build on the resilience of people,” he warned that excluding those affected by disasters during rebuilding will cause unintended harm. In his keynote address, Robert Glasser, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction, noted that lack of knowledge and financial capacity leads to disaster vulnerability – gaps that can be filled through implementing the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction. Moderator Sri Husnaini Sofjan, Huairou Commission, invited panelists from Haiti, Iran, Mexico, Mozambique, Nepal and the Philippines to share their experiences of how they responded to disasters in their country. Panelists highlighted the importance of conducting training schemes for masons and engineers, and enabling affected populations to actively participate in rebuilding their communities following a disaster. Many underscored the importance of disaster preparedness.

Hans Guttman, Executive Director, Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre, moderated a second panel in the session. Panelists from the European Commission, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the UN Development Programme, and the World Bank called for increased engagement with those affected by disasters and recognition of their agency, emphasizing the need for accountability, coordination and communication across all sectors and levels. Several added that time-sensitive preparedness plans are crucial, and the European Commission questioned how to build back not just from natural disasters but from man-made disasters caused by civil war.

Audience members called for the inclusion of grassroots leaders, and particularly women, in disaster recovery, emphasizing their roles as agents of change.

DATA FOR SUSTAINABLE URBAN DEVELOPMENT: On Sunday, Eduardo Moreno, UN-Habitat, moderated this afternoon session, which focused on the role of statistics and data collection in monitoring and reporting on SDG 11 on sustainable cities.

In the first panel discussion, Robert Ndugwa, UN-Habitat, noted that moving from the Millennium Development Goals to the SDGs has required developing new definitions and indicators of achievement. Panelists presented different tools and approaches for capturing urban data, including: Malaysia’s national spatial I-Plan database and its requirement for consistent data collection, horizontal data integration, and continued training; Mistra Urban Futures’ collection of data from seven cities as an exercise to determine how cities fare in engaging with the SDG 11; and the European Commission’s Global Cities Database, which has a territorial dashboard that reports city demographics and indicators of economic development and resource efficiency.

In the second panel discussion, panelists described their activities, including: New York University’s monitoring of a global sample of 200 cities from countries that have 78% of the world’s population; and UN-Habitat’s six-step National Sample of Cities (NSC) process for monitoring SDGs that relate to urban development. Panelists from Botswana and Tunisia presented their experiences with the NSC programme, highlighting challenges such as differing definitions and understandings of a city and its boundaries.

URBAN MOBILITY AND SAFE AND ACCESSIBLE TRANSPORT FOR ALL: Also on Sunday afternoon, Oliver Lah, Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, Germany, moderated the session. Andre Dzikus, UN-Habitat, introduced the topic, explaining that city transport comes with direct and indirect externalities such as pollution, accidents and time spent in traffic. The panel included country representatives from Brazil, Germany, Luxembourg, and Malaysia, various transport advocacy groups, and UNESCAP.

François Bausch, Minister of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure, Luxembourg, described the holistic transit system under construction in his country, noting that its multi-modal hubs will provide connectivity with different types of transport.

Speakers presented the benefits of alternative forms of transport, including cycling and cable cars. The European Cyclists’ Federation noted that cycling alleviates two of the four major causes of non-communicable diseases: air pollution and sedentary lifestyles.

Several panelists underscored the need for data collection on both formal and informal transit systems, which, they explained, will be necessary for policy development. UNESCAP highlighted its Sustainable Urban Transport Index, which measures transit in Asian cities, and the technology company WhereIsMyTransport described their data collection efforts in African cities.

In a closing discussion facilitated by Mark Major, Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport, panelists from Kathmandu, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, and the Dar Rapid Transit Agency outlined policy recommendations, highlighting capacity building and financing needs to scale up sustainable transport options.

Participants underscored the importance of adopting slower lifestyles and the simplicity of combining personal bicycle use with public transit options.

INCLUSIVE MULTI-STAKEHOLDER PARTNERSHIPS: On Monday morning, Julie Gichuru, news anchor, Kenya, moderated a panel comprising the governments of Cameroon and South Africa, and UN and civil society representatives. Panelists shared their experiences of building inclusive multi-stakeholder partnerships and good practices, and identified which practices can be widely applied. They noted gaps in existing multi-stakeholder approaches, and highlighted possible actions to increase collaboration and accelerate implementation of the NUA.

On partnerships at the global level, Christine Musisi, UN-Habitat, highlighted, among others: the World Urban Campaign, UN-Habitat’s General Assembly of Partners, and the Global Land Tool Network as thematic networks that produce tools and approaches to solve critical sustainable development problems.

On key actions that ensure inclusive partnerships, panelists identified the importance of: informing those advocating for change how they can influence policy; seeing who is missing from the conversation; providing access to data to all different levels of stakeholders; translating “policy speak” for people on the ground; and co-creating a common vision with all relevant stakeholders and committing jointly to its implementation.

Panelists highlighted gaps in current practices, including: understanding how to transition from advocacy to implementation; jointly identifying priorities in order to co-produce the agenda for change; laying a foundation of horizontal decision-making platforms; managing people’s natural inclination towards linear and hierarchical approaches; prioritizing open communication between decision makers and their communities, which engenders trust; and using knowledge and data to provide an evidence base for decisionmakers to act.

During the ensuing discussion, participants debated the possibilities for: tackling ideological asymmetries among stakeholders; strengthening self-organized groups and finding the resources to scale up their actions; and ensuring partnerships deliver on their original mandates.

RISK REDUCTION: INNOVATIVE APPROACHES TO SETTLEMENTS FOR DISPLACED PERSONS: David Evans, UN-Habitat, opened this special session on Monday morning, underlining that he sensed a real desire for change at the WUF regarding how displaced populations are hosted, considering that the world is experiencing the largest population movements since the Second World War. He stressed that poorer countries are unfairly bearing the brunt of hosting, and that the panel would not only look at how to integrate displaced populations into urban environments, but also at how settlements can be managed and improved. Moderator Brett Moore, UN Refugee Agency, introduced the panel.

Josphat Nanok, Turkana County, Kenya, said the Kakuma camp and Kalobeyei settlement should turn into self-sufficient urban settings, adding this would require moving from a humanitarian mindset to a long-term development vision. Wilson Sanya, Mayor, Koboko Municipal Council, Uganda, spoke of the challenges he faces in implementing the NUA, considering his community’s proximity to Congo and South Sudan, with resulting influxes of conflict-affected people. He said that water scarcity was one of the biggest issues pitting host communities against refugees, calling for more support for urban refugees and for solutions that work for all parties. Fuat Ozharat, Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality, emphasized that, since 2014, Turkey has been hosting the largest number of refugees in the world. He described some of the innovative solutions his municipality has devised in response, including setting up the Directorate of Migration in Turkey, which delivers social services, ensures coordination among ‘municipal units’ working with Syrian refugees, and cooperates with partner organizations. Ahmad Jawid Tahiri, Afghanistan Independent Land Authority, said returnees and internally displaced persons should be seen as opportunities for host communities rather than liabilities. Heather Fehr, British Red Cross, highlighted what can be done before disaster strikes, including working with meteorological centers to anticipate climate events and disbursing aid in advance.

URBAN-RURAL LINKAGES: TERRITORIAL DEVELOPMENT AND FOOD SECURITY: Thomas Forster, UN-Habitat, and Maruxa Cardama, Cities Alliance, moderated this Monday morning session. Shipra Narang Suri, UN-Habitat, introduced the topic and Ismail Bakar, Secretary-General, Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry, Malaysia, delivered the keynote address. Ismail highlighted relevant factors affecting food supply to urban areas, including climate change, food waste and competing demands for land, water, and agricultural labor. He called for policies to balance supply with demand more effectively.

Representatives of France, Germany, Malaysia and Palestine, as well as from the Network of Rural Women Producers, the Urban Authorities Association of Uganda, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and several UN agencies made up the panel. Panelists underscored challenges to ensuring food security in both urban and rural areas, and suggested strategies, including: establishing public-private-producer partnerships, where farmers work directly with investors; enhancing cooperatives to integrate farmers into formal value chains; changing consumer behavior to reduce excess consumption; and introducing participatory processes to include farmers, especially women farmers, in urban planning, as they are often displaced by urban expansion.

Yves-Laurent Sapoval, Directorate for Housing, Urban Development and Landscapes, France, lamented the lack of attention paid to the process of suburbanization, calling the suburbs and the environment the “silent losers” to urbanization. David Suttie, International Fund for Agricultural Development, highlighted the rapid growth of small cities and the current opportunity to introduce sound urban planning at an early stage.

Participants drew attention to issues including: balancing land-use demand for agriculture and urbanization purposes; the importance of transport in connecting urban and rural areas; and finding ways to ensure that food consumed in urban areas comes from sustainable sources.

Session organizer Stephanie Loose, UN-Habitat, concluded the event by underscoring that effective planning should result in “urbanization for, not against, food security.”

URBAN ECOLOGICAL LANDSCAPES: ACHIEVING URBAN HEALTH ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE: This Monday afternoon session, moderated by Ming Zhang, World Bank, highlighted connections between the built environment, ecosystems and “the urban metabolism,” and discussed how landscapes can serve as a practical and effective interface between them.

Raf Tuts, UN-Habitat, called for developing the symbiosis between nature and the city, including through bringing blue and green corridors into the city, working across traditional practitioner silos.

Esa Ahmad, Director-General, National Landscapes Department, Malaysia, described his government’s aim to develop livable cities through ecological landscape approaches, including a policy setting the minimum standard of two hectares of green area within easy access of every 1,000 people.

Mauricio Rodas, Mayor of Quito, Ecuador described his city’s rich biodiversity and wide range of ecosystems protected by a robust regulatory framework. He highlighted ambitious initiatives to plant over one million trees a year and to invest in innovative modes of low-carbon public transport.

Martina Otto, UN Environment, reminded participants of the burden placed on natural resources by increased urbanization. She urged compact, connected and mixed-use cities that utilize nature to improve human resilience, with links to nature through natural corridors.

Anu Ramaswami, University of Minnesota, shared research findings on linking natural and built urban systems to achieve the SDGs. On assessing the trade-offs between various sectors, she stated that a base of scientific evidence is needed to comprehensively inform urban developers.

Lu Yaoru, Tongji University, explained the role that urban ecosystems can play in reducing the impacts of natural disasters and building urban resilience.

Participants posed questions about what innovative solutions can resolve the tensions between rapid urbanization and conserving natural ecosystems, and on whether baseline information on natural ecosystems within cities is available. A youth representative called for involving young people in discussions and trusting the next generation to develop innovative solutions that will consider nature as part of the urban landscape.

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT AND PARTICIPATION: Moderator Joan Erakit, writer, US, introduced the panel in this parallel session on Monday afternoon. Dorji Choden, Minister of Works and Human Settlement, Bhutan, described her country’s development policies, which combine a people-centered approach with an emphasis on decentralization. She highlighted Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness screening tool, which is applied to test the impact of each proposed policy on citizens’ wellbeing.

Iye Moakofi, City of Francistown Council, Botswana, emphasized her country’s political will to implement the SDGs and NUA, and the Government’s creation of a national multi-stakeholder urban habitat committee and national steering committee on the SDGs. Mariam Iddrisu, Mayor of Sagnarigu District Assembly, Ghana, described successes in involving local communities in the development process, for example, in cleaning and sanitation projects that are led and safeguarded by local communities.

Dahlia Rosly, President, Malaysian Association of Social Impact Assessment, described a Social Impact Assessment tool that is being used in Malaysia to understand the impact that projects such as the construction of the Kuala Linggi Port and East Coast Rail will have on communities. Joshua Maviti, UN-Habitat, explained the challenges of encouraging communities in Kenyan informal settlements to feel included in the development process, and spoke of the possibilities offered by social media.

Marcus Nyberg, Ericsson Strategic Design, said digital technologies, such as applications and games, can help create open environments in which urban communities can develop solutions and participate in decision making. Mariana Alegre Escorza, Director, Ocupa Tu Calle, Peru, described a bottom-up initiative that created a public space in Lima. She said small-scale initiatives and organizations that link communities with other actors are important for implementing the NUA.

Kareem Ibrahim, Takween Integrated Community Development, Egypt, highlighted that private sector start-ups also engage on urban issues, such as mapping Cairo public transport, thereby supporting “the right to mobility.” Finally, Danilo Manzano, Dialogando Ando, Ecuador, described projects to mobilize Quito citizens in LGBTI advocacy efforts.

HOUSING AT THE CENTER, AS A VECTOR FOR SOCIOECONOMIC INCLUSION: Also on Monday afternoon, Steve Weir, Habitat for Humanity International, moderated the session, and Halimah Mohamed Sadique, Deputy Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, Malaysia, delivered the opening remarks, underscoring the role that government must play in providing low-cost and public housing for the poor.

In a video message, Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, referred to homelessness as a human rights violation, underscoring that housing is a means to ensure security and inclusion and that policies must enable structural change. Weir acknowledged that cities are growing at an unprecedented rate, leading to a deficit in decent housing. Panelists from the city of Buenos Aires, the Government of South Africa, Cities Alliance, Housing Europe, and the University of Guadalajara shared good practices and experiences on the topic.

David Ireland, Director, the Building and Social Housing Foundation, explained that the most successful social housing developments are ones that have community involvement. He referred to homelessness as the canary in the coal mine that indicates the stock of housing is insufficient. William Cobbett, Cities Alliance, called for governments to step back and enable “people-centred housing” in order to produce the necessary housing units. He added that security of tenure, particularly when given to women, followed by government provision of services and the introduction of alternative credit, would help solve urban housing deficits.

Ahmed Vawda, Department of Human Settlements, South Africa, noted that many impoverished urban residents in his country have no choice but to live far from their place of work, thus shouldering an unfair burden of transport costs and commuting time.

Eduardo Santana, University of Guadalajara, detailed an innovative community and cultural project being built at his school, and distinguished between the construction of free-standing houses, which, he said, compare unfavourably with the consolidation of homes around education, community centres, public spaces.

Diego Fernández, Secretary of Social Housing and Urban Integration, Buenos Aires, explained his city addresses its systemic housing problem by redesigning the government structure tackling the issue, listening to the public, and financing development.

Weir concluded by urging reframing of the housing question, explaining that a commitment to ensuring an affordable and increased stock of housing would improve the quality of peoples’ lives in cities.

LOW-CARBON AND ENERGY-EFFICIENT CITIES: On Tuesday morning, Alioune Badiane, on behalf of UN-Habitat, moderated the session, which featured panelists representing Malaysia, Republic of Korea, India and South Africa, UN agencies, donors and research institutions.

Peter Chin Fah Kui, GreenTech Malaysia, presented on his country’s low-carbon cities framework, which, he said, acts as a guide to the basic instruments and approaches to transforming cities. He highlighted the target is to reduce Malaysia’s carbon emission intensity of GDP by 45% by 2030.

Sikhumbuzo Hlongwane, KwaDukuza Local Government, South Africa, presented experiences in the secondary city of KwaDukuza, which continued its low-emission and green-building trajectory after conclusion of an International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability) pilot project in 2015, due to the increased community capacity and buy-in that was achieved during the course of the project.

Drazen Kucan, Green Climate Fund, noted that, while they produce a large amount of carbon emissions, cities also produce 80% of the world’s GDP. He urged financial support for capable mayors to address the tendency of national governments to only plan for “the next four years,” whereas reducing carbon emissions, he said, should be a lifetime goal.

Frédéric Vallier, Secretary-General, Council of European Municipalities and Regions, stressed that mayors often have longer-term vision than national politicians, and are closer to their constituents. He encouraged local leaders to join networks such as the Global Covenant of Mayors, where mayors share experiences and learn from each other.

Amie Figueiredo, UN Economic Commission for Europe, discussed some of the constraints to transforming ageing cities. She highlighted limited knowledge and awareness about low-carbon and renewable energy technologies, and lack of access to adequate funding, saying that energy users in cities need to drive the demand for sustainable energy.

Seung-Eon Lee, Korean Institute of Construction Technology, explained the difficulties his country faces in transitioning away from the previous policy trajectory of nuclear power, and towards renewable energy systems, noting that constraints to renewable energy include the lack of space and high installation costs.

On advancing green futures in India, Kulwant Singh, CEO, 3R WASTE Foundation, described challenges at the local level to develop waste energy systems, highlighting that cities were not equipped to separate waste adequately. He noted improvements in this and solar technologies in recent years.

Martina Otto, UN Environment, stressed building and improving on what is already embedded in city systems, and Kathleen Dematera, Clean Air Asia urged improving resilience for current and future generations. Oliver Lah, Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, recommended starting at the local level with small-scale projects, to empower cities through focused interventions that can succeed.

URBAN SAFETY AND ACCESSIBILITY: Also on Tuesday morning, Achim Wennmann, Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, moderated the first half of the session, and underscored the importance of co-creating safety with many sectors. Khairul Dzaimee Daud, Deputy Secretary-General, Ministry of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, Malaysia, gave the keynote address with examples from his own country. He emphasized that public spaces should be “a symbol of success,” while providing a feeling of safety and security. Panelists from the Alberto Hurtado University, Social Transformation Systems, the University of Guadalajara, and the Planstadt S.C. company underscored trust as a vital element in co-producing safe urban areas, and illustrated this with examples from their countries and research. Planstadt S.C. company cited its research on the growth of gated communities in Guadalajara, expressing concern that spatial segretation reflects a cancer on cities and creates problems for social inclusion. 

Franz Vanderschueren, Alberto Hurtado University, Chile, explained that the inability to solve violence and crime is often due to social disorganization and the inability to share norms. Barbara Holtmann, Social Transformation Systems, called for women-led design in planning safe urban spaces, as they have different concerns from men, and added that this design should also take human-rights based and restorative justice approaches.

Rose Molokoane, Slum Dwellers International, moderated the second half of the session, focusing on strategic frameworks for governance, with citizens as key actors. Panelists from United Cities and Local Government, the Republic of Korea, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Future of Places Research Network, and Ethiopia, highlighted examples analysing urban safety, and explained how to mobilize funds for public spaces, including to shift the argument from an investment to dividend focus to harness the support of key officials.

Audience members: proposed taxing gated communities and golf courses to finance public spaces; called for including public spaces in slum upgrading; and asked how to ensure a “public space ideology.”

In closing remarks, Robert Lewis-Lettington, UN-Habitat, explained that rather than “spot reactions,” structural changes, such as changing mindsets at the highest levels, are key when addressing urban safety.


Joan Erakit, writer, and Jeanette Elsworth, UN-Habitat, moderated the closing event, which comprised speeches, video messages, a compilation of video highlights from WUF9, and a performance by the Permata Seni choir.

In a video message, HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, highlighted that the NUA is critical to the success of the SDGs. Noting the rapidity of present-day urbanization, he highlighted that our responses must be equally rapid, and pointed to the need for urban codes and crisis response plans. He highlighted the opportunity to link rural areas with knowledge and services through digital technologies to enable a sustainable economy.

In other video messages, Hardeep Singh Puri, incoming President of the UN-Habitat Governing Council, noted that WUF9 outcomes will serve as a guide to NUA implementation. He called for committed leaders to efficiently and transparently respond to needs on the ground; and for the full participation of civil society. UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed underlined that WUF9 was the first Forum of its kind to take place since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. She added that the ‘megacities of the future’ should be inclusive, green, smart and resilient, and warned that, while there is plenty of expertise in urban planning, the speed of urbanization is currently outpacing urban planning. The critical timing of this WUF was reiterated by UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák, who delivered three key messages, namely that: the world is increasingly urban and thus urban planning is essential; the world must use urbanization and the NUA to drive inclusive development; and, as reflected in WUF9 participation, this effort must be inclusive of local authorities, experts and other stakeholders.

Addressing WUF9 in person, William Lacy Swing, Director General, IOM, called for addressing the three megatrends of the 21st century: human migration, urbanisation, and diversity – all of them linked to cities as places “where jobs, security and life is.” He stressed economic and other benefits of these megatrends, which, he said, are not problems to be solved but human realities to be managed.

Marie Chatardová, ECOSOC President, underscored the need to strengthen urban and sustainable development strategies on the global agenda, and noted that SDG11 would be a focus at the HLPF when it meets in New York in July 2018.

The conference secretariat then launched the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Cities 2030, which was read out in full to the audience.

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, UN-Habitat, noted that WUF9 had attracted 22,778 participants from 165 countries, including 49% women participants, 41% of participants under 32 years of age, and many from Least Developed Countries, highlighting that this truly demonstrated “cities for all.” She said public-private-people partnerships are the key to success, and good governance is crucial. She added that the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Cities 2030 will accelerate implementation of the NUA. Noting that 2018 will be the year to reform UN-Habitat, she urged Member States to work with the agency “to help us build the UN-Habitat you need and deserve.”

Noh Omar, Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, Malaysia, delivered a speech on behalf of Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia. His address stressed, inter alia, the importance of collaboration, and particularly of public-private-people partnerships for the implementation of the NUA. Pledging Malaysia’s commitment to uphold the goals and principles of the Kuala Lumpur Declaration, he thanked all participants and declared the Forum officially closed at 2:16 pm.

Falah Al Ahbabi, Director General, Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council, formally received the WUF10 signage from the host country Malaysia. In final remarks, he looked forward to welcoming participants in 2020 to WUF10 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, noting this will be the first WUF to take place in the Arab region.


The Declaration was drafted during WUF9 by an advisory group that included representatives of the host country and UN-Habitat.

The Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Cities 2030 calls for accelerating NUA implementation by promoting and adopting:

  • frameworks for implementation, inclusive platforms for dialogue amongst all stakeholders, integrated territorial development and diversified means of implementation;
  • governance and partnerships that engage all levels of governments to ensure co-responsibility in activities, and that promote multi-stakeholder constituency-based coalitions to use the NUA to respond to urban crises; and
  • innovative solutions that foster a culture of creativity, implement monitoring and data collection including of community-generated data, create an enabling environment through municipal and other financing; and adopt accessibility and universal design as core principles.

The Declaration calls for further developing the role of UN-Habitat as a focal point in the UN system to support countries and mobilization of stakeholders in the implementation, follow-up and review of the NUA. The full text of the Kuala Lumpur Declaration is available here.


URBAN FUTURE global conference: The conference anticipates 3000 participants from 400 cities around the world, including mayors, architects, mobility experts, city planners, scientists, sustainability managers, environmentalists, innovation experts and many more.  dates: 28 February-2 March 2018  contact: UFGC secretariat  email:  location: Messe Wien, Exhibition and Congress Center, Vienna, Austria  www:

 Cities and Climate Change Science Conference: This meeting is organized by a group of international, urban and scientific organizations, including UN-Habitat, UN Environment, Cities Alliance, ICLEI, Future Earth, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and UCLG. The event will bring together representatives from national, city and regional governments, the academia, research organizations, and urban and climate change practitioners. Its outcomes are anticipated to inform the upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, and support cities and citizens in building low-carbon, climate-resilient and sustainable cities towards the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the NUA and the SDGs. dates: 5-7 March 2018 contact: CitiesIPCC organizing team email: location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada www:

51st Session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD 51): CPD 51 will convene under the theme, ‘Sustainable cities, human mobility and international migration’. The Commission assists ECOSOC by: arranging for studies and advising the Council on various topics related to population and development; monitoring, reviewing and assessing the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development at the national, regional and global levels; and providing appropriate recommendations to the Council on the basis of an integrated consideration of the reports and issues related to the implementation of the Programme of Action. dates: 9-13 April 2018 contact: ECOSOC location: New York City, US www:

Resilient Cities 2018: Organized by ICLEI, the Annual Global Forum on Urban Resilience and Adaptation is the global platform for urban resilience and climate change adaptation. The Resilient Cities 2018 Congress will review the state of urban resilience and local implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. dates: 26-28 April 2018 contact: ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability location: Bonn, Germany phone: +49-228/976299-28 email: www:

Green Cities For A Greener Future: The 2018 edition of the EU Green Week will explore ways in which the EU is helping cities to become better places to live and work. Showcasing policy developments on air quality, noise, nature and biodiversity, waste and water management, it will promote participatory approaches to urban development, networking schemes, and tools for sharing best practices, engaging local authorities and citizens, and encouraging them to share their vision of a sustainable future. dates: 21-25 May 2018 contact: European Commission location: Brussels, Belgium www:

The 2018 Council of European Municipalities and Region (CEMR) Conference on equality, diversity and inclusion: Under the theme ‘Equality, diversity & inclusion’, the city of Bilbao and the Basque association of municipalities will bring together local elected representatives, civil society, academia and CEMR associations to discuss the transformation of the social landscape in Europe. dates: 11-13 June 2018 location: Bilbao, Spain contact: CEMR phone: +34944255669 email: www:

ICLEI World Congress 2018: The ICLEI World Congress 2018 will assemble more than 1200 local, regional and national governments, international agencies, researchers and private sector actors from around the world, with the aim of designing innovative ideas to steer the global urban agenda and strengthen collective action on sustainability worldwide. dates: 19-22 June 2018 contact: ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability phone: +49228/97629900 email: www:

1st World Forum Intermediary Cities: The UCLG Forum on Intermediary Cities is a consultation and policy development process that culminates in an event every two ears. The Forum process is led by the city of Chefchouen and supported by a core structure of pilot intermediary cities. dates: 5-7 July 2018 location: Chefchouen, Morocco contact: UCLG email: www:

World Cities Summit 2018: The biennial World Cities Summit is a platform for government leaders and industry experts to address liveable and sustainable city challenges, share integrated urban solutions and forge new partnerships. Jointly organized by Singapore’s Centre for Liveable Cities and Urban Redevelopment Authority, key highlights of the Summit include the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, and the annual World Cities Summit Mayors Forum. dates: 8-12 July 2018 location: Marina Bay Sands, Singapore contact: World Cities Summit Secretariat phone: +6565428660 email: www:

HLPF 2018: The sixth session of the HLPF, convening under the auspices of ECOSOC, will take place from 9-18 July 2018. The theme of HLPF 2018 will be: ‘Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies’. HLPF 2018 will review SDG 6 on water, SDG 7 on energy, SDG 11 on sustainable cities, SDG 12 on responsible consumption and production, SDG 15 o life on land, and SDG 17 on means of implementation. dates: 9-18 July 2018 contact: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs location: New York City, US www:

High-Level International Forum on Sustainable Urban Development 2018: This forum is organized by UN-Habitat and the China Center for Urban Development (CCUD) to discuss SDG implementation and provide an open platform for sharing good practice. dates: 21-22 July 2018 location: Chengdu, China contact: Guan Jing, International Cooperation Division, CCUD email: phone: +86-10-6853-1705 fax: 86-10-6853-1719 www:

International Forum on Healthy City and Sustainable Urban Development: This forum is organized by the World Health Organization and the China Center for Urban Development (CCUD) to discuss challenges in urbanization and the development of healthy cities, share principles and good practices, and promote cooperation. dates: September 2018 location: Guangzhou, China contact: Guan Jing, International Cooperation Division, CCUD email: phone: +86-10-6853-1705 fax: 86-10-6853-1719 www:

Metropolis Annual Meeting: Hosted by a different Metropolis member every year, this event promotes key political messages and declarations from the community of major metropolitan spaces worldwide and to showcase the diverse good practices coming from the ground of our metropolises; enriching the debate across different levels and stakeholders of urban management. dates: 27-31 August 2018 contact: Metropolis Secretariat General email: location: Gauteng Province, South Africa

World Habitat Day: This UN day is annually celebrated on the first Monday of October to reflect on the state of human settlements and people’s right to sufficient shelter. It also aims to remind people that they are responsible for the habitat of future next generations. date: 1 October 2018 www: location: worldwide

World Cities Day: The United Nations has designated every 31st of October as World Cities Day. The Day is expected to greatly promote the international community’s interest in global urbanization, push forward cooperation among countries in meeting opportunities and addressing challenges of urbanization, and contributing to sustainable urban development around the world. date: 31 October 2018 www: location: worldwide

World Forum on Urban Forests: The FAO, the City of Mantova, the Italian Society of Silviculture and Forest Ecology and the Politecnico di Milano have announced the 1st World Forum on Urban Forests. The Forum will bring a variety of stakeholders together to exchange experiences and lessons learned, and discuss possible long-term collaboration on the development of urban forestry strategies and the identification of nature-based solutions towards a greener, healthier, and happier future. dates: 28 November - 1 December 2018 contact: FAO location: Mantova, Lombardia, Italy www:

Barcelona Resilience Week: Barcelona Resilience Week aims at giving voices to and connecting cities, while providing the opportunity to learn about ground breaking resilience topics, to present, share and exchange experiences and best practices, and to gain practical knowledge. dates: 10-14 December 2018 
contact: BCN Resilience registration office location: Barcelona, Spain www:

World Urban Forum 10 – 2020: WUF10 in 2020 will provide a platform for global leaders to share expertise on the global challenges we face in urban development and the innovative ways we can overcome them. The forum will focus on how the world can achieve sustainable development goals to meet global standards of the New Urban Agenda. UN-Habitat chose Abu Dhabi as an important region to host the forum, following its experience of rapid urbanization in recent years. dates: TBD location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Further information