The themes of solidarity and resilience were woven into many of the events of the 11th World Urban Forum’s (WUF) first day. During the morning’s Opening Ceremony, Polish officials, including the Prime Minister of Poland and the Mayor of Katowice, reminded participants of the long and complex history of Polish cities, which ranged from post-War recovery and responding to COVID-19 to, most recently, taking in millions of refugees since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.
In her opening remarks, UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif called the WUF a unique forum to share uncomfortable truths about our cities, including their inequalities, the war in Ukraine, global inflation, and the climate crisis. Youth were frequently described as necessary partners in tackling these issues, with a representative of the WUF11 Youth Council – the first of its kind – closing the ceremony by urging participants to include young people more systematically in their delegations.
Similar themes were also heavily featured in the Extraordinary Dialogue on Urban Crisis Response and Recovery that took place in the early afternoon. Observers such as Mary Kaldor, London School of Economics, noted that the nature of wars is changing as they increasingly take place in cities. Artist Emmanuel Jal evocatively explained how he used imagination to survive his traumatic childhood. The Dialogue also heard from several mayors about their experiences managing crises, including Bogotá’s Mayor Claudia López Hernández, who recounted her experience of seven “waves” of crises in her city, from the pandemic to unemployment and social strife.
The National Urban Policies in a Changing World Roundtable focused on a presentation from the Polish government on their National Urban Policy. Afterwards, the roundtable discussed national urban policies from the perspectives of: innovation and technology; environment and energy transition; housing; mobility; and spatial planning.
Local and Regional Governments Roundtable panelists shared ideas, many drawn from challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, on empowering local governments and building caring cities. Participants stressed the importance of decentralization, inclusivity, adequate resources, and rights-based approaches.
Participants in the Business and Industries Roundtable discussed ideas to increase private sector engagement in sustainable city development, including ways to improve collaboration and stakeholder engagement and increase transparency of investment decisions.
During a Special Session on Urban Recovery Frameworks, speakers considered ways for international partners to work more fairly and effectively with local governments in recovery efforts, including by trusting these are the primary experts in local realities. Speakers also discussed the current and future needs of refugees who left Ukraine due to war.
In a Special Session on Data and the Circular Economy, panelists stressed that the challenges they face lie in communicating benefits to decision makers, not in an absence of knowledge and expertise. Panelists showcased their work and noted areas of friction they encountered.