napelsUN-Habitat organized the sixth session of the World Urban Forum (WUF), world’s most important urban conference, in Naples, (Italy) one of the oldest and continuously inhabited cities in the world. The theme of the session was ‘The Urban Future’, focusing on the prosperity aspects, mainly the capacity to generate jobs and decent livelihood means for the citizens, as was agreed at its fifth session held in 2010 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The focus of the fifth session was on the ‘Right to the City: Bridging the Urban Divide’. The Forum shared perspectives and viewpoints on the relevance of this concept, identifying what is needed to bridge the urban divide, and to facilitate a prompt and sustainable transition from a city that is partially inclusive to one that is fully inclusive.

The theme of the fourth WUF session held in Nanjing (China) in 2008 was ‘Harmonious Urbanization’. This session made it clear that a society cannot be harmonious if large sections of its population are deprived of basic needs while other sections live in opulence. An important message from this Forum was that harmony in cities cannot be achieved if the price of urban living is paid by the environment. The concept of harmony entails synchronization and integration of all the Earth’s assets – physical, environmental, cultural, historical, social or human.

The third session of the WUF in Vancouver (Canada) in 2006 had focused on ‘Sustainable Urbanization and Inclusive Cities’. One of the Forum’s messages was that the urban population of developing countries is set to double from two to four billion in the next 30 years. This will require the equivalent of planning, financing and servicing facilities for a new city of one million people to be built every week for the next 30 years.

Speaking at the inaugural session of the sixth session, Dr. Jaan Clos, Under Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN-Habitat highlighted the point that we begin the second decade of the 21st century, and as the world struggles to address many global challenges such as the economic crisis and climate change, it is important to ask ourselves about the future of our cities and towns and their capacity for, or contribution to, generation of decent jobs and livelihood means”.

The previous sessions of the World Urban Forum had made it clear that managing rapid urbanization would be one of the most pressing problems confronting humanity in the 21st century.

Development Challenges

napels-2The sixth session of the WUF was conceived as a platform where various segments of society could discuss, learn, practice, agree and disagree on different ways to build and sustain a more prosperous urban future for our cities. They could identify initiatives and commitments that could be effectively implemented to create cities that are more democratic, just, sustainable and humane.

In the Forum, special sessions and roundtables were held. On the first day two special sessions were held. The theme for the first session was “The Opportunity of Urbanization in the 21st Century: the Role of the United Nations” and was a good attempt to focus global attention on a future in which cities are the centerpiece of past civilizations, backbones of present economies, and the cornerstones of livelihoods.

UN agencies have shared concern over the challenges that urbanization creates. It is also evident that urban development challenges can be more effectively addressed through proactive, inter-sectoral (and hence inter-agency) urban developmental interventions.

Actively protecting and fostering the strengths of urban centres, while preventing and managing the negative effects of urbanization, provides a vital opportunity for the UN system to achieve its overarching development goals. At the same time, bringing different agencies together to do so provides a vital opportunity for the UN System to sharpen its message of cohesiveness – demonstrating that it is, in fact, “Delivering as One”. The inter-agency meeting at the sixth WUF session was a significant step towards this goal.

The theme of second session was ‘A Manifesto for Cities: Towards a Global Urban Agenda’ and it discussed all urban development actors in a global movement that elevates the urban agenda through a positive vision and understanding of the tremendous benefits cities can bring to future generations.

A special session on ‘Building a Better Urban Future through South – South and Triangular Cooperation’ was also held. The purpose of the session was to provide an opportunity to debate the best possible interventions for improving the future for the world’s cities and the need for inclusion of the urban poor as strategic actors in sustainable urban development planning.

Roundtable Conferences

In the Forum, roundtable conferences were held for various groups of people such as Ministers, Mayors, and Professionals etc. The roundtables and the respective themes are as follows:

Roundtable

Theme

Ministers ‘Building Strategic National Alliances for a Better Urban Future’
Mayors ‘Local Leadership and the Future of Cities’
Business ‘Urban Futures, Drivers for Change’
Universities ‘Shaping the Urban Future’
Global Parliamentarians on Habitat ‘Cities as Engines of Sustainable Growth: The Roles of Parliamentarians’
Civil Society Organizations ‘The Right to Land and the City – Towards an Equitable Urban Forum’
Youth ‘Capabilities Approach to Urban Development’
Urban Indigenous Issues ‘Future and Prosperity of Cities: Indigenous Peoples, Urban Migration and Diversity’
Global Land Tool Network ‘Celebrating the Recognition of a Range of Land Rights: Taking Stock and Moving Forward’
Habitat Professionals ‘The Urban Future: Delivering the Vision of Human Settlement Professionals for a Sustainable Urban Future’
Gender and Women ‘Fostering Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cities’
Urban Researchers ‘Research for a Better Urban Future’

Special session was held on the World Urban Campaign – A Manifesto for cities: Towards a Global Urban Agenda for Habitat III. The World Urban Campaign was launched in March 2010 at the fifth session of the WUF, as the world’s living platform for sharing and learning on initiatives, actions and policies driving positive change in cities.

The essence of the World Urban Campaign is to engage all urban development actors in a global movement.

The World Urban Campaign partners are committed to contribute to the Habitat-II Conference to be held in 2016, 20 years after the Habitat II Conference held in Istanbul, by engaging the international community, public, private and social partners to contributing to the new Global Urban Agenda through a Manifesto for Cities.

Towards a Common Vision

The session was meant to initiate a movement by launching the Manifesto for Cities, through a collective process for change, inviting the international community, governments and Habitat Agenda partners, to unite around shared goals and a common vision for the 21st century to bring about a sustainable urban future.

The World Urban Forum also organized an exhibition showcasing some of the world’s premier cities and innovations in urban development. It was held in four exhibition halls. The exhibition provided space for informal discussions, side events, and the latest in urban living.

napels-3The exhibition featured thematic exhibits, country pavilions, an urban cinema area, a forum area with seating for informal discussions and food and refreshments courts. Around 200 exhibitors participated in the exhibition from different countries. From India, only Sulabh International Social Service Organisation participated in the exhibition which was highly appreciated by both the organizers as well as the participants. Participants from many countries visited Sulabh Pavilion and enquired about the sanitation and biogas technologies displayed.  In the exhibition Sulabh International also released its new publication ‘Sanitation and Energy’ published in coordination with UN-Habitat. The book was released by Prof. Amitabh Kundu, Professor of Economics at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development and Dean of the School of Social Sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.