The World Urban Forum has happened.
22.000 people took part in the World Urban Forum 9 in Kuala Lumpur in February 2018, plus more or less 4.000 support staff. 48% of these people were women. I don’t know how many were from the Global South, but certainly more than 50%.
The great topic of this WUF was implementation of the New Urban Agenda. If you are not familiar with the New Urban Agenda, please read it. It is a binding document signed by all UN member states that is supposed to guide sustainable urban development in the next 20 years. http://habitat3.org/wp-content/uploads/NUA-English.pdf
The WUF was a marathon! Going from one session to the next, the feeling was you were always missing something. There were literally hundreds of events, maybe thousands. TU Delft had its own event at the WUF, in which we discussed education for the New Urban Agenda. The results of the discussion will be made public soon. TU Delft was also represented by Henk Visscher, Simone Rots and Mike Emmerik, who took part in other events. Simone and Mike organized an event on behalf of INTI and TU Delft, in which they discussed urbanization in Africa.
A lot of the talks were very general, but the importance of such events lies in the shared commitment for inclusive, fair and sustainable urbanization. Sustainable urbanization is key for development, but it is also crucial for justice and for life. The fate of our planet and its inhabitants (humans, animals and plants!) depends on how we manage explosive urban growth in the next 20 years.
Besides, this was an opportunity to meet people, people who are different and people who “make the difference”. I met a young female mayor from a small town in Africa, an Indian man who works with empowering youth and training future leaders in his country, an American man who works for a gender equality advocacy group, African civil servants, Malay teachers, Indonesian researchers, Filipino grassroots leaders, Panamanian planners, Brazilian NGO organisers, Mexican scholars, Italian visionaries and many many many more!
It is incredibly humbling to have the grassroots talking in assemblies. As Ophelia, the Filipino grassroots leader said: people want to be the rightful planners of their own settlements. The age of the all-powerful, male, technocrat planners and designer is passed. We need to understand that people must be empowered, trained and capacitated to be planners and designers of their own cities. I don’t think planners and designers will be out of a job. On the contrary: they will have more work than ever training, capacitating, facilitating, organizing and also planning and designing WITH people, in co-production.
Despite all the challenges of our world today, it is heart-warming to see so many people really trying to do the right thing. I come back to my university fully energized and full of ideas.
The WUF took place in Kuala Lumpur from 7 to 13 FEB 2018. Detailed information can be found at the WUF9 website. One of its outcomes is the Kuala Lumpur declaration.
Please, check pictures of the TU Delft event here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/X6Zel6InRqJYFjft2