It was from the plenary sessions at the start of each day that the key messages of 2006 were formulated. And first among these was: the urban population of developing countries is set to double from 2 to 4 billion in the next 30 years.
This means, said Ms. Katherine Sierra, the World Bank’s Vice-President and Network Head for Infrastructure, and Enrique Peñalosa, the former Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, that the magnitude of urban population growth confronting developing countries is about ten times that of the developed world.
"In short, these 2 billion new urban inhabitants will require the equivalent of planning, financing, and servicing facilities for a new city of 1 million people every week for the next 30 years," Ms. Sierra said.
"Imagine," said Mr. Peñalosa, "that means a new city each week the size of Vancouver." In 200 years' time, he added, the world would look back to the dawn of this millennium and regard our cities of today as dangerous places, as London is sometimes conceived. "They would look back on this period as a time, for example, when tens of thousands of children were killed by cars, and shudder with fear."
Another key message from the plenary was aired by Ms. Evelyn Herfkens, Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Millennium Campaign. She urged mayors and government ministers in the audience to apply the eight Millennium Development Goals forged in the consensus of world leaders’ signatory to the Millennium Declaration. She held up a copy of a new brochure on the goals published with UN-HABITAT showing how rich and poor countries, at government and municipal level, can apply the goals to their urban planning strategies. Use them, she pleaded passionately. She was delighted to learn at the forum that the Mayor of Montréal, Gérald Tremblay, for example, had personally undertaken a campaign to publicise the goals. "Investment in the goals is an investment in your own future. We are the first generation with the resources and the knowledge to end poverty," said. To resounding applause, she added: "Don't let our leaders off the hook."
All drew standing ovations, as did Mr. Jockin Arputham, founder of the National Slum Dwellers Federation in India, when he said the greatest day in the world would come when everyone would have easy access to safe, clean toilets.