The mayor of the Chinese city of Nanjing, Hon. Jiang Hongkun, China's Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, Hon. Jiang Weixin, and H.H. Dejiang Zhang, the Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China, welcomed delegates to the fourth session of the World Urban Forum, which was officially opened today. The Chinese officials told delegates that the theme of the Forum -- Harmonious Urbanization -- was critically important to the Chinese government, which attached great importance to integrated development. They noted that China was focusing on coordinated development between its cities and regions, and was placing special emphasis on energy saving and climate change mitigation.
UN-HABITAT Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, thanked the Government of the People's Republic of China and the City of Nanjing for hosting the event and making the Forum a reality. She also thanked the Governments of Norway for providing financial support towards civil society participation at the Forum and the Kingdom of Bahrain for sponsoring the Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa Award, which will from now onwards become a standing feature of the biennial event.
Mrs.Tibaijuka noted that the current global financial crisis threatened to reverse the gains made so far on internationally agreed goals to reduce poverty and that governments needed to ensure that the momentum generated by the Millennium Development Goals was not lost. "While collective efforts are underway to restore the much eroded trust in financial markets and to avoid the collapse of the marketplace, the United Nations system will do whatever it can to ensure that the poor, the vulnerable, and particularly the one billion people living in urban slums around the world, do not become casualties of the crisis."
The opening ceremony was also graced by the presence of dignitaries such as Hon. Raila Odinga, Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya, who told delegates that rural-to-urban migration in Africa was putting an unbearable strain on African cities but that African governments had no choice but to deal with this reality as "the world is coming to the city". Vice President Noli de Castro of the Philippines urged governments to create the necessary governance structures to promote harmonious urbanization and to enhance the capacity of local governments to deal with climate change. H.H. The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, told delegates that Bahrain had decided to launch an award to encourage innovative ideas with respect to urban development by honouring the best urban development practices around the world.
The fourth session of the World Urban Forum brings together a wide range of stakeholders who will focus on various aspects of harmonious urbanization, including territorial balance in urban development, social equity, urban environment and preserving the cultural heritage of cities.