UN-HABITAT is gearing up for the world’s biggest global meeting on cities. The 22-26 March World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva is scheduled to open, is expected to draw a number of world leaders.
UN-HABITAT said 16,000 people had already registered for the conference at which a new global drive for better, smarter cities will be launched. Called the World Urban Campaign, this new drive is aimed at raising awareness about rapid urbanisation in a world where it is forecast that 70 percent of humanity will be living in towns and cities within a generation.
World leaders expected include former American President Bill Clinton, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifah of Bahrain, Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon, Vice-President Noli de Castro of the Philippines, and US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan. They will be joined by mayors, business and industry leaders from every continent, and many of the world’s leading urban movers and shakers.
High on the agenda this year will be the rebuilding of Haiti in the wake of a devastating earthquake in January that claimed more than 230,000 lives. Mr. Clinton is expected to address this matter in his role as the UN Special Envoy for Haiti.
The broad theme of the many seminars at the World Urban Forum this year, Bridging the Urban Divide, is aimed at narrowing the gaps in many areas of everyday life. These include the gulf between rich and poor people in cities; the gulf between governments and city authorities; the gulf between government and the business sector; the gulf between local authorities and the business sector; the gulf between government, local authorities and the law when it comes to gender and youth matters, and climate change in its urban context.
The agency will launch its flagship biennial report, the State of the World’s Cities 2010/2011, as well as special regional city reports, and a new publication, the State of Urban Youth 2010/2011, which focuses youth in our cities.
According to the latest research carried in the State of the World’s Cities, a total of 227 million people in the world have moved out of slum conditions since 2000. This means that governments have collectively surpassed the Millennium Development Goal on slums more than two times over.
But it cautions that the absolute number of slum dwellers has actually increased from 776.7 million in 2000 to some 827.6 million in 2010. This means that 55 million new slum dwellers have been added to the global urban population since 2000.
“The emerging picture of the 21st century city fits many descriptions. Some are centres of rapid industrial growth and wealth creation, often accompanied by harmful waste and pollution. Others are characterized by stagnation, urban decay and rising social exclusion and intolerance,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a foreword to the report.
“Both scenarios point to the urgent need for new, more sustainable approaches to urban development. Both argue for greener, more resilient and inclusive towns and cities that can help combat climate change and resolve age-old urban inequalities,” he said. All of these issues and others will be discussed.