The World Urban Forum (WUF) is a non-legislative technical forum convened by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) held since 2002.
The Forum gathers a wide range of experts from every walk of life. Participants of the Forum include, but are not limited to, national, regional and local governments, non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, professionals, research institutions and academies, professionals, private sector, development finance institutions, foundations, media and United Nations organizations and other international agencies.
It is recognized as the foremost global arena for interaction among policymakers, local government leaders, non-governmental organizations and expert practitioners in the field of sustainable urban development and human settlements.
Since the first meeting in Nairobi, Kenya in 2002 the number and diversity of participants has increased exponentially, peaking in WUF7 held in Medellin, Colombia, in 2014.
Overall attendance in the Forum rose from 1,200 at the inaugural session in Nairobi in 2002, to over 4,300 in Barcelona in 2004 and over 10,400 in Vancouver in 2006. In Nanjing in 2008, there were 8,000 participants, their numbers reached almost 13,800 at the fifth session in Rio de Janeiro in 2010 and over 8,200 attended the sixth session in Naples in September 2012. One hundred countries were represented at the third session, 146 at the fourth, 150 at the fifth session and the sixth session in Naples saw a record number of 152 countries represented.
The third session of the Forum, held in Vancouver in 2006 (the thirtieth birthday of UN-Habitat), focused on sustainable urbanization and inclusive cities. One of the messages from the Forum was that the urban population of developing countries is set to double from 2 to 4 billion in the next 30 years. This will require the equivalent of planning, financing and servicing facilities for a new city of 1 million people to be built every week for the next 30 years.
The theme of the fourth session of the Forum, held in Nanjing in 2008, was harmonious urbanization. At this session, it was made 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 session of the 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 the synchronization and integration of all the Earth’s assets: physical, environmental, cultural, historical, social or human.
The fifth session of the Forum was held in Rio de Janeiro, and it built upon the technical and substantive lessons of the previous four sessions. It focused on the theme of “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 sixth session was held in Naples under the global theme of ‘The Urban Future’ and the seventh session will be in Medellín, Colombia, with the focus on ‘Urban Equity in Development – Cities for Life’.