National Urban Forums (NUFs) were established, with excellent results, in a number of countries creating the enabling environment to promote dialogue and consensus among stakeholders, including national government, local authorities, grass-root organizations, private sector and academia among others.
URBANIZATION AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
In the context of an ever-increasing urbanized world, the last decade has seen a growing understanding of the linkages between urbanization and sustainable development.
In particular since 2015, under the aegis of the United Nations, Member States have adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development including a set of seventeen Sustainable Development Goals.
The Sustainable Development Goals, expressing a wide recognition of the spatial dimension of development, clearly asserted through the incorporation of Sustainable Development Goal 11 (SDG11) “Make cities and human settlement inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. With SDG11, Member States have not only recognized the scale of the phenomenon of urbanization and the fact that more than fifty per cent of the world population now live in urban areas, but also the key role of cities in the global economy, the climate change agenda, the use and consumption of natural resources, as well as their contribution to social advancement and innovations.
In addition to the adoption of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, other key international frameworks addressing global concerns were also agreed in 2015, such as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, both with strong inter-linkages with urban development and its dynamics.
With reference to all these milestone commitments, the recognition of the key contribution of sustainable urbanization to achieve development culminated with the historical adoption of the New Urban Agenda in the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016.
The New Urban Agenda, grounded on bold transformative commitments articulated across the three pillars of sustainability (social, economic and environmental), provides a blue-print towards the achievement of sustainable urbanization and a qualitative roadmap for its effective implementation. It reasserts a positive notion of cities, demonstrating that if well planned and managed, urbanization can be a transformative force for inclusive prosperity and well-being, while protecting the environment and addressing climate change.
In other words, localizing and scaling up the implementation of the New Urban Agenda will accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
NATIONAL URBAN FORUM
MULTI-STAKEHOLDER PLATFORMS FOR AN INCLUSIVE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NEW URBAN AGENDA AT COUNTRY LEVEL
Building on the legacy and the momentum created by Habitat III and the commitments made in the New Urban Agenda, the policy debate on sustainable urban development has been revived with a strengthened element of participation and inclusivity.
Since its adoption, countries have embarked in realigning their development efforts, to the common vision and the provisions of the New Urban Agenda which integrate and complement the actions to achieve the Agenda 2030 and other internationally agreed development frameworks.
Based on paragraphs 41 and 92 of the New Urban Agenda, that reaffirm the importance of creating platforms and mechanisms for a wide meaningful participation at all stages of the urban decision making processes, a number of National Urban Forums and other multi-stakeholders platforms have been galvanized to facilitate these processes.
At the global level, the World Urban Forum (WUF), a non-legislative technical forum convened every second year by UN-Habitat since 2002, has strengthened its linkage with the New Urban Agenda facilitating partnerships and knowledge sharing, as well as mobilizing support for its implementation, follow up and review, contributing to maintain it firmly on the global agenda.
The WUF was recognized by Member States as a key platform to collect inputs for the quadrennial report on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda (paragraph 167), and provides a unique space to cyclically discuss and consolidate progress made among a wide range of stakeholders. This may include methodologies, plans, policy initiatives and tools as well as results and impacts.
Adding on to their national focus and scope, the National Urban Forums can seek their connection to the World Urban Forum as a UN global platform linked to the New Urban Agenda implementation, follow up and review process, facilitating a coordinated country participation and contribution to the WUF and benefitting of the networking and partnerships opportunities as well as learning from international experiences.
For National Urban Forums engaging with the global equivalent convened by UN-Habitat will allow for a tangible connection with the global process and efforts towards a scaled up implementation of the New Urban Agenda and participation in a global network of similar multi stakeholders platforms supported by UN-Habitat to achieve their national goals, learning and contributing to international frameworks.
The Forums will be monitored and supported by the WUF Secretariat of UN-Habitat to strengthen the country’s substantive preparation and contribution to the World Urban Forum widening the debate and outreach of this global initiative as a way to accelerate an effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
The NUFs held in the lead up to the next WUF will be an excellent opportunity for stakeholders and policy makers to reflect on the country urbanization trends of the last years, identifying achievements and impacts as well as solutions for positive transformation.
Substantive outcomes from the various NUFs will be compiled and disseminated at every World Urban Forum session, constituting a robust contribution to the New Urban Agenda implementation, follow up and review.
Along with all categories of stakeholders, UN system agencies and programs operating in the country should be invited to contribute to the debate. This will strengthen the linkages and understanding of the integration between the New Urban Agenda, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the climate change initiatives.
MUF IN RELATIONS TO WUF9
The Ninth session of the World Urban Forum (WUF9) was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 7 to 13 February 2018. The Forum drew more than 23,000 attendees from every walk of life, travelling from 164 different countries, making it the most attended and diverse WUF since its inception in 2002.
WUF9 was the first edition since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the New Urban Agenda, and a wide range of urban stakeholders and key actors gathered to debate around the main theme of the Forum “Cities 2030, Cities for All: Implementing the New Urban Agenda” bringing different perspectives through the more than 500 events of the programme. These were complemented by countless networking activities as well as formal and informal meetings taking place within the forum, resulting in new and stronger partnerships and more coordinated actions for an effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda at all levels by all actors.
The WUF9 Advisory Group, composed of representatives from all main partner constituency groups and co-chaired by the Minister of Housing and Urban Wellbeing of Malaysia and the President of the UN-Habitat Governing Council, issued the Kuala Lumpur Declaration that truly summarizes the essence of the recommendations coming from all participants, to localize and scale up the implementation of the New Urban Agenda as an accelerator to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Cities 2030 included actionable recommendations on key enablers capable to unlock positive transformations for the implementation frameworks of the New Urban Agenda and, together with the comprehensive report of the WUF9, will be presented in the next Governing Council in 2019 to inform the discussions and the approval of the next UN- Habitat Work Programme and Budget.
Before then, the WUF9 preliminary outcomes will constitute inputs to the preparation of the quadrennial report on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda to be submitted in July 2018 to ECOSOC, as mandated by member states.
Among other actionable recommendations, the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Cities 2030 called for supporting “the creation and consolidation of inclusive platforms and agendas for dialogue among all levels of government, decision makers and stakeholders such as regional, national and local Urban Forums and committees that can strengthen policy review and assessment of impacts. These can also foster exchange of experiences and cooperation, as well as scaling up voluntary commitments and actions from all partners” [see the full Kuala Lumpur declaration at http://wuf9.org/kuala-lumpur-declaration/ .
KL DECLARATION ON CITIES 2030
The WUF9 saw consensus from all participants on the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Cities 2030, a commitment to localise and scale up the implementation of the New Urban Agenda as an accelerator to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The declaration is a call for the deployment of all efforts, means and resources available towards the operationalisation of the concept of cities for all, ensuring that all inhabitants, of present and future generations, without discrimination of any kind, are able to inhabit and produce just, safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements to foster prosperity and quality of life for all. The participants of the WUF9 generated a host of ideas and encouraged the acceleration of the implementation of the New Urban Agenda in KL Declaration on Cities 2030.
SO, WHY WE NEED A NATIONAL URBAN FORUM?
The National Urban Forum is a multi-stakeholder platform for policy dialogue to support sustainable urban development decision-making and review processes at all levels, including through advocacy, knowledge sharing, capacity development, partnership and networking at the country level.
National Urban Forums also provide a conducive space for inclusive national urban policies, strategies and action plans formulation and review. At the global level, National Urban Forums are best placed to support a coordinated national contribution and participation to international development processes and frameworks, like the New Urban Agenda and the 2030 Agenda, but also the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction.
The work of the National Urban Forum, which may include national, sub-national (regional & state) and local consultations, workshops and other capacity building and advocacy activities, is expected to culminate in a public national event held for two days. The cyclical process will allow inclusive evaluation and review points based on updated progress and changing trends.
The advocacy and awareness efforts of a National Urban Forum can be integrated by the establishment of other urban campaigns and other ad-hoc campaigns focusing on specific themes and target audience, based on contexts and priorities at Malaysia level to be presented in next WUF10.