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World Urban Forum III

By Faith Shamonda, Sierra Youth Coalition

The third World Urban Forum (WUF 3) took place in Vancouver, BC 19-23 June. The conference was a celebration of how far we have come, from the inaugural UN-HABITAT conference that took place in Vancouver 30 years before, to now. At the same time, it acknowledged that many of the pressing issues tabled at HABITAT-1 were still pressing issues.

Sitting in the audience (and at times, being an active participant), there was a buzz in the air. Seasoned veterans of UN meetings might know that what comes out of these conferences is the beginning of conversations, conversations that will lead to sharing of ideas, successes, and lessons learned. From these conversations will come working groups, and these groups change our world.

At WUF 3, the conversation was centred around sustainable cities, so rightly so, topics covered at the forum covered the gamut, including (but not limited to): affordable housing and forced evictions; urbanisation; violence, safety and security; prostitution; and the environment. Interestingly enough, in places where the environment wasn’t even a topic, it was a focus point: at a dialogue session covering urban safety and security where half of the discussion was centred around actions to be taken during natural disasters, it was acknowledged that the majority of these disasters (for example, increasing intensity and instance of tropical storms, and shifting temperatures that lead to drought, flooding, and landslides) are largely due to climate change, thus making these disasters not so natural! Most interestingly enough, someone brought up the point of disaster relief, and the function of public transportation in facilitating a rapid response: he argued that too many vehicles on the road slows the response of emergency services; thus an increase in ridership of public transportation will have a double impact – it will speed up the efficiency of emergency relief teams who will no longer be hindered by traffic and gridlock, and reduce our use of fossil fuels, thus mitigating climate change and the instances of these preventable disasters.

I was a part of this conversation, and the conversation that I took part in was about health and the environment. This session, sponsored by the Canadian Environmental Network and moderated by Sierra Club of Canada past president Amelia Clarke, brought together 30 people from all over the world to start a conversation with others about the work that they do, forge connections between one and other, and build working groups to meet our shared goals or create something unique and inspiring. The timeline we have to get the ball rolling is two years – ironically, this coincides with the next WUF, taking place in Nanjing, China, in 2008.

Rumour has it that to celebrate 60 years in existence, the World Urban Forum will return to Vancouver – will you be there?

If you want to know more information about topics covered at WUF 3, or if you’re interested in attending WUF IV in Nanjing, China, see www.unhabitat.org/wuf


 


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