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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

UN’s World Urban Forum is coming to Abu Dhabi in 2020

World Urban Forum travels to the Arab World for the first time in 2020

Abu Dhabi has been at the forefront of urban sustainability with projects such as Masdar. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Abu Dhabi has been at the forefront of urban sustainability with projects such as Masdar. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Mayors, education chiefs, youth groups and sustainability experts from across the globe will descend on Abu Dhabi to come up with ways to slow the social and environmental effects of rapid urbanisation.

The five-day World Urban Forum, a UN event, will be held in the capital in February 2020. The UAE is the first Arab country to host the event, which was established by the UN in 2001.

It will highlight major challenges such as the fight against climate change, providing cheaper housing and solving humanitarian crises.

A high-level meeting between 22 Arab countries will be held next year to discuss how to improve the region’s cities.

On Wednesday, a retro-looking logo was unveiled showing famous Abu Dhabi landmarks such as Aldar’s disc building, Etihad Towers and the Sheikh Zayed Bridge set against the backdrop of a globe.

“We are extremely pleased that Abu Dhabi has been chosen to host the 10th session of the World Urban Forum,” said Falah Al Ahbabi, chairman of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Urban Planning.

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“Abu Dhabi has already attracted merit for implementing urban sustainability in innovative ways, having experienced a phenomenal shift towards urbanisation in a relatively short space of time.”

The UN predicts that by 2030, about 60 per cent of people around the world will live in cities. UN Habitat, the global body’s agency responsible for trying to solve some of the issues caused by this urban sprawl, organises the forum.

“Urbanisation is complex and connected,” Maimunah Sharif, UN Habitat executive director, told The National. “The forum will try to find solutions to some of the urban challenges the world is facing.”

Only 60 years ago, Abu Dhabi was a small village around a stone fort. Today, it is one of the corridors of power in the Middle East and the forum will seek to harness some of the lessons learnt from the city’s rapid expansion.

“This will be a platform for the government, private sector, educators and more to sit down and talk about human settlements in cities and villages. It is very important,” Ms Sharif said.

The UN had already revealed Abu Dhabi’s hosting of the event but it was formally announced in the capital yesterday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, the Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities and UN Habitat.

The forum will also have broader implications for how cities are developed. For example, the previous forum, held in Kuala Lumpur this year, issued a declaration advising how cities could be developed better.

Something similar is expected to happen in Abu Dhabi.

The forum plays a critical role in implementing the UN’s “new urban agenda”, which advises on development issues.

“We work with everyone to see urbanisation as a tool for development,” Ms Sharif said. “This forum is a unique opportunity to focus on how urban development can be implemented in a sustainable way around the world.”