Observations from the Opening Day of the World Urban Forum (WUF9)

This week, Planning Commissioner Anthony Perl is joining urban leaders from over 150 countries in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for World Urban Forum 9 (WUF9). The World Urban Forum is a non-legislative technical forum convened by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) held since 2002.

The Forum gathers a 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 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.

With its theme of Cities 2030, Cities for all: Implementing the New Urban Agenda, this year’s Forum is of social interest to the Vancouver City Planning Commission. “Cities for All” refers to the equal use and enjoyment of cities and human settlements, and seeks to promote inclusivity and make sure that all city’s 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.

Not only does this theme build on the Planning Commission’s current focus area of “A City for All,” it also builds on the work and relationships the VCPC initiated in 2016 when we sent two delegates to Habitat III – the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development.

Here are some of Commissioners Perl’s impressions from the opening day of the forum:


The World Urban Forum got off to an enthusiastic and energetic start at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre today. After waiting a half hour beyond the scheduled launch so that delayed delegates and speakers could arrive from the airport through the choking traffic that typifies urban mobility in Malaysia’s largest city, the delegates were welcomed by the Malaysian Minister responsible for urban affairs, by Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, the recently installed head of UN Habitat (who is also Malaysian), and served for six years as Mayor of Penang, and representatives of the Youth, Women’s, and Business Assemblies which were to set the stage for sharing ideas and experiences in implementing the New Urban Agenda.

Former UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon

From slum dwellers to celebrities, WUF9 has succeeded in gathering as diverse a cross-section of urbanists as are going to be found in any one place on Earth for the coming week. Whenever such an accumulation of idealists, dreamers and schemers is assembled, many things become possible and the promise of the United Nations: to bring out the best from governments and civil society across the globe, can open minds and hearts to new possibilities for urban betterment. More than one speaker recalled the challenge noted by former Secretary General Ban ki Moon that the struggle for sustainable development would be won or lost in the world’s cities.

The head of the Youth Assembly challenged all delegates to take inspiration for change from the shame of the world’s cities; which is abundant. Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter, whose own daughter had been run down by a drunk driver in a city reminded all that in the course of the day’s deliberations, 3,000 children around the world would be killed or seriously wounded by urban automobiles, and that this carnage was easily preventable if cities had the will to stop it. With these, and other, invocations not to take the easy way out of urban problem-solving, delegates were released into the three assemblies which will report back to the plenary session later today. It was a heady start to a week of thinking and organizing ways to advance resilient cities for all.


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