The World Urban Forum meets for the sixth time in Naples, Italy, from Sept. 1-7, when international experts and representatives from 150 governments will discuss the future development of cities. Although the conference tends to be dominated by U.N. agencies, academics and local officials, development organizations will focus some of the conversations on alleviating urban poverty and jump-starting sustainability initiatives.

Besides city planning, design and finance, there will be sessions on upgrading slums, creating jobs for the youth, delivering basic services and energy, and increasing urban resilience to disaster and climate change.

While the last Urban World Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, focused on making cities more inclusive, this year’s session will attempt to find ways to make urban areas “more democratic, just, sustainable and humane,” according to the program.

Aid participants and presenters include Agence Française de Développement, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, U.S. Agency for International Development, Habitat for Humanity InternationalActionAidWaterAid, Refuge Point and World Vision Australia.

The United Nations features prominently on the agenda as well, with U.N. Habitat hosting the biennial forum and sessions led by U.N. Habitat, U.N. Women, U.N. Development Program, U.N. Environment Program and Food and Agriculture Organization, among others.

Some innovative partnerships will also show off new approaches to creating urban sustainability and poverty reduction. Coca-Cola and U.N. Habitat are holding an event called “From Water toWell Being,” showcasing the “public-private-people-partnership” they created to provide basic services and amenities to communities in Asia and Africa. Representatives from IBM, Siemens and Arcadis will address ways to engage businesses and industry in urban futures.

Debates surrounding urbanization illuminate issues of social protection, waste and water management, child and elderly welfare, housing, security, gender, and more. Better urban planning, once viewed as the purview of elected officials, could address some of these development problems. Making urban planners aware of the problems the aid community deals with could result in better outcomes for both communities, not least the urban poor.

The pace of poverty reduction in urban areas has been slower than that in rural ones, ActionAid Senior Program Manager for Women’s Rights Ramona Vijeyarasa told Voice of America.

More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas and, in just one more generation, thatnumber will likely rise to two-thirds.

Growing urbanization, and world population in general, are factors lending urgency to the global debate on sustainability and climate change.

“Urban areas will be crucial battlegrounds to win the fights against climate change, energy inefficiency and pollution,” Ban Ki-moon wrote in his welcome message for the forum. “Cities will also provide fertile ground for launching the green economy.”

The United Nations hopes the forum will lead to greater understanding of the linked problems of urbanization and sustainability, and that coordinated development interventions can be the outcome. This will form the basis of the United Nations’ third conference on housing and sustainable urban development, a renewed global commitment to sustainable cities planned for 2016.

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About the author

  • Jennifer Brookland

    Jennifer Brookland is a former Devex global development reporter based in Washington, D.C. She has worked as a humanitarian reporter for the United Nations and as an investigative journalist for News21. Jennifer holds a bachelor's in foreign service from Georgetown University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University and in international law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School. She also served for four years as an Air Force officer.