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World Urban Forum to Tackle Urbanization as Part of Sustainable Development

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 17 2013 (IPS) - On 5 April 2014, the 7th World Urban Forum (WUF7) will descend on Medellin, Colombia on the theme ‘Urban equity in development’ — Cities for life.’ The focus of the weeklong conference , in the Latin American hub,  will be on practical and sustainable ways of creating more inclusive and compact cities that address complex issues like inequality, population and infrastructure.

The estimated 10,000 delegates are expected to come from the private sector, academia, non-profit organizations and business. The results of the conference will eventually be handed off to government officials who can better decide on their implementation.

Spearheading the conference and making the rounds last week to promote the upcoming conference was Executive Director of UN-Habitat ,Joan Clos.  Clos’s dedication to the conference’s outcome is palpable, and he believes that an opportunity like WUF7 to discuss measures of urbanization is the answer to the world’s most pressing problems. “It would provide a good mixture of local experiences and best practices worldwide.” Clos said during a UN press conference.

Sustainability will not only be an important topic for the UN’s post-2015 economic agenda,  but also pose a serious comparison for future generations to ponder:  it’s one thing to come up with solutions that rectify the current state of poverty, over-population and disease, but it’s entirely another to sustain those solutions over the next 20 or even 30 years, according to UN Habitat.

With the growing world population and the influx of people moving to large cities,  urbanization is reaching an excruciating tipping point: where will all these people go, and how will they live amongst each other in harmony?

Cramped cities invite great opportunities, but they also produce great challenges. Poverty, violence and lack of sanitation are just a few of the things that can quickly age city officials as they try to figure out how to best accommodate the movement of new inhabitants.

“Cities must be more dense, compact, integrative and inclusive to reduce inequalities and reclaim public space as a common good for all citizens,” said Clos, during an October 2013 presentation.

With over 100 million people living in slums worldwide, the reality of elevating living conditions that promote healthy development is a bit frightening.  Local authorities need the support of national and international governments just to meet a few of the obstacles.

WUF7 is a unique meeting place that will hopefully address the issue of urbanization as it pertains to the post-2015 agenda.   However, authorities will have to move quickly; it is estimated that the number of urban settlers has reached 3.5 million over the course of human history, and will only take 30 to 40 years to double.

The winning partnership to creating better cities will need to marry both diplomacy and sustainability, because once implemented by government, cities can then work to sustain urbanization in such a way that promotes equality, development and health.

In his year-end of press conference Monday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon left journalists with a telling prospect for the upcoming year that puts the needs of people first: “I want this diplomatic momentum to carry over into the New Year. We must make 2014 the year of protecting people – their security, their fundamental rights, their basic well-being.”

A security and fundamental rights approach might as well be a standpoint that the participants of WUF7 can address as they tackle the well being of urbanites.

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