WUF9: Urban development, using tourism as a tool and other key take-outs


The World Urban Forum was held in Kuala Lumpur this year. Source: Shutterstock.com

AS THE World Urban Forum (WUF) draws to a close in Kuala Lumpur, we are reminded why the biennial meeting is essential to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out by the United Nations.

The event is hosted every year in a different city, and this year the UN-Habitat set up camp at the Kuala Lumpur Conference Center from Feb 8 to Feb 13, with the Forum focusing on New Urban Agenda.

The event brought together some of the world’s most forward-thinking people in urban development. These included representatives of national governments, cities and local governments, industry professionals from the urban development sector, and campaigners from non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The SDGs are the universal call to action to end global poverty, protect our suffering planet and help the global community to enjoy peace and prosperity. One way of fulfilling these goals is through urban development, as the forum discussed.

The UN development agency is driving change through implementing these goals throughout 170 countries and territories, in hopes of having them cemented by 2030.

“Poverty eradication is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda, and so is the commitment to leave no-one behind,” UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said in a statement.

“The Agenda offers a unique opportunity to put the whole world on a more prosperous and sustainable development path. In many ways, it reflects what UNDP was created for.”

However, as town planning practitioner Cliff Hauge points out in a blog post, much of the urban development over the last few decades hasn’t been “planned and managed well”.

The urban population is set to double by 2050, and over one billion people still live in slums. So it is more important now than ever to concentrate efforts on building sustainable cities.

Where does tourism fit in?

The growth of tourism in cities has increased massively over the past decades. Some people travel for business, others for leisure and urban exploration.

With urban tourism contributing to local and national economies it is essential for partnerships between communities and governments to thrive in order to be well equipped for the influx of tourists.

Part of the 2030 agenda for SDGs is devising and implementing policies to promote sustainable tourism. The UN recognizes tourism as a key source of income for many Southeast Asian countries as it creates jobs and promotes local culture and products.

The UN has also identified tourism as a crucial tool in getting small islands on the tourism-destination map and hastening the process of countries to reach a developed status.

Reaching this goal, however, won’t just happen at a conference. The process is one which must have the full support of all member states and encourage investment and sustainable tourism, including eco-tourism and cultural tourism.

Speakers at the conference included city mayors, planning ministers, tourism ministers, urban wellbeing representatives, environmental ministers, campaigners and urban advocates, as well as those from communities who have been positively affected by the work of practitioners, researchers and UN-funded aid groups.

Through the partnership formed between organizations and communities, real progress can be made to bridge financial divides, put an end to austerity and formulate strategies to ensure those with fewer financial assets aren’t pushed to the outskirt of the city.

The next World Urban Forum will be held in Abu Dhabi in 2020.

Anyone can attend and registration is free. So plan your trip and find out how you can help your community to implement sustainable cities and boost sustainable tourism.