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Guterres says urbanisation can address climate change as 10th World Urban Forum opens

The 10th Session of the World Urban Forum was officially opened on Sunday, February 9, 2020 by His Highness Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Member of the Executive Council and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court accompanied by the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, in a colourful, high tech ceremony at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Dignitaries at the opening of the 10th Session of the World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi, UAE

President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani; the Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama; and the Chairman of the Department of Municipalities and Transport representing the Local Organising Committee of World Urban Forum 10, Falah Al Ahbabi, were among the dignitaries present.

In a video message, the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, thanked Abu Dhabi for hosting the gathering – the first time the World Urban Forum has been held in the Arab Region. He noted that urbanisation is one of the megatrends of our times and steering it well will help address global challenges such as climate change. 

“As we embark on a Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, the world’s cities, towns and communities will be at the heart of this work. The United Nations counts on local and national leaders, businesses, civil society and other partners to help provide solutions to global threats, including the climate emergency,” said Mr. Guterres, urging participants to make sustainable urbanisation a reality and ensure that no one and no place is left behind.

Ms. Sharif said UN-Habitat could not have asked for a better host than Abu Dhabi. She highlighted the special significance of the 10th session of the World Urban Forum, saying the World Urban Forum had truly come of age as the world’s premier gathering of thinkers and doers for sustainable urbanisation, and this year it coincided with the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.

Thanking the President of Afghanistan and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji for their continued support of UN-Habitat, Ms. Sharif said it was their sense of urgency, their ability to translate policy into practice and to regard urbanisation in holistic terms that would ensure it could be transformed into opportunities for sustainable development.

President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan said that meeting the challenges posed by the scale and scope of urbanisation in the context of global uncertainty, disruptive and destructive change required fast action.

“Urgent, systematic and global action is required. We have the tools and repertoire of techniques to solve the problem,” he said, adding that the world needed change in the culture of states, culture of people, and the culture of global organisations. 

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji said the Forum offered the opportunity to discuss the role of cities in averting crises by making urban living synonymous with sustainability.

He said living standards in cities had grown remarkably, but that progress has come at the cost of a warming world.

“The old model of development is untenable; if we continue to urbanise on carbon-intensive industries, the world’s cities will crumble into hotbeds of inequality and extreme vulnerability,” he warned.

Welcoming participants to Abu Dhabi, the Chairman of the Department of Municipalities and Transport and coordinator of the Local Organising Committee of the 10th World Urban Forum, Falah Mohammad Al Ahbabi, thanked UN-Habitat for its support, guidance and vision in making the Forum in Abu Dhabi a reality.

“It is a privilege to see the world’s greatest minds in sustainability come together from more than 160 countries to challenge the conventional ways, to tackle crucial issues and discover new insights on urbanisation. With more than 18,000 registered participants and 580 speakers with 133 exhibitors, we have strengthened our capacity and remain united in our vision to create a better world for the next generation,” he said.

The ceremony opened with a dazzling virtual tour of Abu Dhabi featuring the some of the Emirate’s most important cultural sites.

The UN-Habitat Executive Director called for the Forum to come up with concrete action.

“What I hope to see from the 10th session is a set of declared actions. Commitments that we will make on a voluntary basis as individuals, communities, cities and countries, at local, regional and global levels, that help mark this Decade of Action to accomplish the SDGs by 2030,” she said.

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