#WUF10 Opening Ceremony Speech Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif UN-Habitat


Your Highnesses, Excellencies, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you to the tenth session of the World Urban Forum. This is the first time the WUF is taking place in the Arab region and we cannot ask for a better host than the emirate of Abu Dhabi. With the indulgence of His Highness, please accept the grateful thanks of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat, for your generous support.

The leadership of His Excellency Falah Al Ahbabi and the Department of Municipalities and Transport, including His Excellency Mohamed Al Kader, has truly made this a demonstration of good cooperation between the United Nations and Abu Dhabi.

Your Highness, this 10th session of the World Urban Forum is full of special significance. Not only is the WUF truly coming of age as the world’s premier gathering of thinkers and doers for sustainable urbanization, but this year, WUF coincides with the 75th anniversary year of the United Nations.

As stated by the Secretary-General, the world needs multilateralism to resolve the great challenges of our times - the climate emergency and its underlying causes - an economic system that is unsustainable. WUF demonstrates of the kind of cooperation the world needs today, bringing together over 80 ministers, 70 mayors and over 18,000 participants from 140 nations.

The growth trajectory of the WUF demonstrates the importance of Sustainable Development Goal number 11. The concentration of resources, talent, capital and power in city-regions is the mega trend of this new millennium. With 60% of the world’s population projected to live in urban areas by 2030, urbanization is inevitable and if left unplanned, it will continue to lead humanity deeper into the climate emergency and higher forms of inequality and deprivation.

Your Highnesses, Excellencies, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

As all of you know, we have the ability to turn urban challenges into opportunities. This is why the theme of this Tenth session of the World Urban Forum is entitled “Cities of Opportunities”. In the past four decades, UN-Habitat has worked with communities, local and national governments to demonstrate that integrated, holistic and participatory planning can turn urbanization into a development bonus. We need urban planners, architects, sociologists and other related professionals to help steer decision-makers towards sustainable development.

Ultimately, we need visionary leadership. Please allow me to acknowledge and thank His Excellency Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan and His Excellency Frank Bainimarama Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji for their continued support of UN-Habitat. It is their sense of urgency, their ability to translate policy into practice and to regard urbanization in holistic terms and not as something sectoral to be confined to any single ministry that will ensure urbanization can be transformed into opportunities for sustainable development.

SDG number 11 is where all of the SDGs come together for safe, sustainable and inclusive development. The only way we can realise this potential is if we can bring together key thinkers, doers, financiers, grassroots leaders, youth, women, people with disabilities, older persons, and decision-makers to think and do in a different scale. Get all of them to turn urbanization into a net positive contributor to life on earth.

The Decade of Action called for by the Secretary-General opens a wonderful window of opportunity to the sustainable urban development agenda. Urbanization and cities are considered as an entry point for the 17 goals because their density, economies of scale and proximity are akin to an invisible string that brings all the development goals together. WUF 10 is more than a conference; it is a social accounting act, and an opportunity to reaffirm commitments beyond general statements and declarations..

In order to ensure the solutions implemented are comprehensive and not merely reactive, we need a convener, a facilitator and an investor. Through the WUF, UN-Habitat and our generous host cities have the opportunity to convene the world’s single best urban forum. This year, despite the challenges, we have some 18,000 registrants. At this point, please allow me to express our solidarity with the citizens of the People’s Republic of China and especially our friends in the city of Wuhan, who continue to work very hard and at great cost to their economy to keep the rest of us safe.