Records broken as curtains fall on WUF7

Medellin, 11 April 2014

A record 22,000 people had attended the Seventh Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF7) as it came to a close in Medellin Colombia on Friday evening with many describing it as the best ever Forum so far.

Speaker after speaker paid glowing tribute to the Local Organising Committee and the Mayor of Medellin Mr. Anibal Gaviria, as well as the government and the people of Colombia for what they described as a well organised forum, warm welcome and challenging debates. “This success is for the people of Medellin and Colombia as a whole,” Mayor Gaviria declared. “Ten successive governments have been very supportive of the transformation of Medellin and I am challenging other Colombian cities which want to have similar positive changes to come to us for advice,” he said.

At the closing ceremony, winners of the Scroll of Honour Awards were feted by the high table which included Mayor Gaviria, Governor of Antioquia Mr. Sergio Farjado, Housing Minister Mr, Luis Felipe Cardona and UN-Habitat Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos. The winners were the UPP Social Programme of the Municipality of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, People’s Government of Shouguang in China and the Ministry of Urban Development of Ethiopia. Others were Suwon City of the Republic of Korea, the Community Led Infrastructure Facility (CLIFF) of the United Kingdom and Ms Diana Deacon.

In his message Governor Farjado named corruption as the elephant in the room. Alluding to the successful war against gangs and cartels which Antioquia in general and Medellin in particular had waged, Mr, Fajardo warned that that could be a walk in the park when compared to corruption. “Corruption is harder to fight than guerrillas,” he said.  Minister Cardona also talked of the same theme saying that it was determination that had seen the image of Medellin and Colombia changed from that of destruction to transformation. Dr. Clos concluded that the meeting was a resounding success. “Let us use what we have learnt to change the cities of the world,” he said.

At a press conference earlier in the day, Dr Clos urged partners to support a stand-alone urban goal in the Sustainable Development Goals as they work towards the Third UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in 2016.

Vía UN-Habitat:

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On Second Day of WUF7, Launch of Media Academies and 13,000 accredited WUF participants

Medellín, 6 April 2014

Sunday was a vibrant day for new things at the WUF7 in Medellín. Between the launch of its media Academies, and reaching a record number of accredited participants by the second day, the weekend proved auspicious for the coming week of WUF7.

The first ever WUF Media Academies Series had the objective of sharing tools with the urbanist community that complement their work, either as journalists, or as urban development practitioners, so to strengthen their role as global advocates for equitable and sustainable cities.

International journalists gathered at the Urban Journalism academy to learn from a lineup of civic leaders, urbanisation experts, and veteran urban journalists, including Edwin Heathcote of the Financial Times, Ana Noemi DeSousa of Al Jazeeera, and Ernesto Cortés, of El Tiempo. Participants were welcomed in the  morning by the Mayor of Medellín, Aníbal Gaviria, and later enjoyed a lunch with UN-Habitat Executive Director, Joan Clos. Journalistic observations were made in regards to the importance of providing more focus on covering the day to day life in the city.

The Digital Media Academy aimed to showcase digital media tools for urban development practitioners that could boost their scope and visibility of their work. Jorge Bela, of, which hosts the WUF7 E-Debates, moderated the event. Panelists included Tobias Kettner and Andrea Garcia of UN-Habitat, Maya Brahmam of the World Bank, Benjamin Krause of J/P Haitian Relief Organization, and Kirstin Miller of EcoCity Builders. The participating organizations shared valuable insights addressing three different uses for digital media: online crowdfunding, massive open online courses (MOOCs) for educational purposes, and crowdsourcing information on the community level for participatory policy making processes.

By the end of the day, the WUF7 Secretariat revealed over social media that they had reached nearly 13,000 registered participants by the end of the weekend, and nearly 3,000 users on the conference's tailor-made networking platform, #ourWUF.

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On WUF7 Day 1, Clos says he wants "a realistic urban forum"

Medelín, April 5, 2014

The first day of WUF7 jumped right into action all over Medellín. At the venue, Plaza Mayor, UN-Habitat Executive Director, Joan Clos completed accreditation this morning, along with the Colombian Minister of Housing, Luis Felipe Henao and Mayor of Medellín, Aníbal Gaviria.

Afterwards, they inaugurated the Exhibition, where they participated in a traditional induction ceremony in the ONE-UN Room with the Huitoto community members who built it using ancient indigenous building rituals.

The first morning of WUF7 also featured a Gender Exploratory Walk in the neighborhood of Moravia, known for its beginnings as an informal settlement on a dumpster, attended by the UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director, Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, and members of the Municipality of Medellín. The walk was organized by UN-Habitat and la Alcaldía de Medellín, coordinated with Red Mujer in the neighborhood of Moravia in Medellín.

With the theme, urban equity in mind, the walk focused on identifying physical and social situations that women perceive as dangerous in the neighborhood, in order to promote the understanding and commitment of local authorities and decision makers for the improvement of such conditions. Participants were reminded of the stark realities that many women in vulnerable communities continue to face every day, such as domestic violence and sexual assault. Speakers emphasized the importance of creating safe urban spaces for everyone, with the goal of assuring safe spaces for women and girls for reasons of both public health and space.

Finally, in an afternoon press conference, Dr. Clos confirmed that by the end of the first day of WUF7, 10,000 participants had been accredited. When asked why Medellín was selected for WUF7, he said, "we want a realistic world urban forum, we want a forum in a real city that has real issues...Colombia has real difficulties, but also the will to go beyond this". In reference to the world coming to Medellín for a week, he said, "we will all become paisas for 5 days".

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From left to right, Colombian Ambassador to Kenya, Maria Eugenia Olarte, UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director, Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, UN Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Joan Clos, Mayor of host city, Medellín, Aníbal Gaviria, and UN Resident Coordinator in Colombia, Fabrizio Hochschild. Photo courtesy of UN-Habitat.

WUF7 Flag Raising Ceremony with Joan Clos and Aníbal Gaviria

Medellín, 4 April, 2014

The WUF7 ceremoniously kicked off its week of global discourse dedicated to urban equity and development in Medellín, Colombia today, with the arrival of UN Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Joan Clos, and UN-Habitat’s Deputy Executive Director, Aisa Kirabo Kacyira. At this afternoon’s Flag Raising Ceremony, they were accompanied by Mayor of host city, Medellín, Aníbal Gaviria,  Colombian Ambassador to Kenya, Maria Eugenia Olarte, and UN Resident Coordinator in Colombia, Fabrizio Hochschild.

This year’s discussions will hold a firm vision towards a new urban agenda for Post-2015 and Habitat III, and focus on the theme “Urban Equity in Development - Cities for Life”. On the first day of WUF, the public Exhibition launches the event Saturday morning with over 100 organizations hosting Exhibition booths showcasing urban innovation and hosting events.

Also featured in this year’s WUF Exhibition is a maloca community home, which is traditional to the indigenous Huitoto peoples of Colombia, and is a symbol for unity with and respect for the universe and Mother Earth. This structure was built by a Huitoto family using ancient building practices, without harnesses and with only 100% materials. The maloca is located at the center of the UN-Habitat Pavilion, where the ONE-UN Room events will take place.

WUF7 invites both registered participants and the public to visit the Exhibition, which is open all week from 8:30 am - 6:30 pm.

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UN-Habitat launches social network for WUF7

Medellín, 24 March, 2014

UN-Habitat launched the #ourWUF social network on its official website today, offering a tool for WUF7 participants to start networking before arriving in Medellín for the World Urban Forum on April 5-11. 

#OurWUF is the digital culmination of the World Urban Forum’s long tradition of facilitating open discourse and engagement with all sectors involved in urban development on a global level.  In order to create a sustainable and inclusive New Urban Agenda for Habitat III and Post-2015 Development Agenda, promoting dialogue between the different actors within development is paramount. The intention is that #ourWUF will act as the digital equivalent to the traditional Networking Events at WUF7, and help actors throughout the field to meet, exchange ideas and best practices, form new partnerships, and strengthen existing ones. 

This social network will be a powerful tool for expanding collaboration across the urban development field by increasing the visibility of actors within intersecting professional focus areas. Doing so, it will facilitate connections among elected officials, urban planners, architects, activists, academics, journalists, students, project financiers and private sector partners, among others, with each other. Knowing how busy participants become during the Forum, #ourWUF aims to assist WUF7 participants in fitting productive meetings into their schedule ahead of time. 

The #OurWUF social network is accessible for WUF7 participants on the WUF7 website,, or directly at Once an account is set up, the platform allows WUF7 participants to network based on mutual professional focus areas, countries, cities, and organizations.  In order to maintain security and prevent overuse, emails are only revealed when invitations are accepted, and users are limited to one meeting request per contact.

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Nearly 25,000 people registered for WUF7 in Medellín

Nairobi, 17 March, 2014

UN-Habitat and the WUF7 Secretariat confirm that the Seventh session of the World Urban Forum (WUF7) has nearly 25,000 registered participants, after closing its registration on March 16.

The WUF7 will take place in Medellín, Colombia and host participants from 164 countries. The WUF7’s Programme of Events includes an anticipated number of 500 partner events, such as Networking and Training Events, and 110 confirmed stands in the Exhibition. The Exhibition is traditionally one of the most energetic and stimulating areas of the Forum; it is open to the public and does not require registration. Other publicly accessible events at WUF7 include the City Changer and One UN Room, the Urban Library and Cinema Room, the Agora Room, and the Colombian Pavilion.

For those who missed the registration deadline or cannot make it to Medellín, WUF7’s digital media campaign is focusing on providing opportunities for involvement from any device with an internet connection. The WUF TV page on the website will live stream selected dialogues and events for viewers to watch from anywhere in the world. Additionally, the WUF7 E-Debates, done in partnership with the Ford Foundation and, are currently open, and inviting the public to contribute their perspectives. The conclusions from these online debates will be incorporated into the Final Concept Paper.

Finally, you can follow the discussions with #WUF7 and #urbanequity, and @worldurbanforum.

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WUF7 will host the first UN-Habitat Urban Journalism Academy

Medellín, March, 16 2014

The WUF7 will host the first UN-Habitat Urban Journalism Academy, a pioneer UN-Habitat initiative intended for international and national journalists, and media professionals who are interested or involved in urban development.

The academy will take place on Sunday, April 6, 2014. The agenda includes a program for journalists from all over the world, that offers a unique opportunity to exchange experiences, lessons learned, and innovative examples of communication for development in urban context. Sessions will address media's challenges from different points of view, spanning the local to the global levels, and highlighting forefront ways to report a city.

Through the Academy, UN-Habitat aims to share substantive knowledge about the main issues of planning and city management in order to strengthen media capacity to analyze the overall process of urbanization and cover social and economic issues facing cities in the 21st century.

Looking at the global discussions towards a ‘New Urban Agenda’, the role of journalists and media professionals is crucial to make urban development issues and challenges clear and accessible to the general public, beyond the professionals, researchers, and public authorities, bringing the urban debate closer to the average citizen.

The academy intersects with a critical moment in history in which the media can and should have a more proactive and substantive role in the development of their cities and to become spokespersons of sustainable urban development. 

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21,000 Registered for the Seventh session of the World Urban Forum

Medellín, 14 March 2014

UN-Habitat and the World Urban Forum Secretariat confirm that the Seventh session of the World Urban Forum (WUF7) has reached over 21.000 registered participants. The WUF7, hosted by UN-Habitat, meets every two years, and is the World's Premier Conference on Cities that convenes policymakers, civil society, urbanists, economists, researchers, academics, and other development practitioners to discuss the future of the global urban development agenda.

This year’s theme is “Urban Equity in Development - Cities for Life”, and addresses the pressing issue of inequality nearing the end of the Millennium Development Goals, and in preparation for Post-2015 Agenda and the Habitat III Conference in 2016. Confirmed speakers at the WUF7 include Nobel Laureate Economist, Joseph Stiglitz, Professor and writer, Richard Florida, Planner and Urbanist, Brent Toderian, and Professor and writer, Richard Sennett.

The conference will be hosted by the city of Medellín, Colombia from 5-11 April 2014. Medellín has made a remarkable transformation in recent years, using progressive urban planning to battle social exclusion and leave its violent history behind. For these efforts, the city was named the World's Most Innovative in 2012.

Registration remains open on this website until 16 March, at 11:59 PM.

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Photo courtesy of Oscar Garces, with illustration by Andrea Posada.

10,000 Participants are registered to attend the World Urban Forum

Nairobi, 20 February, 2014

UN-Habitat (The United Nations Human Settlements Programme) has confirmed that over 10,000 individuals have registered to attend the World’s Premier Conference on Cities, the Seventh session of the World Urban Forum (WUF7). The biennial conference will take place from April 5-11 in its host city, Medellín, Colombia.  The WUF7 will gather a wide range of urban experts to discuss the selected theme, “Urban Equity in Development - Cities for Life”

During this week, national, regional and local governments, research institutions, international development practitioners, community-based organizations, universities, urbanists, journalists, and others, will have the opportunity to partake in discussions concerning inequality and urban development. The WUF foments a dynamic exchange of ideas, best practices and good policies, to inform the New Urban Agenda for the Post-2015 resolutions, and Habitat III.

Medellín was selected as host of this year’s WUF for its achievements in setting a new global standard for urban policy and innovation. The city has undergone a remarkable transformation, from a violent past, to becoming one of Latin America’s cultural and commercial centers. Here, architecture and public transportation are used as means of social inclusion.

Participants who are already registered are advised to reserve their flights and accommodation in Medellín now using the WUF7 Booking Center.  

If you have not yet registered, don’t miss this opportunity to add your voice to the discussion on urban equity and development with 10,000 other people who are passionate about setting a new and bold trajectory for the future of the world’s rapid urbanization and environment. Register on the WUF7 website today. The registration deadline is March 16, 2014.

We look forward to seeing you in Medellín in April!

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Left to right: Filiep Decorte, Javier Leon, Michael Metzler, Jaana Remes and Nicholas You. Photo Credit: Larry Handerhan.

The U.S. delegation prepares for WUF7

Washington D.C., 4 February, 2014

The Seventh Session of the World Urban Forum is just 2 months away, and participating countries are preparing their delegations with panel discussions and dialogues to gather ideas relating to urban equity to include at WUF7. The United States kicked off this process on February 4th last week in Washington D.C. with the first of five discussions, organized by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Atlantic Council, and Next City. Future discussions will take place over the next few weeks through early March in Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. 

With over 200 people in attendance, the panelists included a range of perspectives to begin to examine the complexities of this year's WUF7 theme, "Urban Equity in Development - Cities for Life". Matthew Burrows, director of the Atlantic Council’s Strategic Foresight Initiative, and H.E. Luis Carlos Villegas, Colombia’s Ambassador to the U.S, provided context for the discussions, explaining the positive impact that Colombia's rapid urbanization has had in cutting its poverty rate in half since 2000. Burrows noted that in the global context, having Medellín host this year's WUF not only showcases Latin America's impressive urbanizing speed, but also brings into the spotlight a city that is a global example for innovation in policymaking and urban design. 

The first discussion, "Public-Private Partnerships for Equitable Twenty-First Century Cities", explored the role of the private sector in achieving urban equity with panelists, Pamela Flaherty of Citi Foundation, Alonzo Fulgham of CH2M Hill, and Ana Marie Argilagos of HUD. Jason Marczak, of Atlantic Council, moderated the panel, which discussed the possibilities with public-private partnerships for communities that have experienced resource or institutional challenges. Panelists emphasized the idea that a strong local government is key in designing successful partnerships with private sector organizations to address local infrastructure, technical, and service needs. 

Social and economic inclusion were the focus of the next panel, “Harnessing Urban Innovation for Global Inclusive Development”, with Javier Leon from the Inter-American Development Bank, Michael Metzler of USAID, Jaana Remes from McKinsey Global Institute, Nicholas You of the World Urban Campaign Steering Committee, and moderated by UN-Habitat's Filiep Decorte. Leon pointed to the governance implications for countries such as Colombia, in which a quickly rising middle class is calling for inclusion, and overall better governance on all levels. Balancing both mechanisms for improved governance and investment in large-scale infrastructure and service projects is the challenge. This leads to the need for strengthening local governments where the issues are seen directly, and inspire innovative solutions tailored to the city itself. Additionally, pointed out Mr. You, local governments must shape themselves to adapt to the evolving nature of cities, which now occurs faster than ever. 

Having social inclusion, strong governance, and public-private sector partnerships at the center of these preliminary talks for the U.S. delegation foreshadows stimulating debates and idea sharing at the upcoming World Urban Forum with all other participating national delegations and organizations. Moreover, this illustrates the presence of increasingly activist populations, who are beginning to see what responsive governments could look like. 

The U.S. delegation will host over 30 events at the World Urban Forum in Medellín. See the WUF7 Programme at a Glance for more details. 

Registration for the World Urban Forum is available online until March 16

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Colombia will host over 500 mayors at the World Urban Forum

Bogotá, 22 January, 2014

At a press conference at the United Nations Information Center in Bogotá on Wednesday January 22, Colombia's Minister of Housing, Luis Felipe Henao, Ana Moreno, Spokesperson for UN-Habitat, Jorge Perez, Director of the Department of City Planning for Medellín, Fabrizio Hochschild, UN Resident Coordinator in Colombia, and Patty Londoño, Vice Minister of External Affairs, answered questions from over 50 journalists representing local, national and international media outlets, about the upcoming World Urban Forum. 

Addressing the Forum's impact, both in Colombia, and around the world, Henao noted the exceptional opportunity this is for Colombia to display the progress it has made in regards to social urbanism, an egalitarian approach to urban development. "We will show the world Colombia's advancements as a country, and that we are a country ready to have just and equitable cities for peace", said Henao. The UN's Hochschild added that the Forum will contribute to changing the global perception of Medellín as being one of the most dangerous cities in the world, to becoming a model for urban innovation on the global stage. 

According to UN-Habitat's Ana Moreno, the WUF7 expects 10,000 participants, including over 500 mayors and 80 ministers from 150 different countries.  Moreno also noted that this is a key moment for sustainable urban development, with the global population having reached more urban residents than rural for the first time in history. With 52% of the people on earth living in cities, of these, 8.62 billion live in slums and without basic services, thus bringing in equalities to the top of the agenda. 

Given this reality as we near the end of the Millennium Development Goals, WUF7 is critical in integrating urban development into the Post 2015 Development Agenda, and later, will feed into the Habitat III participatory process for the imagination and design of the New Urban Agenda in 2016. Despite the urban population bypassing the rural, when asked about smaller towns, Moreno stated, "achieving an urban-rural balance is successful development". Other topics Moreno mentioned would be central discussions at the Forum include equitable urban development to achieve peace, resilience to disaster, and gender equality with safer cities. 

To register to attend the World Urban Forum from April 5-11 in Medellín, please click here.

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Application Deadline is January 31!

Medellín, 20 January, 2014

There are only a few days left before the January 31 deadline to apply to host a booth at the World Urban Forum Exhibition. Make sure to apply for the opportunity to showcase your work for an international audience of urbanists, activists, academics, publishers, creators, and policy makers. To apply, visit our Exhibition application page on the UN-Habitat website. To apply, visit our WUF7 Exhibition page, and click on Exhibition Application.

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Over 550 Applications Received

Nairobi, 22 November, 2013

Submission of Networking and Side events applications closed on 30 October 2013 and nearly 550 applications have been received. This huge turnout reflects the interest oforganizations and institutions working on sustainable urban development from all over the world in WUF7 and UN-Habitat would like to say THANK YOU to all those who have forwarded their submission.

To be part of the official programme at the Forum in Medellin reflects the importance of the main theme Urban Equity in Development - Cities for Life and the desire to actively contribute to the discussion. The selection process has begun and event organizers shall be informed of the outcome from 4 December 2013 onwards

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Colombia warms up for World Urban Forum 7

Medellín, 7 October, 2013

On World Habitat Day this year, the Colombian Minister of Housing, Luis Felipe Henao Cardona, the Mayor of Medellin, Anibal Gaviria and the Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Dr. Joan Clos, oversaw the presentation of the Seventh Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF7) in Medellin, that will be held in the same city from 5-11 April next year.

The event opened with an official message by the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, in which expressed the support of the Colombia on the global discussion of sustainable urbanization. The Mayor of Medellin highlighted the theme of the Forum – “Urban Equity in Development – Cities for Life” as a crucial debate for a city like Medellin. Anibal Gaviria said that the World Urban Forum will be the biggest international event held in Medellin ever and he stressed his commitment to the sustainable urban transformation of the city.

Dr. Joan Clos remarked that “cities must be more dense, compact, integrative and inclusive to reduce inequalities and reclaim public space as a common good for all citizens”. He added that the Forum will be the key platform for discussing the role of sustainable urbanization within the framework of the Post-2015 development goals and the Third Conference of Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, in 2016.

The World Urban Forum will gather more than 10,000 participants –heads of state, governors, mayors, the international community, professionals and the private sector - from over 130 countries at the Convention Center Plaza Mayor of Medellin. The celebration had a festive tone with artistic performances and the participation of Medellin’s citizens.  One of the activities organized for welcoming the World Urban Forum7 was a flashmob by hundreds of ‘city changers’, music and dance while the volunteers were waving colorful flags.

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Come one, come all: Medellín Mayor welcomes delegates to Seventh Forum

Naples, 6 September, 2012

From pain to hope then to life. This is the simple message the Mayor of Medellín Mr. Anibal Gaviria Correa says he wants to pass to the delegates visiting his city for the Seventh Session of the World Urban Forum in 2014.

He says that the image of Medellín as a brutal city where violence was the rule rather than the exception has long been rectified. “We want to showcase that we have truly changed our city for the better and we hope those attending the Forum will be able to see this.”, Mr. Gaviria said during an interview at the close of the Sixth Session of World Urban Forum in Naples, Italy.

“This is a great honour to the people of Colombia, to the residents of Medellín and to me personally and I am inviting all to come and sample the hospitality we have to offer,” he said.

According to the mayor, Medellín had made huge progress towards ensuring peace and stability, two key ingredients he said contributed to the attraction of investment to a place.

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