Top 5 Highlights at WUF10: An Inside Look From a Delegate
By Anne Ageh, UNA-Canada Service Corps Delegate
The United Arab Emirates is at the forefront of urban innovation, symbolizing the key themes of the 10th session of the World Urban Forum (WUF); Connecting Culture and Innovation. Abu Dhabi, as the host city of the event, brought together government representatives, NGOs, business professionals, and youth to engage in topics and conversations about the challenges of urban growth and what could be done to help reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. My experience as a UNA-Canada Service Corps Delegate was an amazing learning and growth experience that will impact my future civic community involvement and awareness of local and global issues. WUF10 had hundreds of events, sessions, and speakers - but here’s my top 5 list of highlights from the event to give you a glimpse into this international conference!
1. Urban Cinema
At the conference they set up an area to screen short films related to the themes of culture and innovation. This was really interesting, as it was another medium to experience learning and gave a good visual representation of urban challenges faced in other parts of the world. One of the screenings was about a person working on low cost sanitation models in slum neighborhoods of Pakistan. The short film was able to show the challenges, but also the progress and innovation that young people bring to the table.
2. Youth Assembly
During the conference there were five main assemblies running concurrently; Women’s, Business, Grassroots, Local & Regional Governments, and Youth. I was able to attend the Youth assembly where they spoke about young people being empowered and having a voice in innovation to solve urban challenges. The discussion focused on advocating for youth-led solutions, culture of innovation amongst young people, and developing capacity for skills to reach the SDGs by 2030. There were a variety of speakers from UN-Habitat, UNEP, Fridays For Future Uganda, human rights activists, young entrepreneurs, and many more. I learned a lot from the work that everyone was doing internationally, and was really inspired by each person’s story and motivation to empower youth and create change. 3. Panel Sessions/Side Events The side events brought together a panel of diverse experts on specific topics such as housing, transit, climate actions, and more. My favorite part about these events were that the panel speakers were all from different fields of work, like an NGO and government, however they all had relevant and important perspectives that they were able to bring to the table. The sessions also allowed time for a question and answer period to get further detail on the topics.
4. Training Sessions These sessions differed from panel events, as they were usually smaller groups and encouraged discussion between speakers and other attendees. Training sessions also allowed for more interactive activities, so it was a great way to take the knowledge and learning from panel sessions and apply it within an activity. One of the sessions I attended was on urban transit systems, and I was able to work with urban planning professionals from Australia and Ghana in order to develop frameworks for an ideal urban transit ecosystem. This was a great learning experience, as I was able to have a better understanding of the different local challenges that each country experienced in regards to public transportation. 5. Urban Expo At the event center they set up an exhibition area with booths for many countries to display their innovations in urban city planning, transportation modernizations, and other projects focused on improving urban life. These booths featured robots that can respond to user commands to automate reception, interactive mapping exhibits, and miniature models of the future of cities like Moscow. It was great to see the sheer amount of creativity that cities are employing to tackle the challenges of urbanization, for example using AI to create more energy efficient heating/cooling systems. Still the exhibit was true to the themes of the conference and was able to bridge the gap with cultural showcases as well. The local ministry was able to display the rich culture of the UAE and brought in falcons, the national bird, and also showed how they are using data to monitor the population of the birds in order to preserve their numbers.