World Urban Forum is a chance to demonstrate how Abu Dhabi can diversify and be sustainable

H.E. Mohamed Al Khadar Al Ahmed, executive director of Strategic Affairs at Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT), Abu Dhabi shares his vision for a greener city

The Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT) is now working to host the activities of the tenth session of the World Urban Forum, in partnership with UN-Habitat. This great event takes place in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi from the 8th to the 13th February 2020, held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Today, we find ourselves facing a major responsibility towards organising the activities of the tenth session of the World Urban Forum, where for five days, Abu Dhabi will be transformed into a bustling hub and focal point for experts all around the world in smart and sustainable cities and sustainable urban development. There has been an announcement for more than 100 ministers and about 20 thousand people from more than 160 countries. From here, we had to formulate a clearly defined agenda for the World Urban Forum’s discussions and sessions during the six days of its convening.

In DMT, we look forward to cooperating with local and international partners, UN-Habitat, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates, to make this event held in Abu Dhabi the most attended and diversified session of the World Urban Forum among the previous sessions since it started in 2001.

The recommendations and results of the tenth session of the World Urban Forum will have a significant impact upon achieving the vision of integrated and sustainable urban growth in Abu Dhabi.

The DMT vision does not only cover Abu Dhabi, however – this also covers a series of countries around the world for several generations to come. The approach is in line with the continuous development of the urban environments of the Emirates, where Abu Dhabi is particularly quick to improve and develop the social, economic, environmental and cultural dimensions of urban development.

We were determined to adopt an agenda that includes several major themes for the discussions and sessions of the tenth session of the World Urban Forum, and carries with it legal implications prepared by UN-Habitat such as exploring the current status of urban law in cities and towns at the global level, understanding the role that urban law plays in facilitating good urban development, and defining and reinforcing urban law methodologies and mechanisms that promote sustainable human settlements development.

Based upon the contents of UN-Habitat, we have formulated the agenda of the tenth session of the World Urban Forum to include each of the following points: formulating a common approach at the level of the Arab region to establish sustainable future cities, formulating a mechanism to involve local communities in sustainable urban development, improving the quality of life, formulating an outlook agenda on the future of Arab cities sustainability, and formulating general points that summarise the challenges that stop the achievement of sustainable development of Arab cities and how to confront them and put them as a priority within future plans.

The launch of the agenda of the tenth session of the World Urban Forum stems from the close cooperation with UN-Habitat, where the most prominent objective of this cooperation is to discuss ways to build sustainable cities socially and environmentally. Coordinating on the issues of urbanisation and human settlements is an important topic to the United Nations, and it is important to aim towards ensuring good urban planning, adequate housing and infrastructure, provide job opportunities, and providing essential services such as water, energy and sanitation.

Principles for preparing the agenda for the tenth session of the World Urban Forum came from the major documents outlining the mandate of UN-Habitat in the Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements (Habitat I), the Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements (Habitat II and the Habitat Agenda), the Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the new millennium , General Assembly Resolution 56/206, and other internationally agreed development goals, including the goals set out in the United Nations Millennium Declaration (General Assembly Resolution 55/2).

The themes that were formulated for the tenth session of the World Urban Forum are in line with the UAE Centennial Plan and the objectives of the National Agenda 2021. We are committed to sustainable development plans approved by the United Nations 2030, as well as the consistency of the agenda and the goals of the World Urban Forum, and according to the new urban agenda that charts the operational approach developed by UN-Habitat, which sets global standards for achievement in sustainable urban development.

The Arab region suffers from an imbalance between the rates of urban growth and the needs of the population. The discussions of the World Urban Forum will provide recommendations that help in the developing urban systems and policies that are in line with rapid economic, social and technological changes. It will also meet the main goals of the United Nations urban agenda that was adopted in Kyoto 2016 for sustainable cities.

The long-term development strategy for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi comes to focus on the renewable energy sector to diversify sources of income and diversify the return in the gross domestic product of the capital. Abu Dhabi has come a long way in this field, making it a pioneer in the field of sustainability and the optimal use of clean energy, which we find has a big recognition in urban planning for cities, as adopting sustainability is a strategic alternative to urban development globally.

Abu Dhabi has an exemplary model of sustainable urban development, where Masdar city is one of the most sustainable urban communities in the world and includes a growing low carbon complex based on clean technologies. It includes a free zone, a residential area, restaurants, retail stores, and green parks. Masdar has built its philosophy based on three pillars of economic, social and environmental sustainability and is making a green footprint for sustainable urban development in cities, to provide realistic solutions in the field of water, energy efficiency and waste reduction.

As Masdar City is a living model open to the public – as it brings together tourists, residents, students, academics, businessmen, business leaders and investors in a collaborative environment that allows them to work, entertainment and live in a sustainable manner –  through the World Urban Forum we can move forward to a more spacious world in building smart and sustainable cities as an ideal option on all economic, social, and environmental levels. This approach is in line with the aims of the UAE government, and according to the new urban agenda that charts a practical approach developed by the UN-Habitat, which will set the standards for global achievement in sustainable urban development.

Abu Dhabi has demonstrated its ability to develop its strategic growth in a sustainable manner as the urban environment in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is distinguished by its unique urban identity and openness to the whole world. As the World Urban Forum is being held for the first time in the Middle East and the Arab world, this will give a strong testament to the success of Abu Dhabi’s strategy in implementing sustainability Urbanization, as the city underwent a massive shift towards urbanization in a relatively short time. The World Urban Forum will provide a detailed study on the effects of modern-day urbanization on societies, cities, economies, and climate change.”

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