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The World Urban Forum is a key United Nations event on the United Nations calendar designed to highlight the problems and possibilities of cities. With 50 per cent of the world's population already living in urban areas, and the figure set to increase within the next 50 years to two-thirds of humanity, the forum is intended to help the world community meet one of the main challenges of the new millennium - urbanization.

Today, despite the many benefits of globalization, we live in an age where television news brings remote conflicts to our doorsteps. At the same time, many cities suffer from an urban historical process that segregates ethnic minorities and excludes the poor. This is why the theme of the Second World Urban Forum was in the form of a question, Cities : Crossroads of cultures, inclusiveness and integration?

Held every two years, the World Urban Forum was designated by the UN General Assembly as an informal advisory body on urban issues of concern. The First World Urban Forum, on Sustainable Urbanization , was held in Nairobi , Kenya in 2002. It drew over 1,000 delegates. The Second World Urban Forum, in Barcelona , Spain , in September 2004, gathered more than 4,000 delegates from around the world representing governments, local authorities, non-governmental organizations, urban professionals and academics.

Key messages

In her invitation to delegates, Mrs. Tibaijuka said: “Finding ways to live together is what cities are all about, and UN-HABITAT takes pride in supporting and learning from a World Urban Forum that shares this goal. The World Urban Forum is an informal partners' forum that brings together governments, local authorities, civil society, NGOs, researchers, youth and all those who champion the city. By staging the Universal Forum of Cultures in Barcelona , seat of a rich Catalonian culture, has shown that the world is committed to cultural diversity. And by integrating the World Urban Forum into the Universal Forum of Cultures, Barcelona offers cities and citizens of the world a venue for learning – about cultural inclusion and integration.

In his message to the forum, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said : “Rapid urbanization is fast becoming one of the major challenges facing the international community, and the World Urban Forum offers an opportunity to discuss both the problems and the possibilities of the phenomenon. … It is critical the world's cities, now home to a majority of the world's population, are safe places where all people can benefit from urban development”.

Copyright © 2004 WORLD URBAN FORUM II. All rights reserved.