30 October 2021, Dubai, United Arab Emirates – World Cities Day was celebrated at Expo 2020 Dubai with a series of events aligned to this year’s theme Adapting Cities for Climate Resilience at the Nexus for People and Planet, Opportunity District.

The first event, called Strengthening collaborations for a green and resilient urban recovery in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), was opened by the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer. He said the UAE announced a strategic initiative to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, making it the first country in the Middle East and North Africa.

UN-Habitat’s Chief of Urban Global Practices, Shipra Narang Suri, stated that the Arab region is one of the most water-scarce areas globally, with the current utilization rate of water resources estimated at 76.6 per cent compared to about 7.5 per cent worldwide.

“Water scarcity is a major issue in 19 of the 22 Arab countries, while desertification and land degradation affect 17 countries,” she said.

Panelists, including representatives from national and locals as well as the private sector and international organizations, presented best practices from MENA cities in recovery from crises and conflicts.

During the session, UN-Habitat and the World Green Building Council launched the Executive Summary – Guidelines for Sustainable Reconstruction and Urban Regeneration in the MENA Region. The guidelines support mainstreaming climate resilience in the different stages of recovery and seize the opportunity of post-disaster and post-conflict recovery to build back better and greener and apply principles of affordability, resilience and sustainability to create healthy resource-secure and climate-resilient societies.  They are designed to be used by a wide range of stakeholders, including national and local governments, civil society, NGOs, the private sector and urban practitioners and researchers.

To close the morning session, UN-Habitat’s Wa’el Al Ashhab, Head of Iraq and Yemen country programmes, spoke on unlocking opportunities in the MENA region through advancing green recovery and reconstruction.

Meanwhile in the afternoon at the Poland Pavilion, UN-Habitat’s Chief of Strategic, Monitoring and Reporting Unit Asa Jonsson urged participants at the Green City, Green People event that “solutions to solve emissions lie with cities. By working through the New Urban Agenda and the SDGs, we can solve almost 90 per cent of all emissions.” During the Global Best Practices Programme session Ms. Kerstin Sommer, Chief of the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme at UN-Habitat, presented a project in Ghana which has helped to transform over 100,000 lives.

Later that evening, an open discussion focused on youth perspectives for urban climate action, which brought together some 30 young activists and experts to discuss climate mitigation and adaptation in cities. Participants shared inspiring initiatives and focused on how the Eleventh Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF) due to take place in Katowice, Poland, next year can advance the transformation of cities to become greener and more resilient.

The World Urban Forum Youth Council representative, Katarzyna Smętek, said, “Climate action cannot take place without young people. The youth can start different initiatives that tackle climate change and share them with policymakers as well as inspire others to take action.”

Ms. Malgorzata Jarosińska – Jedynak, Secretary of State at Poland’s Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy and Government Plenipotentiary for WUF advised the youth that the planned legacy for the upcoming Forum is to develop an action plan for cities to implement the 2030 Agenda to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. She encouraged youth to use WUF as an excellent opportunity to help make the world a better place.