After one week, hundreds of events, the World Urban Forum 9 (WUF9), held in Kuala Lumpur from 7-13 February 2018, has drawn to a close. WUF9 welcomed about 23,000 people from 165 countries to discuss the implementation of the New Urban Agenda (NUA). It was the best attended and most diverse WUFs since it was established in 2002. Roughly half of the participants were under 32, and 49% were women. Over 100 ministers and vice ministers attended, and over 6,000 people came to Malaysia for WUF9 from around the world.

The closing ceremony was presided over by Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director, and Tan Sri Noh Bin Haji Omar, Malaysian Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Governments. In the words of Ms. Sharif, “Our journeys this week were all different, but our destination is the same: inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable human settlements for all.”

WUF9 is the first UN-Habitat conference since Habitat III, the UN conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, held in October 2016 in Quito, Ecuador.  The NUA was agreed at Habitat III, and WUF9 serves as an important milestone in the twenty-year interval between Habitat conferences. The conference theme, “Cities 2030: Cities for All” points to the range of people that the WUF9 and NUA seek to address, making cities liveable and urban resources accessible for everyone – and the scope of efforts presented in the context of the WUF9. The theme also points to the need for long-term thinking, and long-range planning, inherent in the New Urban Agenda’s scope of concerns and goals.

The programme of the WUF9 allowed for everyone from government ministers, agency officials, stakeholder groups and the general public to share in the process of realizing the wide-ranging principles and goals of the New Urban Agenda, aligned with other global frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030. WUF9 created an open environment where multi-stakeholder, cross-agency, international initiatives found working synergies. WUF9 demonstrated that implementation efforts are well underway, with a range of substantive steps toward the realization of sustainable urban development around the world.

The seven days were packed with the announcement of innovative partnerships, detailed strategic and action frameworks, plans for urban projects large and small, and other groundwork for comprehensive and holistic development in the future. National voluntary commitments to the principles of the NUA were renewed and reiterated. The WUF9 served as an ecosystem in which partnerships and initiatives can be facilitated, catalysed and incubated. Forging a robust, enabling environment will continue to be essential as the implementation process continues. Significant progress was made in creating that environment, one that is resilient and flexible enough to work across the world in many different contexts, acknowledging the challenges of rolling out a global agenda for cities.

Three main themes emerged; present in a diversity of sessions, and taken up as points of discussion by the full range of WUF9 participants. The first was a strong tendency toward ways of working together, breaking down disciplinary and institutional siloes, to create innovative new working groups and leverage the resulting transformative methods. The second was the recognition and frequent acknowledgement that the NUA is a truly global agenda, applicable at all levels of governance, from local, regional and national to international – and at all scales of urbanization, from rural settlements to peri-urban areas, island-nations, and cross-border territories to cities of all sizes. The third was a clear stress on comprehensive planning for projects and initiatives, with many plans presented and future planning opportunities and challenges outlined.

The closing ceremony ended with HE Falah Mohamed Al Ahbabi, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities, who formally introduced the World Urban Forum 10, which will take place in Abu Dhabi in 2020.