IIED and partner events at the World Urban Forum (WUF10)


This page summarises the activities of IIED, its researchers and partners during the 10th session of the World Urban Forum (WUF10) in Abu Dhabi, UAE, from 8-13 February 2020.

A road full of congested traffic.

Congested traffic in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which is undergoing a striking transformation (Photo: Samuli Kangaslampi, via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Organised and convened by UN-Habitat, the World Urban Forum is the foremost international gathering for exchanging views and experiences on sustainable urbanisation. IIED’s researchers and partners shared research and participated in events throughout the conference.

Crisis prevention and response in cities: it’s time to take a whole of society approach

Date: Sunday, 9 February 2020 
Venue: World Urban Forum – Hall 2, Room 3 
Hosted by: IMPACT Initiatives/Global Alliance for Urban Crises

Speakers: Filiep Decorte (moderator), UN-Habitat; Soham El Wardini, city of Dakar; Peter Oborn, UK Built Environment Advisory Group; Ebru Gencer, Centre for Urban Risk Reduction & Resilience; Lucy Earle, IIED

Urbanisation intersects with climate change, natural disasters, conflict and displacement – and is a critical lens through which to review efforts to prevent, prepare for and respond to crises, conflict and disasters. The confluence of these challenges in cities and towns precludes any one actor or solution from addressing the scale, urgency, and complexity of urban crises today and in the future. 

To address this effectively, collaboration and holistic thinking is required. By creating horizontal and vertical partnerships with international and regional organisations, civil society, the private sector, academia and professional organisations, cities can have a strengthened capacity to better prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. Acknowledging this, the session highlighted the importance of taking a whole-of-society approach to urban crises, prevention and response. 

Related reading: Urban Crises Learning Fund

Building resilient future cities: informal settlements as places of opportunity and innovation

Networking event

Date: Monday, 10 February 2020 
Venue: World Urban Forum - Hall 3, Room 16 
Hosted by: Slum Dwellers International

Speakers: Beth Chitekwe-Biti (moderator); South African deputy minister of human settlements, Ms Pam Tshwete MP (keynote address); Sheela Patel, Slum Dwellers International; Joseph Muturi; Bimbo Oshobe; Sarah Nandudu; Zilire Luka; Samuel Mabala, Cities Alliance; David Morema, South African National Upgrading Support Programme

An estimated 880 million people live in urban slums. Often, these communities are only described by their negative attributes: unsafe housing, insufficient basic services, location on marginal lands. However, slums provide millions with access to cities’ vital social and economic opportunities from which the poor remain largely excluded: employment, education, healthcare, and more. However, slum residents bring bottom-up logic and strategies and build the knowledge, advocacy and research methods to secure low-carbon, resilient and pro-poor development.

Effective interventions must involve slum dwellers as stakeholders that lead the design, planning, implementation, evaluation and learning from the work that is needed so urgently. Cities must recognise that it is only by embracing, building upon, and scaling up the opportunities slums provide, and the demonstrated innovations, agency, and resilience of the urban poor, that we will create resilient, sustainable future cities.

This networking event featured Slum Dwellers International community leaders from slums and their partners, who demonstrated how organised communities of the urban poor are using community-driven processes and innovative slum upgrading projects to reframe the local, national, and global urban development conversation.

Inclusive cities for a changing climate: realising the urban opportunity


Date: Monday, 10 February 2020  
Venue: Andaz Capital Gate Hyatt Hotel
Hosted by: Coalition for Urban Transitions and WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities in partnership with the OECD and IIED

Speakers: National government representatives from Mexico, Ghana, India and Germany; Mohammed Adjei Sowah, Mayor of Accra (tbc); Naoko Ishii, Global Environment Facility; Sheela Patel, Slum Dwellers International; Saleemul Huq, IIED (tbc); Sharan Burrow, ITUC (tbc); Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor of Freetown (tbc); Dr Debra Roberts, Sustainable and Resilient City Initiatives Unit, eThekwini Municipality and co-chair, Working Group II, IPCC

This event highlighted why cities should be at the heart of the response to the climate emergency, and how a coordinated, multi-level response can tackle dangerous climate change and achieve shared prosperity and a better quality of life for citizens. It highlighted successful examples of urban action that are benefiting people and the planet and examined the lessons from these success stories that could be applied elsewhere. 

The first session examined the role of national urban policies and strategies in creating thriving cities, and the importance of enabling and collaborating with city governments to drive ambition and innovation. The second session explored how community-led action and putting people at the heart of climate and development strategies can help to create inclusive and resilient cities. These sessions were followed by a networking reception to announce the new cycle of the WRI Ross Center Prize for Cities, the premier global award celebrating and spotlighting transformative urban change.

Grassroots-led upgrading at scale: innovations in partnerships and community media from Mukuru, Nairobi

Side event

Date: Tuesday, 11 February 2020 
Venue: World Urban Forum – Union Library, UL19
Hosted by: IIED, in partnership with Slum Dwellers International (SDI), Tana, and Social Development Direct

Speakers: Lucy Earle (moderator); Joseph Muturi, Muungano wa Wanavijiji; Jack Makau, SDI Kenya; Alice Sverdlik, IIED

In Nairobi’s informal settlement of Mukuru, the Kenyan federation of the urban poor Muungano wa Wanavijiji and Slum Dwellers International Kenya have worked with government, academic, and civil society partners to develop a path-breaking community-led upgrading process. Nairobi’s county government declared Mukuru a ‘Special Planning Area’ (SPA), and innovative aspects include strong grassroots participation, inputs from eight interdisciplinary planning consortia, and multi-sectoral strategies that will benefit all 105,000 households in Mukuru. This large-scale intervention has faced contextual challenges, given Mukuru’s location on private lands and the SPA’s aim of benefiting both tenants and structure-owners. 

This session shared key lessons from Mukuru's SPA and will feature presentations by Muungano leaders and SDI Kenya staff working in Mukuru, as well as a 10-minute film using footage developed by Muungano’s youth members. 

Related reading: Shelter provision in East African cities: understanding transformative politics for inclusive citiesUrban Crises Learning Fund

Something from nothing: how urban poor communities are coping with food insecurity and finding ways to eat better

Networking event

Date: Tuesday, 11 February
Venue: World Urban Forum – Hall 2, Room 3 
Hosted by: Asian Coalition for Housing Rights in partnership with IIED, FAO, and Lumanti

Speakers: John Taylor, FAO; Lumanti Joshi, Lumanti; Abdul Kaish Miya Teli (tbc); Selina Begum, Community Town Federation

Across Asia, cities like Phnom Penh, Kathmandu and Dhaka are growing rapidly and undergoing striking transformations. In the process, the lives and diets of their poorest citizens are changing rapidly too. With skyrocketing food prices, poor quality produce in markets and inadequate basic services, the urban poor struggle to feed their families meals that are adequate, nutritious and affordable. As a result, more and more people across the region are suffering from hunger; but poor communities have always had ways of coping. It is important that we understand those food survival strategies and learn from these experts. 

This event presented findings and lessons from research carried out in cities in Cambodia, Nepal and Bangladesh, on how the urban poor define and measure food insecurity and what responses they have developed to address the problems that prevent them from eating well. Possible policy responses and actions to ensure greater food security for the poor were discussed.  

Representatives from urban poor federations and researchers will describe innovative approaches to cope with food insecurity, including urban agriculture and community garden initiatives, community buyers’ cooperatives and rural-urban linkages. The networking event brought together urban poor community leaders, development practitioners, researchers, government officials and policymakers from around the world, to reflect on the food security conditions and nutrition strategies of the poor. It also provided an opportunity to discuss current practices and develop ideas about how the work poor communities and their networks are doing to eat better can be supported, scaled up and shared with other communities and cities around the world.

Related reading: How the urban poor define and measure food insecurity

Launching platform on the implementation of the 'new urban agenda'

Special session 

Date: Tuesday, 11 February, 2020
Hosted by: UN-Habitat 

With David Dodman, director of IIED's Human Settlements research group

Displacement in cities: what we need to know and innovative solutions to address it

Networking event

Date: Wednesday, 12 February 2020 
Venue: World Urban Forum – Hall 2, Room 6
Hosted by: Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Joint IDP Profiling Service (JIPS) and World Vision International

Speakers: Scott Lloyd (moderator), Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre; Aline Rahbany, World Vision International; Dr Isis Nunez Ferrera, JIPS; Dr Dolf te Lintelo, IDS; Edrees Kocher, Duhok municipality, Iraq; Lucy Earle, IIED; Charles Deutscher, International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent; Brett Moore, Shelter & Settlements Section, UNHCR

Despite the scale of urban displacement – over 60% of the world's 68.5 million displaced people reside in urban areas – there is still a lot to learn about the phenomenon: from the realities of displaced and host communities to the role they play in building cohesive and sustainable communities. From the way cities and their local actors adapt to build quality of life for its inhabitants, to the way local and international actors work toward better responses and solutions. 

Giving the floor to local authorities and leading organisations, and focusing on refugees and internally displaced persons, this event showcased experiences and discuss specific challenges related to implementing innovative approaches for collaborative evidence building, managing and responding to urban displacement.

Related reading: Urban Crises Learning Fund