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The World Urban Forum was established by the United Nations to examine one of the most pressing issues facing the world today: rapid urbanisation and its impact on communities, cities, economies and policies. It is projected that in the next fifty years, two-thirds of humanity will be living in towns and cities. A major challenge is to minimize burgeoning poverty in cities, improve the urban poor's access to basic facilities such as shelter, clean water and sanitation and achieve environment-friendly, sustainable urban growth and development.

The World Urban Forum is a biennial gathering that is attended by a wide range of partners, from non-governmental organisations, community-based organisations, urban professionals, academics, to governments, local authorities and national and international associations of local governments. It gives all these actors a common platform to discuss urban issues in formal and informal ways and come up with action-oriented proposals to create sustainable cities.

The third session of the World Urban Forum (WUFIII) will be hosted by the Government of Canada. It will take place in Vancouver, Canada, from 19 to 23 June 2006 and have as its main theme, Our Future: Sustainable Cities – Turning Ideas into Action.

The number of people attending the World Urban Forum has risen sharply from 1,200 at the first World Urban Forum in Nairobi in 2002, to 4,400 at the second World Urban Forum in Barcelona in 2004. The Forum is successful because it differs from UN governing bodies. Since it is not legislative and does not follow the formal rules of procedure that usually govern official UN meetings, the working arrangements of the Forum are kept deliberately simple and relatively informal to generate a healthy and inclusive debate on urban issues. Participation is extremely open to allow effective dialogue between all actors working on urban issues.

Canada’s Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, Ms. Diane Finley said that Canada was pleased to partner with UN-HABITAT to hold the third session of the World Urban Forum (WUF3) in Vancouver, one of Canada’s most beautiful and sustainable cities. “It was in Vancouver, 30 years ago, that the first United Nations Conference on Human Settlements took place. That historic meeting led to a new understanding about cities and communities, the urgent need to make them sustainable and to preserve a mutually supportive urban-rural balance.” she said

“Thirty years later, urbanization around the world is occurring at an ever more rapid pace, and we face important challenges to ensure that this happens in a sustainable way. I believe that government can play an important role in building strong communities, working closely with local organizations and individual citizens. I invite all concerned to come to WUF3 and share your ideas for action to make the world’s cities and communities better places to live, work and visit,” the minister added as she welcomed the several thousand expected participants to the forum.

The Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, is pleased at hosting the next World Urban Forum in Vancouver, Canada, the site of the 1976 United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, which led to the establishment of a UN agency dedicated to human settlements development two years later. At the conclusion of the second World Urban Forum in Barcelona, Mrs. Tibaijuka thanked the Government of Canada for “inviting us to return to Vancouver, the birthplace of UN-HABITAT in 1976”.

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