1. We, the participants of the tenth session of the World Urban Forum, represent national, subnational and local governments, international and regional organizations, parliamentarians, civil society, older persons, women, youth, children, persons with disabilities, grassroots groups, indigenous peoples and local communities, professionals, the private sector, foundations and philanthropies, academia, professionals and other relevant stakeholders. Together we gathered in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to dialogue on the theme “Cities of Opportunities, Connecting Culture and Innovation.” Now, at the conclusion of this World Urban Forum we declare our voluntary actions and commitments for the next two years and beyond. We do so in support of the implementation of the New Urban Agenda as an accelerator to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in this Decade of Action.
2. We recognize that an increasingly urbanized world constitutes a transformative force which can be harnessed and steered for more sustainable development. Cities have the opportunity to take the lead to plan and design as well as manage transitions towards inclusion, resilience, sustainability, economic growth and shared prosperity. At the same time, cities are addressing many global challenges including poverty, gender inequalities, human rights violations, unemployment, health emergencies, loss of social cohesion, threat to cultural heritage and cultural diversity, environmental degradation, migration, disaster risk and climate change.
3. We, the participants of WUF 10, are convinced that culture is an integral part of the solution to the challenges of urbanisation and achieving the New Urban Agenda. The urban environment, in turn, has an influence on culture. Culture is a core component of local identity including heritage, creativity and diversity and urbanisation need to be planned, designed and managed to enhance this. Culture is considered by some constituencies as the fourth pillar of sustainable development and must be a stronger strand of global solidarity. Culture and heritage are essential in the context of peoples’ empowerment as well as their universal access to services, and ownership of regeneration and social cohesion strategies. Urban heritage—both cultural and natural—is an asset and enables sustainable urban development. Revitalising cities whilst respecting urban heritage allows us to celebrate the past while embracing a sustainable future. It limits the negative impacts of city sprawl while also reducing waste, infrastructure needs and transportation costs. Strategic integrated urban planning provides the tools to ensure the integration of urban heritage, culture, local economic needs, environmental considerations, biodiversity, low carbon development and climate resilience to ensure the creation of sustainable, prosperous, liveable communities. Attention to the urban rural continuum and to nature in cities is essential. Participatory community engagement and innovation are key means to achieve this.
4. We believe that cities are centres of creativity and innovation as well as places with valuable cultural heritage and identity. The culture and creative industries are rapidly expanding sources of employment and economic development in cities and urban areas globally. Innovation and cultural heritage must at the foundation of how urban centres operate, with strong support from national governments, a strengthened role for subnational and local governments and systematic collaboration with civil society. Cities that are well-planned and well-managed, grounded in cultural heritage, have more opportunities for sustainable urban development. Supported by people-centred technology, smart city initiatives and fit-for-purpose land governance, culture and innovation become creative drivers for sustainable growth, shared prosperity and inclusive development.
5. We also believe that cities are incubators of social, economic, environmental, political and cultural progress. They are equally the guardians of cultural heritage and identity which must be safeguarded to pass on to future generations. Subnational and local governments play an integral role in enhancing the diversity of urban life, through the adoption of rights-based approaches to cities and, in particular, with the promotion of gender equality and equal access to opportunities for all. They provide solutions for decent work, housing, and transport, the provision of basic cultural services such as libraries, tangible and living heritage, and community centres and adopt inclusive, accessible, and transparent participatory processes.
6. The New Urban Agenda acknowledges the importance of culture, cultural diversity and cultural heritage in all its forms as resources that enrich humankind, making an important contribution to sustainable urbanization and the development of inclusive safe cities and human settlements, empowering all people to play an active role in development initiatives.
7. We celebrate cultural heritage as a valuable resource to be protected and safeguarded in its diversity of expression and forms. These assets inspire innovation and creativity in cities and human settlements, creating and implementing new knowledge and solutions to improve living conditions for all. We emphasize that women and girls are key agents of transformative change in their cities. Culture offers a perspective on leaving no one and no place behind as it enables women and girls to identify with their heritage and make their voice heard through creative means. Women and girls must have effective and equal ways to participate through cultural expressions as well as innovative and inclusive decision-making.
8. We encourage stronger commitments to safeguarding culture heritage and finding related innovative solutions to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sustainable Development Goals, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Agreement, the New Urban Agenda and other global frameworks.
9. We recognize the need for an integrated approach to the implementation of the New Urban Agenda by all levels of government and by various stakeholders. This includes enhanced coordination and coherence supported by institutional, social and technological innovations which protect tangible and intangible cultural heritage. This is crucial for the achievement of sustainable urban development and the overall prosperity of cities and human settlements.
10. We also recognize that innovation and advances in science and technology are critical for implementing the NUA, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and other global development frameworks relevant to sustainable urbanization.
11. We draw attention to the importance of data and knowledge as a fundamental starting point to understand gaps and needs. We acknowledge the need to critically link data to evidence-based policy formulation, development of action plans and sources of funding. In this regard we welcome the New Urban Agenda monitoring platform, City Prosperity Initiative, and other platforms such as the Culture 2030 indicators. In this respect, the global people-based definition of cities and settlements (Degree of Urbanization), will be a crucial instrument for collecting comparable data and facilitating harmonised reporting in the implementation of the SDGs.
12. We encourage stakeholders to declare their actions towards strengthening investments and efforts in developing better data platforms to support evidence-based policies and investments and accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
13. We believe that together sustainable urbanization, culture and innovation are fundamental in supporting the Decade of Action. We aim to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals which call for sustainable and inclusive solutions to all the world’s biggest challenges. Cities represent an entry point for all 17 SDGs and create a window of opportunity for sustainable urban development. Service provision, density and economies of scale are factors that bind all development goals together.
14. We encourage all development actors gathered in Abu Dhabi to mobilize their respective capacities in this Decade of Action. We will continue to call for actions and mobilisation and track progress through a monitoring and reporting mechanism. At the global level, this requires strong leadership, more resources and smarter solutions. At the local level, this includes shifts in policy, budget, institutions, and regulatory frameworks to make cities safe, resilient and sustainable, grounded in cultural heritage and creative practice. At the people level, we call for a movement of youth, civil society, media, private sector, academia and others to advocate for social and economic transformations. We want to raise awareness of all stakeholders: the cities we build today are tomorrow’s heritage.
15. We thank the Government of the United Arab Emirates and the City of Abu Dhabi, and UN-Habitat for convening the Forum. And we commit to providing continuous cooperation to the next hosts, the Government of Poland and the City of Katowice.
World Urban Forum