The seventh World Urban Forum organized by UN Habitat is taking place in Medellin, Colombia from April 5th to 11th. More than 13.000 delegates have already registered before the Forum kicks off with the official opening ceremony on Monday 7th April. The World Urban Forum in Medellin clearly marks the bi-annual UN habitat event as the most important venue for discussing the future of our urbanized world.

Medellin. Image by KLEPER via Flickr.

Medellin, Colombia. Image by Kleper via Flickr.

The World Urban Forum (WUF) is the World’s Premier Conference on Cities, a non-legislative technical forum convened by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), hosted in a different city every two years. The World Urban Forum examines the most pressing issues facing the world today in the area of human settlements including rapid urbanization and its impact on cities, communities, economies, climate change and policies.

This seventh issue of the World Urban Forum is entitled Urban Equity in Development –Cities for Life and engages the pressing challenge of urban inequality in preparation of the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III).

 ImageWorld Urban Forum launch announcement on Facebook. (Image via WUF Facebook)

Today more than two thirds of the world’s population is urban and faced with growing inequality in various forms that is increasingly putting our sustainable urban cohabitation at risk.

The often-quoted and increasingly growing income equality within urban populations is by far not the only pressing inequality issue in today’s cities. Other inequalities persist tenaciously such as gender inequality, youth inequality or other structural urban inequalities in terms of habitation, infrastructure or mobility.

Lets face it: our urbanized world is increasingly divided and becoming more segregated.

This process is happening both in the developed and in the developing world and puts our sustainable and prosperous co-habitation at risk. The scope of this inequality challenge is well formulated in the WUF7 Concept Paper, which reflects on the main substantive theme of the seventh session of the World Urban Forum.

In this context the World Urban Forum has received (free online) registrations from about 25.000 delegates from all over the world and from various disciplines to tackle inequality issues during the World Urban Forum.

It is especially promising to see the WUF7 is taking place in Medellin, a city that has undergone a remarkable urban change during the recent years and tackled urban challenges such as unemployment, lack of infrastructure, violence or transportation by smart governance and innovative urban strategies. Some of the most important urban transformations in Medellin have been:

Library Parks

Between 2005 and 2011 ten “Library Parks (Parques Biblioteca) have been strategically built in the underprivileged fringe neighbourhoods of Medellin improving access to educational and cultural services for over a million inhabitants of the city.

 Parque Biblioteca España library park. Image by Municipality of Medellin via Architecture in Development.

 Parque Biblioteca España library park. (Image by Municipality of Medellin via Architecture in Development.)


The Metrocable transportation system in Medellin is widely regarded as the first cable propelled transit system in the world dedicated to public transport. The system started operating in 2004 and is fully integrated with the Medellin metro system extending public transport to some of the most underprivileged neighbourhoods. Nowadays the “Metrocables” system contains three lines carrying more than 30.000 people per day.

Metrocable Medellin. Image by morrissey via Flickr.

Metrocable Medellin. Image by morrissey via Flickr.

“EnCicla” bike share system

Launched in 2011 as Colombia’s first public bike share scheme, “EnCicla” has now been expanded to the entire metropolitan region of Medellin.

 "EnCicla" bike share docking stations. Image by Secretaría de Movilidad de Medellín via Flickr.

"EnCicla" bike share docking stations. Image by Secretaría de Movilidad de Medellín via Flickr.

Medellin’s urban transformation has also gained Medellin international recognition. In 2012 the city won the UITP’s Sustainable Transport Award and has been titled the “Innovative City of the Year”.  

So one can expect that Medellin as a venue for the World Urban Forum will deeply impress and inspire the participants. The great number of local Colombian participants as well as the many representatives of NGOs, grassroots movements and civil society organisations represented in Medellin is putting a promising scope on the seventh issue of the World Urban Forum.

CamaraLucida / UN-HABITAT

Event "I'm a City Changer" at World Urban Forum 7. (Image by CamaraLucida / UN-HABITAT)

The forum in Medellin can thereby bring new momentum into the international community dealing with urban issues. The urban change that Medellin has undergone in the recent decades simply leaves no excuse for city makers in other places.

Dealing with seemingly unresolvable urban challenges – let’s name climate change, urban mobility and education inequality as three pressing ones - is in fact possible. So in this sense, I am very positive that the seventh issue of the World Urban Forum will be a major milestone towards successfully shaping a sustainable future for our urbanized planet.

The WUF7 will also set a benchmark in how an open and inclusive discourse can take place for successfully finding new approaches in dealing with the urban challenges we are facing today. The organizers have done a remarkable job in the advent of the event to promote the WUF7 and also involve stakeholders by eDebates in the development of the concept papers.

Accompanying the events on ground, the World Urban Forum is well-represented in Social Media with it’s own Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Additionally one can watch WUF TV, a live stream of dialogues and events in preparation for, and during the World Urban Forum. So engage in the discourse and see how a more sustainable urban future is taking shape in Medellin, Colombia.