[Dateline: Nairobi | Author: UN-HABITAT]
As thousands of delegates from around the world exchanged views in the newly-built, giant Nanjing convention and exhibition centre from 3 to 6 November 2008, the buzzwords on everyone's lips at the Fourth Session of the World Urban Forum were "harmonious urbanization."
Barely a speaker at the UN-HABITAT biennial gathering missed a chance to give their views of what a harmonious city is all about.
Setting the tone in the first opening statement, Mr. Jiang Hongkun, the Mayor of Nanjing, said, "Building harmonious cities is our vision. This session of the Forum convened to discuss the theme, harmonious urbanization, will promote new ways of building cities at home and abroad. Nanjing will use the precious opportunity of the Forum to borrow new ideas and experiences from Chinese and international cities for its betterment in the most harmonious way possible."
China's Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, Jiang Weixin, and Dejiang Zhang, the Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China, welcomed around 8,000 delegates to the Fourth Session of the World Urban Forum. The Chinese officials told delegates that the theme of the Forum - Harmonious Urbanization - was critically important to the Chinese government, which attached great importance to integrated development. They noted that China was focusing on coordinated development between its cities and regions, and was placing special emphasis on energy saving and climate change mitigation.
The opening ceremony was also graced by the presence of dignitaries such as Raila Odinga, Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya, who told delegates that rural-to-urban migration in Africa was putting an unbearable strain on African cities but that African governments had no choice but to deal with this reality as "the world is coming to the city".
Vice President Noli de Castro of the Philippines urged governments to create the necessary governance structures to promote harmonious urbanization and to enhance the capacity of local governments to deal with climate change.
The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, told delegates about Bahrain’s new award to encourage innovative ideas and good urban development practices around the world.
UN-HABITAT Executive Director, Anna Tibaijuka, thanked the Government of the People's Republic of China and the City of Nanjing for hosting the event and making the Forum a reality.
The Forum was preceded by a World Urban Youth Forum with calls for more inclusion of young people in decision making.