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UN Habitat holds a World Urban Forum (WUF) every two years, and it has become the premier international human settlement event. This year almost 10 000 delegates attended the 6th WUF, which was held in Naples, Italy.

Amongst the delegates were approximately 150 South African from national, provincial and local government, delegates from a variety of South African NGOs, and a team from the HDA.

The conference is a vast canvas of lectures, roundtables, discussions and training events. Almost every topic of interest to human settlements within the theme of “The Urban Future” was discussed. A lot of this discussion took place outside of the formal programme, and the conference was a networking opportunity par excellence.

Our team was able to talk to activists, government officials, politicians and professionals from many difference countries and at all levels, from cabinet ministers and mayors to activists from shack settlements.  From India to Brazil, from China to Canada, from Nigeria to South Africa, they were all there and happy to discuss their projects, successes and failures.

Of particular interest was the progress of the City of Medellin in Colombia. The delegation from Medellin was led by a dynamic mayor, who made a number of presentations.

He explained the progress of the city, which has become a model from the point of view of urban redevelopment, slum upgrade, economic integration of poor and rich areas and integrated transport systems.

He opened each of his talks by indicating that he was the third mayor to be following the same development trajectory over a 15-year period. Certainly, South Africans could learn a lesson about long-term commitment to a plan. The next WUF, in 2014, will be in Medellin.