The World Urban Forum was established by the United Nations to examine one of the most pressing issues facing the world today: rapid urbanization 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 organizations, community-based organizations, 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 Fourth session of the World Urban Forum (WUF4) will be hosted by the Government of China and will be held in the ancient city of Nanjing from 03-06 November 2008. Situated in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, the city of Nanjing dates back more than 2,000 years and is known as the ancient capital of the Six Dynasties of China. Today, home to 6 million people, it is a rapidly growing modern city and is one of the most dynamic in eastern China. 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 and 11,400 at the third session of the World Urban Forum in Vancouver in 2006. 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.