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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 June 2006, 03:29 GMT 04:29 UK
Forum ends with urban poor focus
By Daniel Lak
BBC News, Vancouver

Brazil shantytown
The forum said developing countries must tackle urban issues
The World Urban Forum in Vancouver has closed with a call for developing countries to pay more attention to the problems of the urban poor.

The UN-sponsored gathering of some 8,000 delegates also focused on the environmental and social challenges facing the world's largest cities.

The gathering spent five days considering the growing movement of people around the globe to cities.

The next forum is in two years' time in the Chinese city of Nanjing.

City contrasts

Vancouver is a wealthy city long considered one of the most liveable on the planet.

It is a long way from Mumbai, Cairo or Lagos where the most acute urban challenges on the planet can be found.

In fact many here criticise the setting and the fact that wealthy countries were profiting from the desire of poor people for change.

Slum residents
An estimated one-third of city dwellers live in slums
But Charles Kelly, the main conference organiser, said no one came here expecting anything more than a few new ideas to take home with them.

"What this is, is a multitude of people sharing how to deal with these very difficult problems and to deal with them in a set of very practical ways," he said.

"So it isn't one action, it's thousands upon thousands of actions. It's little actions and big actions but the important thing is the level of engagement and the knowledge that needs to be harnessed here."

With no real concluding statement or an expression of goals to be met before the next meeting in 2008, it's likely that the UN city summit will also be criticised as a talking shop and defended as a place to learn about how other are handling similar challenges.

It's hard to measure whether meetings like this matter for very much but to many of the participants, the social and professional opportunities are enough to justify their presence here.

Back in the slums of the world's poorest cities people may be forgiven for having a different point of view.


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