Drawing participants from across the globe, the first ever United Nations World Urban Forum opened today in Nairobi aiming to explore innovative policies and best practices for sustainable urbanization and to chart strategies for easing the plight of the planet’s 100 million slum dwellers. Organized by the UN Human Settlements Programme, or Habitat, the five-day meeting will examine a wide range of issues related to the world’s burgeoning cities in an effort to formulate recommendations that will be considered at the World Summit for Sustainable Development, set to take place in Johannesburg later this year.In a video message, UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette stressed the need to create cities that work for people and not against them.For her part, Habitat Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka underscored that the World Urban Forum would debate issues at the forefront of the “brown agenda,” and sustainable urbanization. “This is the place to generate innovative models of urban management, to test out new ideas and harness creative thoughts to make our cities healthy, safe, productive, equitable and democratic.”The pressing issues facing the Forum are evident in stark urbanization statistics: 50 years ago, New York was the only metropolis with a population of more than 10 million, while today there are 19 such cities, according to Habitat.For the first time in history, half of humanity – some 3 billion people – lives in cities and towns. The agency estimates that between 1990 and 1995 alone, cities in the developing world grew by 263 million people – the equivalent of adding one Los Angeles every three months.Ms. Tibaijuka cautioned that there is no “quick fix” for the problems facing cities. “The challenge for the international community is clear: to make both urbanization and globalization work for everyone through expansion that is socially equitable and environmentally sustainable,” she said. “This is why the World Urban Forum will focus on urban poverty eradication and sound environmental practices.”The World Urban Forum has been designated by the UN General Assembly as an advisory body to support governments and other partners in implementing the Habitat Agenda adopted during the Habitat II conference in 1996 in Istanbul.