A significant achievement of the 2006 World Urban Forum (WUF3) that has already happened is HABITAT JAM – an extraordinary on-line dialogue that spanned three days in early December 2005.
Tens of thousands of people were able to express their views on issues affecting urban sustainability.
People from 160 countries shared ideas on how to improve the lives of people living in slums; how to protect the environment in cities; how to deal with such issues as financing the building of better cities; how to ensure higher levels of urban safety and security; and how to get ordinary citizens more engaged in the governance of their cities.
In doing so they all helped to set the agenda for WUF3 taking place later this month in Vancouver.
The JAM was extraordinary because it was global and reached out to people who wouldn't otherwise have been able to participate in a United Nations dialogue.
It was also extraordinary because we heard from people who don't often have a voice, especially women and youth in developing countries.
Thousands of women in India participated in the JAM through moderators who went out into communities to seek their views. In the Philippines, women who had never before seen a computer were provided training and a Yahoo account so that they could participate.
In Kenya, people lined up for hours to have access to computers so that they could have their say. A number of people participated who were blind or deaf. Thanks to technology, their voices were able to be heard.
Habitat JAM was a demonstration project sponsored by the Government of Canada in partnership with UN-HABITAT and IBM, and was managed by the GLOBE Foundation of Canada.
It set a new standard in terms of engaging, empowering and stimulating thousands of citizens from many countries, cultures and regions.
Rich or poor, powerful or alone, they all were part of a process to turn ideas into actions to deal with the critical problems of urban sustainability.
Over 600 actionable ideas were identified by HABITAT JAM participants. These have been distilled into 70 ideas on how to change the world that will be handed out to everyone attending WUF3 as a Workbook with an accompanying CD that provides more details and links to other information sources.
I would venture to say that HABITAT JAM demonstrated a new way to engage people from around the world in dialogues that previously were limited to high level representatives at highly structured and formal international meetings.
I can only hope that other members of the United Nations family look carefully at the innovative approach to inclusiveness so ably demonstrated by HABITAT JAM.
The full report on HABITAT JAM can be accessed at: https://www.habitatjam.com