#GrassrootsLegacy, 2030 Agenda, Cimate Change, DRR, Gender-Responsive Development, Grassroots Academy, Huairou Commission, Resilience, Rural Development, Safe Cities, Sendai Framework

World Urban Forum 9 – The Huairou Commission’s Goals

On February 7, 2018, the ninth session of the World Urban Forum will begin. Since 2002, the forum, convened by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), has gathered together thousands of expert individuals from numerous community organizations, universities, research institutions, media outlets, and governments of all levels, from more than 150 countries around the world. The 2018 theme, “Cities 2030 – Cities for All: Implementing the New Urban Agenda,” comes at a crucial point, when for the first time more than half of the world’s population resides in cities and urban environments.


Directly before the Forum, the Huairou Commission’s inaugural Global Grassroots Women’s Congress will be convening in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Strategically timed to lead into the Forum, the Congress will provide grassroots women leaders, who are convening on behalf of indigenous, displaced, and other underrepresented women, the opportunity to discuss their vision of sustainable development practices that will best serve their communities; build partnerships among themselves; and decide how to bring about advancements in policy at both local and global levels. These decisions will then be represented at the World Urban Forum by grassroots women leaders, a space and voice that grassroots women leaders might not otherwise have.


Magdalena Hernandez has served on the Huairou Commission’s Global Advisory Board for two years, and has worked with the organization since 2013. With a background in economics and finance, she knows firsthand the close ties between economic security and gender equality. Much of her work in her native Mexico involves the United Nation’s Global Agenda and ensuring local governments are implementing it on behalf of women. When speaking about the upcoming Global Grassroots Women’s Congress, Magdalena stresses the importance of listening to everyone in the room. “We must go with a very open mind. We must listen to everyone. Everyone thinks they have the solution, but we must combine everyone’s ideas, and work together. I’m an expert in my field, but I need to hear everyone else who is an expert in their field. So much influence on the world is currently held in the hands of so few people. It is important that we expand that.”


For Magdalena, the most important issue to be covered during the Congress and WUF 9 is economic independence for women. Violence against women is often linked to reliance on another for economic security – women who have economic independence have more control over their decisions and their lives. She believes the tools to enact change are in place, but must be put into practice more. “We don’t have to do anything new or reinvent the wheel, we just have to share ideas and practices that exist. And we have to work faster. Currently much of this work is being done so slowly, and not enough change has happened.” The Congress is a good place to start, but she hopes meetings of this kind can occur more frequently going forward.




The importance of involving grassroots women in global forums and decision-making processes cannot be overstated. Women and girls are extremely vulnerable to social, political, and economic conditions beyond their control. Grassroots women and their communities are especially susceptible to the effects of the issues being covered by the Forum, including reduced access to clean water, lack of food production and security, and resettlement due to environmental changes. The Commission understands that to address these issues and begin finding solutions, the voices of grassroots women must be heard.


Huairou Commission Board Member Olenka Ochoa has served women and children throughout her career, working to end violence and discrimination against them. For over 20 years she has worked with migrant populations, and has witnessed the gender disparities within them. In attending this year’s Congress, her main concern is advancing the United Nation’s Global Agenda, especially within governments. While women’s organizations and NGOs have thrown their full weight behind the Agenda, Olenka stressed that there must be support within the government, otherwise no change will be implemented. She plans to do her part in implementing the Agenda by helping her fellow attendees and leaders by breaking down the work that needs to be done going forward. “A lot of people in the Congress don’t fully understand the new documents and instructions and guidelines that will be used going forward. Leadership and peer opportunities are both incredibly important. We must strengthen our leaders and help all those involved understand the work and what their roles are.”


Olenka also plans to focus on the localization of the Agenda and how it can be implemented at the local level. She plans to use the Congress as a chance to network with leaders who can help to make this goal a reality. “As we network, it is important to look for new alliances with municipal neighbors or entities which work with local governments, which goes along with the challenge of implementation.” In the future, she hopes to increase the number of organizations and individuals involved in the annual Congress, expanding the Agenda and the Commission’s work even further.


By Georgia Schoonmaker