World Urban Forum warned: “Ignore children and you condemn them to poverty and violence”

International agency World Vision urges forum participants to seize this chance to keep children safe, healthy and able to thrive.

Attendees of the World Urban Forum 10 that starts in Abu Dhabi on Saturday have been urged to make the needs of the vulnerable children a top priority in their discussions and plans.

Andrew Morley, World Vision’s International President and CEO, made the appeal as 15,000 attendees head to the forum organised by UN-Habitat.

Mr Morley said: “More than a billion children live in cities today, with hundreds of millions dwelling in slums and informal settlements – yet their voices are often not heard by governments and those making key decisions.

“This is simply unacceptable, and means so many children go without the safe spaces they need to learn, develop, and grow in a healthy, stable environment. Worse, it can lead to violence and exploitation.

“This is a very real and pressing issue as I’ve seen in Central America, where children can be recruited into violent gangs, and recently in the Middle East where I met Syrian refugees living in squalid city conditions who had been beaten while begging on the streets.”

World Vision is already present in the world’s most rapidly urbanising countries and regions and, since 2008 has worked to adapt its programme models, frameworks and approaches for urban contexts. In the last few years it has intentionally focused on fragile cities, especially those affected by urban violence and displacement.

The international agency’s Technical Director of Urban Programming Aline Rahbany, said the forum provides attendees with an unparalleled opportunity to imagine urban contexts that value their youngest residents and keep them safe and healthy.

“Every child deserves safe and appropriate places to live, play and learn,” she said. “Every child deserves clean water, proper sanitation, healthy food and decent health services. Every child deserves to speak into decision-making processes. They aren’t just recipients, but are agents of change and can be active participants in efforts to identify solutions in their neighbourhoods and cities.

“By 2050, it’s projected that 70% of the world’s children will live in cities; more and more in informal, poor and fragile areas where they are especially prone to suffer from poverty, exclusion, hazards, violence, and unintentional injuries. So this call to put vulnerable children at the heart of urban planning and urban development is not just a ‘nice to have’, it is vital to this and future generations of under-18s.”

Ms Rahbany concluded, “I am excited to think those at the forum will listen to our call and do all they can to make our cities and urban settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable for the most vulnerable children, youth and their families.”


Notes to Editors

  • For more information about World Vision’s attendance at the forum and its urban programming approach visit For an interview with Aline Rahbany contact her on
  • The World Urban Forum (WUF) was established in 2001 by the United Nations to address one of the most pressing issues facing the world today: rapid urbanisation and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and policies. Convened by UN-Habitat, the Forum is a high level, open and inclusive platform for addressing the challenges of sustainable urbanisation.
  • World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organisation conducting relief, development, and advocacy activities in its work with children, families, and their communities in nearly 100 countries to help them reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, visit