World Urban Forum Case Study


The World Urban Forum (WUF) is convened by UN-Habitat and was established in 2001 to address the pressures of rapid urbanisation and its impact on climate change, communities, cities, economics and policies. The forum is a high level platform open to everyone with an interest in sustainable urbanisation.

Held every two years, the World Urban Forum took place for the first time in an Arab country in Abu Dhabi in February 2020. The 10th edition of the Forum addressed the theme ‘Cities of opportunity: Connecting Culture and Innovation’.

UN Habitat worked in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Department of Municipalities and Transport, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT), Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and General Secretariat of the Executive Council to deliver the event. The event was held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.


WUF10 brought together over 13,000 participants from around the world. The event comprised a packed agenda of conference and education streams, hundreds of side events, impressive opening and closing ceremonies as well as city-wide activations designed to leave a legacy such as greening and cultural initiatives around the city. 


The Abu Dhabi Department of Municipalities and Transport was the main local organiser (host) and awarded ADNEC Services (a subsidiary of ADNEC group) the event management contract.

As a first step, ADNEC Services sent a delegation to attend WUF9 in Malaysia in February 2018 to assess the scale of the operation and gain insight ahead of the planning and preparations for WUF10 in Abu Dhabi. 

WUF10 was a whole venue event, spanning over 65,000sqm which comprised a 14,735sqm exhibition with 131 exhibitors, 5 assemblies, 6 high-level dialogues, 30 roundtables and special sessions. A busy schedule of 170+ side and networking events were housed in 20 purpose-built conference rooms.  High level opening and closing ceremonies were attended by ministers as well as senior members of the UAE government and royal family. 

The scope of work for ADNEC Services included project management of the entire event from concept and creative direction, design, build and production, to exhibition sales and sponsorship and management. In addition to this, they managed registration services, staffing (355 contractors per day) and volunteers (450+ per day) as well as translation services (100 persons per day). ADNEC Services were also tasked with managing the delegate experience and organised accommodation, transportation and shuttle buses as well as city activations and social tours for the international attendees to get acquainted with the city of Abu Dhabi.

The 6,000 capacity International Conference Centre (ICC) at ADNEC was used for the opening and closing ceremonies which were streamed across UN – TV as well as news networks globally. 

The Central Plaza area hosted an outdoor cocktail reception with catering by ADNEC’s in-house caterer, Capital Hospitality, for an audience of 4,000 guests. The area was transformed by ADNEC Services into a celebratory festival environment with casual seating and a full entertainment programme with a diverse range of performers from bands, to traditional ayala dancers, live singers and a DJ.

The Urban ‘Expo’ took over Halls 7 to 10 and included an urban cinema, urban village and urban library spaces. 

Outcomes and Legacy

WUF10 was a resounding success, it attracted more than 13,000 attendees from over 168 countries. The event achieved high level attendance from 78 senior government ministers representing 30 countries.  The venue is ideally located only 15 minutes from the airport and easily accessible from the downtown area. A network of 47 hotels (including the 6 on-site at ADNEC) across the city hosted the highest number of international delegates that WUF has had to date.

Over 500 sessions, featuring 525 speakers took place during the week of WUF10. In addition, Abu Dhabi hosted several parallel events and other cultural events enabling visitors to experience UAE culture, history, arts and traditions, music, dance, food, and architecture. 

WUF10 concluded with the ‘Abu Dhabi Declared Actions’, which include commitments from international organisations, national, local and regional governments, the private sector, civil society, academia and others for the next two years and beyond to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by world leaders in 2015.

City-wide legacy activities included the planting of 400 Ghaf trees at Old Airport Garden. The tree-planting initiative was organised by Abu Dhabi Department of Municipalities and Transport, DMT, in partnership with the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, MoCCAE, and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat.

Abu Dhabi also commissioned a sculpture by renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei named ‘Forever Bicycles’ which was installed on Abu Dhabi’s famous Corniche. The striking sculpture is made up of 720 individual bicycle parts and represents Abu Dhabi’s commitment to sustainable transport and the network of hundreds of cycling lanes throughout the city.

Madame Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, UN-Habitat commented on the partnership, “To me it was a very great partnership.” She went on to say “I know it is not easy to run a global forum and there are many challenges however the ADNEC Services management and staff are truly expert professionals. They were not only able to project manage a complex event but also to ensure that all stakeholders expectations were met throughout the process. The ADNEC Services is one of the very best event teams that UN-Habitat had the pleasure to work with over the years and we look forward to the next opportunity to work together again”

H.E Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri, Group CEO and Managing Director of ADNEC Group said “I am proud that ADNEC Group not only hosted WUF10, but was also instrumental in the planning, project management and delivery for the event. WUF has a particular synergy with the UAE and Abu Dhabi, as a young country, we are deeply committed to the themes of sustainable development and urbanisation. We are honoured to have been part of an event that will leave a long-lasting legacy on Abu Dhabi.”