The concept of WACAP was first discussed at the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) in Istanbul in 1996, when cities began networking with renewed enthusiasm. That same year, the United Nations International Year for the Eradication of Poverty, UNDP initiated plans for WACAP and launched it on October 17, 1997. Since the first forum in Lyon, France, in 1998, WACAP has expanded its network to more than 900 cities across five continents, raising awareness on poverty issues, promoting city-to-city cooperation and exchanging best practices.

In the 2010 WACAP forum in Rotterdam, the role of the private sector was emphasised and the definition of poverty reduction was extended to sustainable social inclusion, which means everyone should have access to basic provisions such as food, water, energy, education and health care. WACAP will continue in this direction and focus on designing innovative financing through public private partnerships to support developing cities in implementing universal access to basic services.


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