The 2.7 Billion People Challenge – Towards a Brighter Urban Future

Steven Bobson, Europe & Americas Editor
October 01, 2012 /

Cities in the developing world are growing at an unprecedented speed and will need to house and service an additional 2.7 billion people between now and 2050. This rapid urbanization presents not only a challenge but also a unique opportunity for cities to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty through an inclusive green growth strategy.

Accordingly, over the past few years, the global policy debate on urbanization has shifted from a focus on managing the ills of urbanization like congestion, crime, and squalor to harnessing the gains from urban transformation to build sustainable cities for long term prosperity.

“The path to prosperity inevitably runs through cities,” says Edward Glaeser, World Bank Fellow and eminent Harvard economist. “The right approach is not to accept the urban failures that we see, but to rethink cities and try to imagine how we can get to a brighter urban future.”

To realize the vision for Sustainable Cities, the World Bank aims to equip city leaders with new knowledge and tools they need to put their cities on a path to sustainable development. Accordingly, the World Bank launched the Urbanization Knowledge Platform, a global partnership with over 70 partner organizations worldwide to curate and generate knowledge on the challenges and opportunities faced by cities.

Leveraging this extensive network of partners, the World Bank, together with the City of Barcelona, will convene  more than 300 policymakers, thought leaders, and practitioners from all corners of the globe to discuss “Rethinking Cities: Framing the Future” at the Urban Research and Knowledge Symposiumin Barcelona, October 8-10, 2012.

The Symposium will focus on translating knowledge into practical solutions for building economically vibrant, sustainable, and inclusive cities. Together, participants will identify proven strategies and practical guidance to help urban leaders frame the future of their cities by informing policy decisions and smart investments today that will create jobs, improve resilience, and create a better life for their residents, now and in the future.

The Symposium will launch two publications that will consolidate lessons and provide policy tools for building sustainable cities:

  • “Urban Risk Assessment – Understanding Disaster and Climate Risk in Cities” outlines ways for cities to assess risks stemming from disasters and climate change. As the number of people in large cities exposed to cyclones and earthquakes is projected to double from 680 million in 2000 to 1.5 billion in 2050, coordinated and strategic action must be taken in the short term to better manage risk. Such assessments have been carried out in four cities: Dar es Salaam, Jakarta, Mexico City, and São Paulo.
  • “The Economics of Uniqueness – Investing in Historic City Cores and Cultural Heritage Assets for Sustainable Development” makes the case that preserving cultural heritage in cities is not only a noble cause but also creates jobs and income. It shows how embracing regeneration of city centers and reusing built assets can pay off in many ways and can differentiate a city from its competitors, branding it nationally and internationally to help it attract investment and talented people.

“Heritage anchors people to their roots, providing a sense of dignity. Identity matters to all vibrant cities and all people,” says World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte.

The World Bank and its partners will launch two initiatives to provide tools in two areas that need further work to inform the dialog on sustainable cities:

  • A policy and research program on “Rethinking Housing Policy” led by Paul Collier of Oxford University will develop diagnostics and practical policy advice to help policymakers find evidence based and practical solutions to house the billions of people who will becomes city-dwellers over the next 30 years.
  • A Global Lab on Metropolitan Strategic Planning launched in partnership with the Regional Plan Association of New York, which will, for the first time, bring together planners and decision-makers from many of the world’s largest cities to find solutions for providing infrastructure and basic services in rapidly expanding metropolitan areas.

 

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