Humanity will have to undergo a “revolution in thinking” in order to deal with the doubling of urban populations in Africa and Asia by 2030, warns UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. In a new report released on Wednesday, The State of World Population 2007: Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth, the organization maintains that in 30 years, the populations of African and Asian cities will double, adding 1.7 billion peopleÔÇömore than the populations of China and the United States combined.
Globally, all future population growth will take place in cities, nearly all of it in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In Asia and Africa, this marks a decisive shift from rural to urban growth, changing a balance that has lasted for millennia, says the report.
“What happens in the cities of Africa and Asia and other regions will shape our common future,” says UNFPA Executive Director, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid. She said there is a need to abandon a mindset that resists urbanization and act now to begin a concerted global effort. “This will help cities unleash their potential to spur economic growth and solve social problems,” she said.
To take advantage of potential opportunities, Obaid said that governments must prepare for the coming growth. “If they wait, it will be too late,” she says.
According to her this wave of urbanization is without precedent and the changes are too large and too fast to allow planners and policymakers simply to react. In Africa and Asia, the number of people living in cities increases by approximately 1 million, on average, each week. Leaders need to be proactive and take far-sighted action to fully exploit the opportunities that urbanization offers, she explained.
UrbanizationÔÇöthe rise in the urban share of total populationÔÇöis inevitable, says the report, and could be considered a positive development. No country in the industrial age has achieved significant economic growth without urbanization.
The State of World Population 2007 says that, although most new urbanites will be poor, they must be part of the solution. Assisting them to meet their needs for housing, health care, education and employment, could also unleash the potential of urban-dwellers to power economic growth.
“The battle for the Millennium Development Goals to have extreme poverty by 2015 will be won or lost in the cities of the developing world,” says Obaid. “This means accepting the rights of poor people to live in cities and working with their creativity to tackle potential problems and generate new solutions.”
The report urges city authorities and urban planners to make it a priority to provide for the shelter needs of the urban poor saying they should offer the poor secure tenure on land that is outfitted with power, water and sanitation services. Those living in poor communities should have access to education and health care and should be encouraged to build their own homes.
Most urban growth results from natural increase rather than migration, says the release. To reduce the pace of growth, the report stated that policymakers should support interventions such as poverty reduction initiatives, investments in the empowerment of women, education, and health, including reproductive health and family planning services.
The report says that policymakers and planners need to harness the potential of cities to improve the lives of all.
This is to accept the right of poor people to the city, abandoning attempts to discourage migration and prevent urban growth.