Regional Development - Sustainable Urban Management
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It is widely recognized that sustainable urbanization is one of the critical elements for achieving sustainable development. Today, more than 50 per cent of the world population lives in cities and urban areas. This number is expected to increase to more than 70 per cent by 2050, with almost all the growth taking place in developing world. Ninety-five per cent of the urban expansion in the next four decades will take place in developing world, with Asia and Africa together contributing over 86 per cent. During this period, Africa’s urban population will soar from 414 million to over 1.2 billion and Asia from 1.9 billion to 3.3 billion.

Urbanization brings both opportunities and challenges. Cities are the agents of economic, social, cultural, technologic and political changes and advancement1. If properly managed and planned for, urbanization could be an engine of economic growth and industrialization. However, without a proper policy in place, urbanization could also contribute to the rising urban poverty, proliferation of slums, regional inequalities and degradation of urban infrastructure and the environment. In this regard, rapid urbanization has brought formidable challenges to national and city governments, especially in the areas of governance, urban service delivery, socio-economic capacity, planning, mobility and the general environment. The world’s cities occupy just 2 per cent of the Earth’s land, but account for 60-80 per cent of energy consumption, 75 per cent of carbon emissions, approximately 70 per cent of global GDP, and consume 70 per cent of all resources. In addition, rapid urbanization is exerting pressure on fresh water supplies, sewage, the living environment, and public health. Cities in developing countries will be under enormous pressure to provide basic services, such as energy, water, sanitation, housing, education, and healthcare, for their expanding populations. Urban leaders will face significant economic, social, and environmental challenges.

The Rio+20 outcome document, The Future We Want highlights the need for putting in place effective policies for sustainable urban planning and design in order to respond effectively to the expected growth of urban populations in the coming decades. Through the application of regional development approach, UNCRD addresses the challenges of cities from regional development perspective, so that the city-rural linkages can be adequately addressed as stated in para. 135 of The Future We Want. This approach also enables to address city-region issues, linkages among cities and the issues of growing cities with their satellite cities. To help prepare local authorities to meet these challenges and achieve sustainable development, UNCRD developed a capacity-building programme around the Shanghai Manual and other relevant materials on Sustainable Urban Development that organizes a series of training courses/forums for mayors and city leaders. This was one of the major contributions of UNCRD towards Rio+20 to help galvanize the efforts of local authorities, one of the key constituents of the Major Group in Agenda 21, to make their cities more sustainable.

Sustainable Urban Management has four components: Integrated Urban Management, Environmentally Sustainable Transport (EST), 3R/Waste Management, and Disaster Management Planning. As for EST, 3R/Waste Management, and Disaster Management Planning, please refer to their respective thematic pages.

The overall objective is to make more cities become sustainable and resilient, through application of integrated urban planning, implementation of policies, and raising awareness in collaboration with three sectoral areas of work. The specific objectives are:
  1. To improve policy and instruments of urban planning and management with a focus on building a green economy;
  2. To enhance capacity of city leaders, mayors and decision makers of rapidly growing cities in developing countries to promote the transition to a low-carbon economy; and
  3. To strengthen capacity of planners and other experts on urban development planning and management.

The following are the areas where UNCRD focuses its activities:
  • Serving as a knowledge platform;
  • Organizing forums in Asia, Africa and Latin America for exchange of experiences on urban development planning and management;
  • Training of policymakers and planners;
  • Providing Technical assistance in plan/policy formulation, including multi-stakeholder consultations as well as implementation; and
  • Networking with collaborators including UN organizations, aid agencies, central/local governments in Asia, Africa and LAC countries, universities, training and research institutes etc.

1. UN-Habitat (2011), The Economic Role of Cities, UN-Habitat, Nairobi, Kenya.

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