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The Urban opportunity to enable Transformative and Sustainable development

Background paper for the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Prepared by the co-chairs of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Thematic Group on Sustainable Cities: Inclusive, Resilient, and Connected:

Aromar Revi, Director Indian Institute of Human Settlements, Bangalore Cynthia Rosenzweig, Earth Institute at Columbia University, New York

22 January 2013

The first half of the 21st century will host a world that is a fundamentally new one. For the first time in human history a majority of the world population will live in urban areas. Over the next 30 years, this transformation will depend not only on policies and practices in the OECD economies; but increasingly on choices made in the cities of East and South Asia, Latin America, followed soon by those in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. Country after country in every region is in the process of moving from rural and agrarian to urban and potentially post-industrial landscapes in a deep transformation of culture, institutions and identity that has never been experienced since the agricultural revolution over 5,000 years ago. This development has profound implications on how societies shape and manage themselves. It offers an unprecedented opportunity to use the urbanization process as a catalyst for sustainable economic and social development. At the same time, it also offers a set of significant challenges to governments, the private sector, civil society and communities. They have to collectively ensure that public policy, private enterprise and collective action is recalibrated to manage this rural-urban transition without significant economic, social or environmental disruption. To this end, this note lays out an initial framework of how urban issues underline and link to larger sustainable development processes. 1. Trends: From now till 2050, the world urban population will grow from 3.5 billion (in 2010) to 6.2 billion, by when 67 percent of the global population (estimated 9.3 billion) will live in cities. Of this, over 525 million are expected to live in poverty below the $1 per capita per day and 1.2 billion below $2 per capita per day. By 2025, the GDP of the 600 highest contributing cities will rise by over 30 trillion or 65% of global growth. Annual urban infrastructure and building investments are expected to rise from $10 trillion today to more than $20 trillion by 2025, with urban centres in emerging economies attracting the most of this investment. 2. Why Cities are Different: The contours of urban economies and societies demand new forms of governance and policy making in comparison to traditional agrarian or mixed societies. Higher population densities require concentrated investments in physical, natural and social infrastructure, careful conservation and management of ecosystem services and building greater resilience against external shocks. Rapid migration and the growth of transboundary environmental refugee movement will require continuous policy revision and predictive planning to manage volatile population fluxes. Less stable social systems, fracturing of community and extended family bonds will require a greater role for state-led or formal social safety systems. Income and social disparities in dense urban concentrations will challenge the ability to deliver order and the rule of law and will require specific policies to encourage inclusion, widen opportunity and, in highly stratified societies, enable social transformation.

Food systems for an urban world will require re-orientation towards greater sustainability, an expansion of urban production to enable universal nutritional coverage and promoting healthy cities to reduce the risk of lifestyle-related disease. Related biomass systems like forests are under threat because of the massive expansion of urban resource consumption that often spans continental scale. Cities, unlike agricultural systems are not the largest consumers of freshwater, but are often most at risk due to pollution, water scarcity and flooding which is being acerbated by climate change. Addressing this will require a transformation of both city and urban metabolism and production processes. Industrial forms of transportation have not only led to unsustainable sprawl but the growth of resource and carbon intensive forms of urbanization that are a serious threat to the local and global environment. Finally, the economic core of the city requires constant reinvention to create sustainable forms of livelihood, end poverty in urban areas, carrying economic prosperity to peri-urban and rural areas. All of this has profound implications for natural resource use, land-use dynamics and biodiversity conservation, and the sustainable metabolism of cities. It will imply the coevolution of new technological and governance systems for an emerging urban world, in which the largest economic entities will be cities or firms and a new set of middle-income nation states. 3. The Opportunity: If uninterrupted by conflict or global environmental change, this urbanization-led 100-year post-WWII boom could transform human societies across the globe. It offers unprecedented leverage to help end multidimensional poverty; dramatically improve life expectancy, health status and education; help diminish social stratification and inequality; enable greater economic and political participation; provide the space to deepen the governance of our societies and conserve and heal a badly injured planet and the ecosystem services that provide the basis for all life to thrive and human societies to develop. The geographic concentration of urban populations opens up opportunities for economies of scale and scope in creating productive opportunities, providing health and educational services, promoting innovation and knowledge creation, diffusion of ideas and creativity in ways that were never possible before. It allows for much more efficient water, food, biomass and energy use if managed well, opening up possibilities of building ecologically sustainable communities. 4. The Challenge: As a globalizing urban society, we will face multi-dimensional challenges in this transition. By 2030, urban areas in developing countries will range in size from a hundreds of thousands of 10,000 people towns; to over 500 million+ cities, about 25 mega (> 10 million) cities and 8 mega urban-regions with populations of over 20 million. Megacities and mega urban-regions will typically concentrate large proportions of the economic, environmental, and human resources of their countries - requiring fundamentally

new modes of governance, technological and environmental management systems to enable their sustainability. Managing cities with such diversity of size, scope and character will require resilient and innovative institutions, flexible policies and a cadre of interdisciplinary professions with a wide range of skills. A fundamental global shift from an agrarian society and economy to an urban-based one will require new ways of supporting food and biomass production that is less dependent of fossil nutrients and ecologically balanced, and yet produces enough for a planet full of over 9 billion people. This will require new forms of ecological production in rural and urban areas. Increasing pressure on land will require different ways of managing biodiversity, coastal and forest ecosystems and mitigating desertification while catering to the real needs of cities. The century-long transition through low-carbon energy systems to renewable will need to proceed differently across a wide spectrum of cities based on size, economic structure and transportation system. The velocity of this transition will strongly determine the pain and disruption that climate variability and change can cause to urban systems across the world. Urban epidemiological profiles differ significantly from rural populations and will throw up new risks for urban health systems to address. Managing the large and continuous influx of people in cities will create pressures on economic, social and political structures and supporting ecosystems. Inadequate infrastructure, housing, security, and employment opportunities can create deep public unrest and social instability in cities much more rapidly than in rural areas. The greatest challenge therefore is the creation of a converging set of aspirations and identities for city after city across the planet, for their diverse institutions and even more diverse populations so that collectively, we can coalesce around a globally shared vision of prosperity and inclusive development. 5. Urban priorities for the post-2015 development agenda: Development strategies to reduce income poverty, improve educational and health outcomes, and manage natural resources typically cut across the artificial rural and urban divide. Yet, as city-led growth accelerates in some regions, the specific challenges of developing world growth will not only have regional influence but impact the global economy, polity and environment. Thus we need a global framework for engagement with a broad set of urban challenges and mobilize synergies between them to enable transformative development outcomes over 2015-30:


Ending income poverty and feeding our cities: Inclusive urban development especially in Asia and Africa could help end much of global urban income poverty by 2030 as has been demonstrated so effectively in China over the last two decades. This in turn could have

significant impacts on rural poverty via employment expansion and stronger urban-rural linkages. In the context of declining global food productivity, global and regional food systems need to integrate urban areas and ensure sustainable and ecologically safe modes of production and consumption. Goals on nutrition security and access to affordable food are essential to end food-based poverty. II. Universal access to urban environmental services and ensuring ecosystem integrity: The most dramatic reduction in the burden of disease and child mortality since the industrial revolution has been enabled by universal access to basic environmental services: potable water, sanitation and solid waste services. As climate variability increases, drainage networks need to be added to this set of services to respond to incipient flooding. Reducing indoor and outdoor air pollution has also become an important challenge in rapidly industrializing cities across the world. An urbanizing world will need specific goals on ensuring ecosystem integrity and conservation of major ecosystem services along with ensuring access to and conservation of scarce water resources, especially in ecologically stressed regions of the world. Goals on minimum standards of urban sanitation services, solid waste management and recycling and air, water and soil pollution are essential to ensure well being and continuous improvement in the quality of life, especially of the most vulnerable. Providing access to affordable and safe housing and the right to the city: Enabling access to affordable and safe housing for all is a necessary condition for urban sustainability. This is part of a systemic response to the failure of land and labour markets in many cities to address questions of equity. Building a progressive entitlement frame that underwrites the right to the city as effectively demonstrated by Brazil will help address the explosion of informal settlements across the world. This is only a symptom of the failure to address the linkage between location, work and housing and build a new participatory planning paradigm. This will enable each citizen access to security of identity, tenure and livelihoods via a locally determined mix of state, market and community-led approaches that will lead to an upsurge in collective action for the common good. Enabling sustainable energy and transportation services and mitigating climate risk: The security and productivity of cities depends on universal access to efficient and sustainable energy services, and well functioning and affordable mobility and transportation systems that are integrated with economic development, land use planning and risk reduction measures. Specific relative and absolute goals on the transition to universal access to efficient low-carbon and renewable-based energy services will not only enable greater economic and resource efficiency, but help mitigate impact climate risk. Universal access to affordable active mobility and transportation



systems that are in consonance with sustainable energy, low-carbon and compact city goals will enable the development of more inclusive, accessible and efficient cities. V. Promoting economic and social inclusion and keeping cities safe: The physical proximity between the elites, the vulnerable and the deprived is a stark contradiction of most 21 st century cities. In a youthful world bursting with aspiration of a better future, media and information access has brought exclusion to the forefront of the public imagination. Promoting economic and social inclusion (and in highly stratified cultures enabling social transformation around gender, ethnicity, age and other forms of exclusion) is a necessary condition for sustainable development and keeping cities safe from a wide range of conflicts and predatory interests. Creating social and economic safety nets to support access to livelihood security and basic nutrition, health, education and environmental services is a necessary goal for most cities. Security of poor and excluded communities, women and girl children especially at risk to sexual and other violence will help address some of the asymmetries caused by mal-development and iniquitous economic growth. Developing effective governance systems and deepening participation and resilience : The governance structures of most cities in the developing world are overwhelmed by a combination of inadequate urban governance frameworks and political systems, demographic pressure, resource and institutional constraints and managerial complexity. As urban systems expand, city governments, citizens, communities, civil society and private enterprise need more inclusive, transparent, outcome-oriented and effective systems of political participation, planning and development to address the wide range of contests and conflicts that will emerge. Urban resilience will emerge through the interaction between systems of governance, delivery institutions and socio-political systems that re-orient economic, social and environmental goals towards greater sustainability.


As the world moves into an urban future, societies across the world have to grapple with deep challenges of redirection and reorganization to ensure that they manage global public goods and resources effectively, that they harness the productive potential of urban societies in ways that enable the expansion of prosperity within the capacities of the planet, and that they develop structures and processes of inclusion and participation that allow citizens to build a better life for themselves- the central promise and challenge of transformative development for the 21st century.