Last week I asked you to send us your questions about the challenges faced by rapidly urbanizing countries. Please see below my video with urban specialist Dean Cira, where he addresses 5 of the many questions received. Dean will follow up soon with a blog post tackling some of your other questions and comments. Thanks!
|Dean Cira will answer some of your questions in a video|
Urbanization itself cannot guarantee economic growth, but it does appear to be an inevitable process on the way to development: no country has achieved high income status without first urbanizing, and nearly all countries become at least 50% urbanized before fully reaching middle income status.
The trick is in how to manage this process in a way that plays up the benefits and minimizes the challenges it brings.
When I was a little child, we lived in a 30m2 house in the suburbs of Hanoi, Vietnam, with intermittent supplies of power and clean water. But I enjoyed playing on the quiet and clean street in front of my house. Twenty years later, my whole neighborhood has been nicely renovated; there’s enough electricity to run all appliances in my house, including two air conditioners. But I get stuck in traffic every day on my way to work, and the smog is so thick I can hardly breathe, even with a mask on my face.
Urbanization has arrived to my hometown with both advantages and challenges. However, noises, heavy traffic, and air and water pollution are not unique to Hanoi. They can be observed in many cities in emerging countries all over the world (such as China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, or Nigeria). The Vietnam Urbanization Review notes that if these challenges are well managed, they will allow cities like Hanoi to retain its unique charm and livability while enjoying the benefits that urbanization brings.
Do you have any questions on how to ease traffic congestion? Or dealing with high housing prices in your city? Do you want to share your own experiences? What are your concerns when moving in or out of a city?
Our urban expert, Dean Cira, is here to answer your questions.
Send your question now using the comment function below to ask him and he’ll address on video five of all the questions received. We’ll take questions until the end of Wednesday, June 20. You can also join the conversation on Twitter by sending your questions to @worldbankasia.
Data from World Bank
Standing in the middle of the cloud forest in my home country of Costa Rica as a child I made the choice to dedicate my life to protecting the environment. Back then, the first image that came to mind when thinking about biodiversity conservation was definitely not that of a flourishing city. Fast forward 20 years and you’ll find the same environmentalist sitting in front of a computer in an office working on the challenges cities face as a result of climate change. What is a biologist doing working on cities? Well, I’m basically doing what I promised myself to do as a child… just from a different angle and in an apparently less exotic setting.
With about 185,000 people a day moving into cities – some 2 billion more people by 2035 – cities are where the action is and jobs are available. Following is a top ten urban report for tomorrow’s job seekers.
1. Construction Workers. Someone’s got to build all those new cities with their infrastructure, buildings, transportation systems, waste management, and power supply. And then there’s the retrofitting of existing cities. How are we going to pay for all this construction? Over the next 30 years the world will see an unprecedented increase in wealth as the land being taken over by cities grows in value. Let’s just hope we build ‘sustainable cities’ or the true costs will far outweigh the benefits.
2. Civil Engineers and City Planners. Used to be you could graduate as a civil engineer and start building roads, buildings, railways, ports and wastewater treatment facilities. The ‘civil’ part just distinguished it from military engineering, the world’s first engineers. Now the ‘civil’ in civil engineering can just as easily refer to civility and civilization. Today, civil engineers, the builders of cities, need to help develop and nurture a social contract that is always stronger than concrete and steel. Also, an encouraging trend in many countries – more than half of the freshmen civil and environmental engineering students are female.
After Newsweek’s third annual Women in the World summit two weeks ago, I started to wonder about where women stand in the massive wave of urbanization our world is facing. The UN study, The World’s Women 2010, tells us:
- Only 14 women in the world were either Head of State or Head of Government in 2010.
- In only 23 countries do women comprise over 30 percent in the lower house of their national parliament.
- On average, only 1 in 6 cabinet ministers in the world is a woman.
- Only 13 of the 500 largest corporations in the world have a female Chief Executive Officer.
But what about female Mayors? As the most visible face of local politics and the closest link to their constituents, do women occupy more positions in the city leadership? The global breakdown is below:
But why, one may ask, is the leadership of women particularly relevant to sustainable cities? The National Democratic Institute gives a number of reasons:
This year marks the 200th birthday for Charles Dickens who is likely the best-known social commentator who documented the more troublesome aspects of the Industrial Revolution and the start of the world’s headlong rush to urbanize. Dickens’ writings give a ringside seat to the turmoil London, and Paris, faced over two hundred years ago. That Dickens’ vantage point was London only made sense; it had just surpassed Beijing as the world’s largest city, and arguably is the birthplace of capitalism and industrialization.
The big question now is, where in the world would today’s most important social commentator choose to live? We obviously know it would be a big city as cities are the most powerful determinants of our futures. But what city best captures today’s and tomorrow’s social milieu?
Personal affluence up 3000%; people living in extreme poverty down from about 75% to 20%; atmospheric CO2 concentration up from 280 ppm to 393.5 ppm; at least 700 known species lost; 1.3 billion hectares with moderate to severe soil degradation; big fish in the oceans – more than 90% gone.
The starting gun for the first half of industrialization – globalization – urbanization sounded in 1784 when James Watt, William Murdoch and Matthew Boulton’s efforts culminated in a patent award for the “steam locomotive”. That’s when the urbanization race began in earnest. Half of us now live in cities, with 185,000 more streaming in every day.
Public-private partnerships (PPPs)—agreements between governments and the private sector to finance infrastructure or public services—haven’t taken off in Ukraine, at least not yet. From time to time you hear about a PPP conference or workshop, and USAID is funding a new initiative to promote them. There is a concessions law (from 1999) and a newer concessions law for roads (2008). But the overall business environment isn’t very good (152 out of 183 economies in Doing Business) and there are issues with corruption (also an unlucky 152 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index).
On Thursday I had the honor and privilege to make a presentation on issues of sustainable urbanization and urban poverty at a small summit organized by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore in New York City. Vice President Gore is writing a book about drivers of global change that will cover a range of topics including population and demographics, which was the focus of the meeting.
His team identified about 12 experts from a range of disciplines—a sociologist; demographer; geographer; researchers working on issues of family, aging, and gender; a writer; and an economist to explore patterns, trends, and current research. I was on a panel along with Saskia Sassen of Columbia University and David Owen of the New Yorker magazine. We all sat in a small room for 9 hours, presenting different perspectives on demographic change, each contributing from our own disciplines.
This blog is written in response to a generous and humbling offer by the urban anchor at the World Bank to present my book on the Evolution of Great World Cities (Kennedy, 2011). Having provided occasional assistance to the Bank over the past few years, I realized how big a challenge this may be. The Bank has brainpower akin to an Ivy League university, and is a large organization with so many endeavours that are hard for me to keep abreast of. Nonetheless, while tackling enormously complex development challenges, the clear objective of the Bank is to help with the elimination of poverty. Given that my book is primarily about stinking rich cities, there’s a chance that I could completely miss my audience! There again, the rapid rate of urbanization in the developing world provides such a huge opportunity to bring millions out of poverty, if planned well - and many cities in the developing world no doubt aspire to be great world cities.