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World Urban Forum

Spatially awhere: Bridging the gap between leading and lagging regions

Sameh Wahba's picture


As the world urbanizes rapidly, international experience has shown that economic activities concentrate in a relatively small number of places – it is estimated that only 1.5% of the world’s land is home to about half of global production.

Such economic concentration is a built-in feature of human settlement development and a key driver of growth. However, while some countries have succeeded in spreading economic benefits to most of their citizens, many other countries have not.

Especially outside the economic centers that concentrate production, there are “lagging areas” with persistent disparities in living standards and a lack of access to basic services and economic opportunities.

Today, over two billion people live in such lagging areas. Over one billion people live in underserved slums with many disparities from the rest of the city in terms of access to infrastructure and services, tenure security, and vulnerability to disaster risk. A further one billion people live in underdeveloped areas with few job opportunities and public services.

How can countries address the division between the leading and lagging regions?

As discussed at the Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF9) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, we at the World Bank Group are taking an integrated territorial approach through a “spatially awhere” lens to tackle the land, social, and economic challenges altogether.

Disability inclusion - ensuring equal access to urban opportunities for all

Sameh Wahba's picture
 

What will the world look like in 2050?

What we know is that nearly 70% of the world’s population will live in cities.
 
What we want, as envisioned through Sustainable Development Goal 11 (SDG11), is that future cities are inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable for all – including over one billion persons with disabilities.
 
In keeping with SDG11, the New Urban Agenda is striving to ensure that future cities, towns and basic urban infrastructures and services are more environmentally accessible, user-friendly, and inclusive of all people’s needs, including persons with disabilities.
 
[Immersive story: 3 Big Ideas to Achieve Sustainable Cities and Communities]
 
Cities need to be designed in a way that facilitates access for persons with disabilities to buildings and services, and increases their opportunities for economic participation and activity.


The need for disability-inclusive urban development cities was emphasized at the Ninth World Urban Forum (WUF9), held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in February 2018. Throughout the seven-day conference, participants from around the world highlighted, among other themes, the importance of the inclusion of persons with disabilities in urban development.
 
In this video, Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo (@McNhlapo), the World Bank’s Global Advisor for Disability Inclusion, interviews World Bank Director for Urban and Territorial Development and Disaster Risk Management, Sameh Wahba (@SamehNWahba) on his reflections on the outcomes of WUF9.
 
In the interview, Sameh emphasizes the importance of “ensuring access for all, not just in the sense of access to transport and infrastructure, but also in the sense of creating opportunities for all, in particular for persons with disabilities.” 

UN-Habitat Executive Director: Let’s work together to implement the New Urban Agenda

Sameh Wahba's picture
During the Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF9) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the World Bank delegation met with Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat).

Ms. Sharif became the Executive UN-Habitat in December 2017, succeeding Joan Clos of Spain. She was previously Mayor of the City Council of Penang Island, Malaysia, where she led the Municipal Council of Seberang Perai to achieve its vision of a “cleaner, greener, safer and healthier place to work, live, invest and play.”

In 2011, Ms. Sharif was the first woman to be appointed president of the Municipal Council of Seberang Perai, where she collaborated with the World Bank on urban development projects.

Under Ms. Sharif’s leadership, UN-Habitat has focused WUF9’s theme on “Cities 2030, Cities for all: Implementing the New Urban Agenda” as a tool and accelerator for achieving Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Watch a video blog of UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif (@MaimunahSharif) and World Bank Director Sameh Wahba (@SamehNWahba) where they discuss the importance of collaboration and partnership for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
 




 

How do city leaders get things done? Learning from mayors in Japan

Sameh Wahba's picture
Also available in: Español | 日本語 
Picture of the Competitive Cities Technical Deep Dive participants enjoying a walk through the Minato Mirai 21 area (with the Cosmo Clock in the background), which aims to concentrate high-value added activities and a high quality of life in an integrated urban core in downtown Yokohama. Photo Credit: TDLC
The task of mayors and city leaders is no longer limited to providing efficient urban services to their citizens. Job creation is at the forefront of the economic development challenge globally.

Cities need jobs and opportunities for their citizens and the means to generate tax revenues to fund projects that meet their populations’ growing demand for basic services. The WBG flagship report on Competitive Cities outlines how creating jobs in urban areas – urgently but also at scale– is essential.
 
In November, 2017, we spent a week with approximately 30 city and national government officials and policymakers from several countries, including Argentina, Chile, Croatia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Philippines, Romania, South Africa, Tunisia and Uganda. These leaders represented diverse cities across the world, all with a common objective – how to make their cities and regions more competitive?

Many were dealing with a fragmented institutional landscape, often with overlapping jurisdictions – necessitating clarity of institutional circuits and processes. Some struggled to coordinate economic development strategies with private sector. Lack of adequate sub-national socio-economic data to drive evidence-based policy making compounded issues. City leaders are not looking for a lesson in theory – but evidence of what works and what doesn’t, and practical, implementable examples of how to get things done.
 
We spent the week as part of a Technical Deep Dive, studying and living the experience of two exceptional Japanese cities - Yokohama and Kobe. These cities have dealt with:
  • population influx,
  • industrialized at a rapid pace,
  • responded to environmental challenges,
  • reached the technological frontier,
  • undergone a housing bubble,
  • and even went through a major disaster (the Kobe earthquake) and recovered from it.

National and local leaders in Latin America: Sustainable cities are resilient cities

Sameh Wahba's picture
Cities are critical engines of global growth. But as cities grow, they’re increasingly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters.
 
The year of 2017 was one of many recent reminders of that “new normal”—from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria that pounded coastal United States and the Caribbean to the severe drought that struck Somali, which led to the displacement and even life losses of individuals and families.
 
Even when lives are not threatened, livelihoods are at stake: Without major action taken to invest in urban resilience, climate change may force up to 77 million urban residents back into poverty by 2030.
 
[Report: Investing in Urban Resilience]

This helps explain why many city leaders attending the World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this week resonate with the same message: Sustainable cities are resilient cities.
 
At the forum, we spoke with national, municipal, and civil society leaders on the issue of urban resilience—including ministers and mayors from three Latin American countries, a region full of emerging cities and aspiring populations that are no stranger to hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. 
 
Watch the videos below and leave a comment to let us know what your city may be doing differently to enhance urban resilience.
 
 


Michael Berkowitz
President, 100 Resilient Cities

In Africa, sustainable urbanization starts with effective financial management

Sameh Wahba's picture
In most developing countries, cities are struggling with the demands of growing urbanization. A major challenge is the lack of sufficient, effectively managed financial resources. For instance, the global investment needed for urban infrastructure is $4.5-5.4 trillion per year, a figure that dwarfs official development assistance.
 
To bridge the municipal financing gap, cities must take coordinated action with partners, such as private investors and multilateral development agencies to build financial management institutions that are sustainable, accountable, and stable.
 
[Report: Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World]

In East Africa, the World Bank has an operational portfolio of almost $1 billion in urban projects focused on improving financial and institutional performance across multiple local governments in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, as well as operations that focus in-depth on big city governments. 
 
For example, in Uganda, World Bank projects in Kampala increased its inflation-adjusted revenues by approximately 10% in one year, and the secondary city clean audit report performance has improved from 36% to 100% over a period of two years.

Watch a conversation between World Bank Director Sameh Wahba (@SamehNWahba) and Jennifer Musisi (@KCCAED), Executive Director, Kampala Capital City Authority to learn more about Kampala’s transformation in recent years in municipal financing, and what other countries and cities can learn from this experience.
 

Resilient Haitian cities – live today but think about tomorrow!

Sameh Wahba's picture


Landing in Port-au-Prince awakens your senses. Exiting the airplane, you are re-energized by the explosion of colors, the welcoming smiles, and the warm weather – particularly when coming from a cold January in Washington, D.C.  Loud honking, a high density of houses and buildings, and streets bustling with pedestrians and small informal businesses are all evidence of the rapid urbanization process in Haiti.
As soon as you land, the challenges of the city are evident; Port-au-Prince expands to the ocean on flat plains exposed to flooding and quickly rises on steep hills with challenging access and risks of landslides and flash floods.  The reconstruction efforts after the earthquake in 2010 are still ongoing, and many of the houses seem to be hanging from the sky, perched on steep slopes. If you look at the houses from afar they appear as a single skyscraper, as distance makes the houses seem as if they are built on top of the one another. These false skyscrapers are highly exposed to landslides, flooding and earthquakes.

Bolivia’s path to urban resilience

Melanie Kappes's picture
A house after a flood in Bolivia. World Bank.

Imagine you live in a city that floods, sometime for weeks, after extreme rainfalls.

Imagine you live in that flooded city, where you and thousands of your neighbors must find a place to stay till the water has receded, and you finally can get back home, with the fear of finding it devastated.

The city of Trinidad is a place like this, located in Bolivia’s Amazonian low-lands, and with heavy prolonged precipitation, rivers, lagoons and lakes rise, affecting thousands of families.

Overall in Bolivia, 43% of the population lives in areas of high flood risk. Trinidad and other cities in the low-lands experience inundations, while in La Paz, Bolivia’s political center, frequent landslides lead to fatalities and damage to housing and infrastructure.

“But what about Singapore?” Lessons from the best public housing program in the world

Abhas Jha's picture
Also available in: Mongolian | Chinese
 
Photo of Singapore by Lois Goh / World Bank

 
As we approach the 9th World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur next week, one of the essential challenges in implementing the New Urban Agenda that governments are struggling with is the provision at scale of high quality affordable housing, a key part of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 of building sustainable cities and communities.
 
When I worked on affordable housing in Latin America, one consistent piece of advice we would give our clients was that it is not a good idea for governments to build and provide housing themselves. Instead, in the words of the famous (and sadly late) World Bank economist Steve Mayo, we should enable housing markets to work. Our clients would always respond by saying, “But what about Singapore?” And we would say the Singapore case is too sui generis and non-replicable.

[Learn more about the World Bank's participation in the World Urban Forum]
 
Now, having lived in the beautiful red-dot city state for two and half years, and seeing up close the experience of public housing in Singapore, one is struck by elements of the Singapore housing experience that are striking for its foresight and, yes, its replicability!
 
Singapore’s governing philosophy has famously been described as “think ahead, think again and think across.” Nowhere is this more apparent than how the founding fathers designed the national housing program, and how it has adapted and evolved over the years, responding to changed circumstances and needs.

It is hard to believe today but in 1947 the British Housing Committee reported that 72% of a total population of 938,000 of Singapore was living within the 80 square kilometers that made up the central city area. When Singapore attained self-government in 1959, only 9% of Singaporeans resided in public housing. Today, 80% of Singaporeans live a government built apartment. There are about one million Housing and Development Board (HDB) apartments, largely clustered in 23 self-contained new towns that extend around the city’s coastal core.
 
How has Singapore succeeded where so many other countries have failed dismally? At the risk of over-simplification, there seem to be four essential ingredients to this astonishing success story:


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