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Urban Development

Why cities matter for the global food system

Francisco Obreque's picture
La Paz, Bolivia. Photo by Andy Shuai Liu / World Bank

I was with the World Bank delegation at the Habitat III Conference in Quito last week, reflecting on the future of cities and speaking at a panel on food security. While there, I could not help but remember the story of Wara, an indigenous Aymara woman, one of eight children from a poor rural family living in the Bolivian Altiplano. Poverty forced her to migrate to the city when she was young.

Now living in La Paz, Wara has been working as a nanny in households for decades. She has three teenagers. Her oldest son is overweight and has already had several health problems. He occasionally works with his father building houses. The other kids are still in school and Wara hopes that armed with an education, they will be able to find a good job.

According to statistics, Wara is no longer poor. Indeed, Wara and her family are better off when compared to her modest origins. The truth is, however, that she is vulnerable and can easily fall back into poverty and hunger.

As in most Aymara families, Wara’s husband administers the money, including her own earnings, but she is the food-provider for the family. Each Saturday he gives Wara some money to get food for the week. She wakes up early to go to one of the four big markets in La Paz to buy basic staples such as potatoes, fresh vegetables, rice, sugar and oil, among others.

At the market, Wara doesn’t always find everything she needs. Climatic or logistic factors often hamper food deliveries to the city. When this occurs, perishable food arrives in bad condition or with lesser quality, and many products are just thrown away.

The story of Wara illustrates some of the current and future challenges for the food system. 

A tale of twin demographics: Youth in cities

Nicole Goldin's picture
60% of urban populations will be under the age of 18 by 2030.  How can we harness youth potential as a growth engine for cities? Photo: Arne Hoel/ World Bank

This week thousands of policy-makers, experts, NGOs and urban-minded citizens of all stripes are convening in Quito, Ecuador to discuss the New Urban Agenda at Habitat III – a significant global convening that occurs every 20 years. And, in a couple weeks, amid the costumes and candy, ghosts and goblins of Halloween, the world will mark UN World Cities Day on October 31st. For good reason, youth are part of the conversation.  In today’s global landscape, two demographic patterns should stand out:  rapid urbanization and large youth populations.  These patterns are especially robust across developing nations.  Already the worlds’ cities host half of its citizens, and Asia and Africa are expected to account for 90% of urban growth. While growing, cities have also become younger – many of the world’s nearly four billion people under the age of 30 live in urban areas, and according to UN-HABITAT, it is estimated that 60% of urban populations will be under the age of 18 by 2030.

Do PPPs have a future?

David Baxter's picture

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Flickr Creative Commons

In September, a whirlwind of meetings took place with agencies and development banks in Washington, D.C., and Europe that were focused on the current and future implementation of public-private partnerships (PPPs) across the global market. The healthy debate on the topic exposed the participants to interesting insights provided by proponents and naysayers of PPPs.
Many PPP experts that I met shared ideas on the changing context of PPPs and how these changes will impact the implementation of PPPs across regions and sectors in the near and far future. All agreed that the long-term consequences of future political, economic and societal changes are particularly difficult to predict.

Quito: Turning sustainable transport ideas into reality

Mahmoud Mohieldin's picture
During Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador, World Bank Senior Vice President Mahmoud Mohieldin and Arturo Ardila-Gomez, Global Lead for Urban Mobility & Lead Transport Economist, look at an example of how World Bank-supported operations and technical assistance contribute to the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goal No.11 to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

The World Bank views Planning, Connecting, and Financing as three essential policy tools to nurture inclusive economic growth in cities. The Connecting tool is aimed at connecting people with jobs and schools, and businesses with markets, in order to help promote inclusion. Within the framework of its transport initiative, Sustainable Mobility for All, the World Bank is assisting client countries and cities in developing urban transport projects and policies that support both public transport and non-motorized transport. 

Big data innovation – moving from ideas to implementation

Trevor Monroe's picture

If you want to do something fast, do something that has already been done. If you want to hardwire a data innovation into World Bank Operations, be prepared to involve others in a process of learning by doing.  – Holly Krambeck, Senior Transport Specialist, WBG

As the world grows more connected, data flows from a multitude of sources. Mobile networks, social media, satellites, grounds sensors, and machine-to-machine transactions are being used along with traditional data--like household surveys--to improve insights and actions toward global goals.
At the World Bank, a cadre of pioneering economists and sector specialists are putting big data in action. Big data sources are being harnessed to lead innovations like:

  • satellites to track rural electrification, to monitor crop yields and to predict poverty;
  • taxi GPS data to monitor traffic flows and congestion
  • mobile phone data for insights into human mobility and behavior, as well as infrastructure and socio-economic conditions 

Constructing housing PPPs to build trust

Kate Owens's picture

As stakeholders from around the world gather at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador, to agree on a New Urban Agenda, one of the important questions that remains unanswered is why we continue to see housing projects that target the rich but ignore the inadequately sheltered poor.
This question has dogged me for years as I try to understand affordable housing crises gripping cities from Washington, D.C., to Nairobi. At one point, I believed the issue stemmed from a lack of financial liquidity lubricating developers’ and homebuyers’ actions. But alleviating that issue often contributes to increasing prices and building projects in the wrong places.

Competitive cities for jobs, growth, poverty reduction and shared prosperity?

Soraya Goga's picture
Photo by ecuadorpostales via Shutterstock

We are all aware of the statistics: cities are home to more than 50% of the world’s population, and they are growing so fast that 66 out of 100 people on earth will be urban dwellers by 2050. This, of course, will have major implications for people and poverty, climate change, and service delivery.
But did you also know that cities are the key drivers of global and national economic growth?
Currently, cities generate more than 80% of global GDP. Since the early 2000s, three-quarters of the world’s 750 largest cities have grown faster than their national economies. One of the key reasons for those cities’ success is higher productivity—as a result of their ability to attract skilled workers—as well as a high concentration of productive entrepreneurs and firms.
For decades, national and city leaders have also taken actions to build competitive cities, increasingly facilitating firms and industries to create jobs, raise productivity, and increase incomes over time—especially for the urban poor. They see this as the pathway to eliminate extreme poverty and to promote shared prosperity. This is particularly important in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where most of the world’s extreme poor live.

It’s possible to end poverty in South Asia

Annette Dixon's picture

October 17 is the international day to end poverty. There has been much progress toward this important milestone: the World Bank Group’s latest numbers show that since 1990 nearly 1.1 billion people have escaped extreme poverty. Between 2012 and 2013 alone, around 100 million people moved out of extreme poverty. That’s around a quarter of a million people every day. This is cause for optimism.
But extreme poverty and the wrenching circumstances that accompany it persist. Half the world's extreme poor now live in sub-Saharan Africa, and another third live in South Asia. Worldwide nearly 800 million people were still living on less than $1.90 a day in 2013, the latest year for which we have global numbers. Half of these are children. Most have nearly no education. Many of the world's poor are living in fragile and conflict afflicted countries. In a world in which so many have so much, it is unacceptable that so many have so little. 

Habitat III will shape the future of cities. What will it mean for urban mobility?

Nancy Vandycke's picture
Photo credit: Rajarshi Mitra/Flickr

Next week, the international community will gather at Habitat III - the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development - to discuss important urban challenges as the world’s cities grow at an unprecedented rate.

Today, 54% of people live in cities and towns. Cities can be magnets for population growth and offer opportunities for jobs and social empowerment; but they can also be a source of congestion, exclusion and impoverishment. Which path of urban growth will prevail depends, in large part, on the quality and availability of mobility solutions. Transport is a structuring element of cities.

The reality of mobility in today’s cities is alarming— especially when measured against the four criteria that define sustainable mobility.

Chart: Over Half the World Lives in Cities

Tariq Khokhar's picture

Over half the world lives in cities, and those cities are responsible for over 80% of global GDP. However, the high density of people, jobs, and assets which make cities so successful, also makes them vulnerable to the wide range of natural and manmade shocks and stresses increasingly affecting them today. Read more about how the World Bank is investing in urban reslience.