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Urban Development

Ranking the world’s megacities is a wake-up call for women’s rights

Monique Villa's picture
Cities are becoming monsters. Look at the world’s biggest megacities. 38 million people live in Tokyo! Try to take a taxi and find the house of a friend in Japan’s capital. You need luck. Six billion people will live in cities by 2045.

Cities are the new states; today, many of the world’s 31 megacities have larger populations and economies than individual nations.

For many people, these big urban centers represent the land of opportunity, offering better chances of employment, increased access to education and health services, social mobility.  For many others it’s a daily struggle for survival. In all big cities, the inequality between rich and poor has become gigantic and the divide seems only to grow.

We conducted a poll to investigate one aspect: how do women perceive their life in the world’s megacities? We chose women because they are the real economic accelerators, re-investing 90% of their salary into their families. When a woman thrives, her immediate community thrives with her.

Throughout June and July, we asked 380 gender experts in the 19 countries hosting the world’s biggest megacities to identify in which they thought women fared best and worst. The findings were eye-opening. They returned a truly compelling snapshot of the wider issues faced by women: from sexual violence, to security, to access to reproductive rights, from the risks of harmful cultural practices, to the lack of access to economic opportunities.

London was voted the world’s most female-friendly metropolis, thanks to its provision of free healthcare and access to economic resources such as education and financial services.  Tokyo and Paris came second and third.

But when we look at what concerned women most, the poll offers proper food for thought. In London, for example, experts cited the gender pay gap (a recent study by the Chartered Management Institute and XpertHR found on average, women earned £12,000 less than their male counterparts, while just 26% of director-led roles are filled by women as opposed to 74% by men) as well as extortionate childcare costs, as two of the major issues facing women today.

Building on success: PPPs in a new era of Canadian infrastructure

Mark Romoff's picture

Also available in françaisلعربية 

Photo: Hubert Figuière | Flickr Creative Commons

Canada has quietly become a leading player in the global PPP space. The unique Canadian version of the procurement model has evolved from an innovative idea promoted through the wisdom and passion of a few early believers and visionaries into a widely applied approach, embraced by all three levels of government and in every region of the country.
What might seem an “overnight success” has, in fact, taken 25 years of listening and learning to develop a smart, innovative, modern approach to infrastructure and service delivery using Public-Private Partnerships. It’s an approach that ensures real value for tax dollars and the efficient use of precious public resources.

Pipeline to Work: Including persons with disabilities in skills development and employment projects

Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo's picture
Photo: Dane Macri/The Advocacy Project via Flickr CC
Photo: Dane Macri/The Advocacy Project via Flickr CC.

The relationship between poverty and disability goes both ways: disability increases the risk of poverty, and the conditions of poverty increase the risk of disability.

Yet, little attention has been given to the employment readiness of persons with disabilities. This is of concern given that the employment rates of persons with disabilities are a third to half of the rates for persons without disabilities, with unemployment rates as high as 80%-90% in some countries.

[Learn more: Disability Inclusion]

Disability is a complex, evolving, and multidimensional concept. Currently, it is estimated that 15% of the world population experiences some form of disability, with prevalence rates higher in developing countries. As opportunities for sustainable income generation are directly tied to a person’s access to finance, markets, and networks, persons with disabilities usually face significant challenges in accessing these, due to:

  • non-inclusive regulations and policy,
  • lack of resource allocation,
  • stigma and societal prejudice,
  • low educational participation, and
  • inability to access their own communities and city spaces.
To continue building inclusive cities, research tells us that countries cannot achieve optimal growth by leaving behind a large group of their citizens – persons with disabilities – with economic losses from employment exclusion ranging from 3 to 7 % of the GDP. We also know that when you combine gender and disability, the challenges facing women with disabilities compound. Women with disabilities are more likely to earn less than men with disabilities and they are affected by inaccessible sanitation, smaller social and professional networks, and gender-based violence – see, for example, labor force data from the UK.

We need to do much more to ensure that women with disabilities are mainstreamed into projects that seek to empower women as entrepreneurs and change agents.

Expanding equitable opportunities for persons with disabilities is at the core of the World Bank’s work to build sustainable and inclusive communities. So, what might a disability-responsive moonshot look like for development projects addressing work for persons with disabilities? Here’s what we’re doing at the World Bank:

These winning photos capture the future of sustainable cities

Xueman Wang's picture
The premise behind the Sustainable Cities photo competition was simple. We wanted to learn what people around the world “see” when they hear the words “sustainable cities.”
The submissions – and we at the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities received more than 90 entries from over 40 countries around the world – are very revealing.

What the photographers tried to communicate was a need: both the urgent need for infrastructure that leads to more resilient, sustainable cities, or a need to aspire to greener ideals of building sustainable communities for all.

There is no better day than today, World Cities Day, for us to share with you the 10 finalists – including 3 winners and an honorable mention for climate action – of the photo competition.

In the winning photo by Yanick Folly, one can practically feel the chaos of a city in Benin, the smell of exhaust fumes as cars crawl up alongside motorcycles and pedestrians down narrow alleyways.

Yanick Folly (Benin) – Winner
Growing day by day, our world is always moving. Just see the big vibrant Benin market. #SustainableCities

The photo is also a reminder that cities are made of people. Any set of solutions for “sustainable cities” will have to make sense to a city’s inhabitants, who tread its streets daily.
In other photos, the aspiration is palpable. 

Many of the photographers are nationals of developing countries from all over the world. Yet quite a few of them shared photos of cities we regard as environmentally friendly: Singapore, Amsterdam, London, and Paris... We saw many photos of parks in developed countries, and heard the same message: These green spaces and pedestrian walkways are what we want in a city.
Adedapo Adesemowo (UK / Nigeria)

From a waste dumping ground for oil, tar, arsenic, and lead to an Olympic park. #SustainableCities
Many photos also reflect the vast difference between the aspirational city, and what most people actually live with.
We received photos of what many of us may categorize as rural areas, but we should reconsider these preconceptions: some “cities” in developing countries are little more than makeshift towns.
So, it is all the more reason why we are excited about this winning photo by Oyewolo Eyitayo from Nigeria. You might think this is an uneventful photograph of a typical urban suburb. Except that the half dirt roads are lined with solar panels.
Oyelowo Eyitayo (Nigeria) – Winner
Going solar is a simple & impactful #climateaction that can help combat climate change. #SustainableCities

Why sustainable mobility matters

Hartwig Schafer's picture
Photo: Mariana Gil/WRI
In the 1960s, the vision of future mobility was people with jet packs and flying cars – we believed these innovations wouldn’t be far off after the moon landing in 1969. Obviously, the reality in 2017 is somewhat different.

Today, we have congestion in cities, rural areas cut off from the rest of the world, and too many people without access to safe, efficient, and green transport. This stifles markets and hinders people from the jobs that will help them escape poverty. Without access to sustainable mobility, it will be much harder—if not impossible— to end poverty and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

And perhaps the most tragic reality is this: that approximately 1.3 million people die each year in traffic-related incidents. Young people, those between the ages of 15-29, are the most affected by road crashes. This heartbreaking and preventable loss of life should be a clear signal that road safety matters.

At the same time, how we change transport is vitally important and will impact generations to come.

Sustainable mobility: Who's who and who does what?

Shokraneh Minovi's picture

Some might call it an existential question. Some may be surprised that the answer is not clear. When it comes to sustainable mobility initiatives and stakeholders, who is who, and who does what? Addressing these questions is a key pre-requisite to the transformation of the transport sector and the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The SDGs, the Global Decade of Action for Road Safety, the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries, over 100 different organizations and initiatives… It’s enough to make your head spin! As the world increasingly recognizes the importance of mobility to the overall sustainable development agenda, the number of stakeholders in this arena has been growing steadily. Although many established groups have been warning us for years about the role of transport in the fight against climate change—the sector accounts for some 23% of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions—many newer players are now adding their voice to the global conversation.

From public transport agencies to car companies and ride-sharing platforms, clean fuel advocates, maritime transport groups, and electric vehicle proponents, a dizzying array of sector-specific initiatives have emerged over the last few years. Newer city-specific coalitions, such as the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the Compact of Mayors, have played a critical role in relaying these concerns at the local level. However, global initiatives have been the ones that have seen the most impressive growth. Also in the mix are globally minded, from UN entities to smaller NGOS, as well as region-specific organizations such as regional development banks.

What’s the solution to untangling this web of stakeholders? Over the past six months, the World Bank, with support from the World Economic Forum, has mapped out major transport initiatives and organizations as comprehensively and systematically as possible.

Five lessons on affordable housing provision from Indonesia

Dao Harrison's picture
When first-time homeowner Dewi moved into her new house in the Yogyakarta area a year ago, thanks to a government subsidy program, she thought: everything is perfect.
Well, not quite. Located an hour away from the city center, Dewi’s house is far from employment opportunities, shopping, and schooling for her two children. Two years after completion, more than half the housing development remains unoccupied. Because the house is not connected to the local water system, Dewi buys water twice a week. When seasonal floods are underway, the heavy rains impede access to her house.

Providing affordable and adequate housing has become a top policy priority for the government of Indonesia with the launch of Satu Juta Rumah (One Million Homes) program. Previous efforts to address the demand for affordable housing – a function of both new annual demand creation and an unmet housing deficit – had not effectively improved housing outcomes at the scale necessary.
Source:  Ministry of Public Works and Housing, Indonesia

But should homeownership volume be the sole indicator of a successful housing subsidy program? Is it possible to have a program that meets the government’s needs to be fiscally and economically cost effective, while also responding to the private market as well as the needs of residents?
Options are being explored. The recently approved National Affordable Housing Program Project (NAHP), for example, aims to innovate the affordable housing market by addressing bottlenecks and actively engaging the private sector in delivering for unserved segments. So far, Indonesia’s efforts provide valuable lessons. The lessons are:

“Better Planning, Better Cities” – Cities to share smart solutions to urban sustainability

Xueman Wang's picture
Lois Goh / World Bank

There is strength in numbers, the old idiom goes. Indeed, history shows that collaboration fosters ideas and results. Next week, the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities, or GPSC, will convene in New Delhi, India, to again share ideas and build on their collective vision: to work towards shaping cities that are sustainable, thriving, and inclusive through the decades ahead.
The gathering starting on October 30 is only the GPSC’s second annual meeting, as we launched the platform just last year in Singapore. Yet the 27 participating cities across 11 countries—and more members are very welcome—are moving ahead with confidence, embarking on innovative programs to realize their vision and galvanizing their national governments to establish platforms of their own. China, Malaysia, and India in Asia, Paraguay and Brazil in Latin America, and other participating cities are actively pursuing sustainable urbanization.
This strength in numbers is made possible by staunch supporters. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is integral to the progress of the GPSC, and numerous partners such as UN agencies, development banks, and civil society organizations contribute to its success—amongst them the World Resources Institute, ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability), and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership group (C40).
What are the aims of the GPSC? Forging a shared vision for urban sustainability is its overarching goal, and this achievement would not be possible without connecting cities. 

In more concrete terms, the GPSC aims to be a global knowledge repository on integrated urban planning – both best practices and lessons learned. The newly launched GPSC website,, hosts a collection of datasets, indicators, and analyses on trends in urbanization. This library of information assists cities in identifying the gaps in urban infrastructure and the provision of basic services. The data collected will improve the cities’ capacity to monitor and report the status of their “sustainability,” and to better formulate and implement strategies.
The GPSC’s 2nd annual meeting is organized around the theme of “Better Planning, Better Cities - Smart Solutions to Urban Sustainability,” and this second meeting will focus on using a data-driven approach for planning action. The many scheduled events will follow this approach, including the Mayor’s Roundtable, high-level panel discussions, and in-depth learning events. 

Transit-Oriented Development with Chinese Characteristics: localization as the rule rather than the exception

Jasmine Susanna Tillu's picture
China: More Mobility with Fewer Cars through a GEF Grant

Since our days in school, we have often been told to first define our terms before doing anything else. China is a country that does not shy away from acronyms, and “TOD,” or transit-oriented development—a concept that merges land use and transport planning—is one such acronym that has become wildly popular within the field of urban development.
So, recently, when government officials from seven Chinese cities and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development gathered to launch the China Sustainable Cities Integrated Approach Pilot Project on the topic of TOD, it was clear that they all had the same definition of this three-letter acronym.
Or did they?

Understanding transit-oriented development through bike-sharing big data

Wanli Fang's picture
As one of over 20 million people who work and live in Beijing, China, I used to find commuting to work in rush-hour traffic rather painful. However, things have changed dramatically since last year. Now I can bypass the traffic by riding a shared bike to the closest metro station and make better use of public transit. Similar change is happening to my family and friends.

The unprecedented booming of dockless shared bikes in China presents a promising solution to the “last-mile problem” that has perplexed city planners for years: providing easier access to the mass transit system while ensuring good ridership. Thanks to the GPS tracking device installed on thousands of dockless shared bikes, city planners in China are now equipped with new and better information to analyze the demand for—and the performance of—public transit systems. For the first time, city managers can clearly map out the attractiveness and accessibility of metro stations by analyzing individual-level biking trips.

This innovation is good news to efforts to build more livable, sustainable cities through transit-oriented development (TOD). For example, to support the recently launched GEF Sustainable Cities Integrated Approach Pilot Project, we have been working with Mobike, a major bike-sharing company, to conduct an analysis utilizing the data of biking trips around metro stations in our project cities. Below are a few interesting observations:
  • Revisiting the scope of TOD. A commonly accepted textbook definition of the core area of TOD is an 800-meter radius around the metro station or other types of public transit hubs. This definition is based on the distance that can be reached by a 10-minute walk. However, the actual catchment of a metro station can reach a 2-3 km radius when biking prevails, as in Demark and Netherland. Our analysis illustrates that a big chunk of biking trips around metro stations even go beyond the 3km radius (see bright blue traces in Figure 1 below). This indicates that the spatial scope of planning and design around the metro stations should be contextualized. Accordingly, the price premium associated with adjacency to public transit service is more likely to be shared by a broader range of nearby real estate properties than expected.
Figure 1: Biking traces around major metro station in Beijing (left) and Shenzhen (right).

[Read: TOD with Chinese characteristics: localization as the rule rather than the exception] –  which also discusses defining the scope of TOD.