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How can conflict-affected cities become better hosts to refugees? The case of Afghanistan

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Like many other developing countries, Afghanistan is urbanizing rapidly. Today, a quarter of the country’s over 30 million people live in urban areas, with many more moving to cities to find jobs and lead better lives.

Unlike many other places, though, cities in Afghanistan face an added, complex layer of challenge—conflict.

In Afghanistan, conflict is a major driver of migration into cities. Instability in large areas of the country is forcing refugees and internally displaced people into cities—particularly the capital city of Kabul. The thing is: Kabul doesn’t yet have adequate infrastructure and capacity to effectively host these “newcomers.”

What can be done?

To help Afghan cities better address the “3-way challenge” of urbanization, conflict, and forced displacement, the World Bank is working on a series of projects that aim to:
  • Provide basic services to selected—mostly informal—neighborhoods in Kabul, such as roads, sanitation, water, and lighting;
  • Support Kabul to improve its municipal finance management systems;
  • Support the institutional and policy framework for urban development in Afghanistan;
  • Strengthen city planning, management and service delivery in five provincial capital cities.

In this video, you will learn more from World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Practice Manager Catalina Marulanda on how cities and communities in Afghanistan are building up their capacity and resilience to better host refugees and other displaced populations.

There are otters in the city

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

Photo by budak via Flickr CC

When a family of 10 smooth-coated otters appeared in Singapore’s urban downtown of Marina Bay last year, the city was ablaze with excitement and delight. Who would have thought that these otters would make a dense urban environment like Singapore home? After all, otters were thought to have vanished in the 1970s as Singapore rapidly developed into a dense metropolis.
 
Was this a fad? Probably. Was this a big deal? Absolutely. In a small city-state where land is considered a scarce resource, the tension between urban development and biodiversity conservation can be very pronounced. This was not the case in Singapore. Between 1986 and 2010, as Singapore’s urban population doubled from 2.7 to 5 million, its green cover also increased from 36% to 50%, all within the confines of just 710 square kilometers. The increase in green cover in urbanized Singapore was seen as a sign that the efforts by the urban planning agency, parks and water management boards had paid off, and a testament that the natural environment could be indeed be integrated effectively into the urban fabric of the city.
 
Today is World Environment Day. This year, it celebrates the theme of “connecting people to nature,” and invites us to think about how we are part of nature—and how intimately we depend on it.

How is Medellin a model of urban transformation and social resilience?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Medellin, Colombia is experiencing an extraordinary transformation. Although it was known during the 1980s and most of the 1990s as the most violent city of the world, the city is putting those years behind by working toward building a more inclusive, vibrant, and resilient city.

The city of Medellin has successfully implemented an integrated and multi-sector approach that has included a combination of violence prevention programs and a deep commitment of its people to build a prosperous, inclusive and livable city. For that reason, the experience of Medellin in integral urban transformation and social resilience attracts intense interest from other cities around the world. 
 
This week (May 29 to June 2, 2017), representatives from more than 35 cities are in Medellin sharing different methodologies and experiences with respect to security, coexistence, and resilience. This “Medellin Lab” is the first living laboratory program in Colombia, organized by Medellin’s International Cooperation and Investment Agency (ACI), the World Bank, USAID, and the Rockefeller foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities network.  

In this video, Santiago Uribe, the Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) of the City of Medellin, as well as the World Bank’s Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) tell us a bit more about the experience of the Medellin Lab and the impact of innovative urban infrastructure in combatting crime and violence in low-income communities.

When it comes to developing Africa’s cities, “grow dirty now, clean up later” is not an option

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Africa’s cities have grown at an average rate of 4% per year over the past 20 years. While rapid urbanization has helped reduce poverty and improve livelihoods in the region, it is putting increasing pressure on Africa’s natural environment and sustainable development.
 
[Download a newly launched report—Greening Africa’s Cities—to learn more about the interplay between urbanization and sustainability in Africa.]
 
Take Kampala, Uganda as an example. It is estimated that only 5% of the city’s population is connected to the sewer network, with 95% of the population having access to basic on-site, mostly shared, sanitation. As a result, the volumes of flows entering the city’s Nakivubo wetland channels have increased significantly with contaminated runoff from informal areas and partially treated wastewater from the overburdened sewage works. This has significant negative impacts on human health, wetland and lake ecological function, as well as the cost of water supply to the city from Lake Victoria’s Inner Murchison Bay.
 
The city is considering rehabilitating the Nakivubo wetland, but it would cost US$53 million upfront, in addition to ongoing maintenance and operating costs of about US$3.6 million per year. Although benefits would include water treatment cost savings of US$1 million and recreational benefits exceeding US$22 million per year, it is now too costly and impractical to restore the wetland to a state where benefits can be achieved.

To build resilient cities, we must treat substandard housing as a life-or-death emergency

Luis Triveno's picture

Also available in: Español

Damaged houses in Long Island, New York after Hurricane Sandy. Photo by UNISDR.

The scene is as familiar as it is tragic: A devastating hurricane or earthquake strikes a populated area in a poor country, inflicting a high number of casualties, overwhelming the resources and capacity of rescue teams and hospital emergency rooms. First responders must resort to “triage” – the medical strategy of maximizing the efficient use of existing resources to save lives, while minimizing the number of deaths. 

But if governments could apply triage to substandard housing, medical triage would be a much less frequent occurrence – because in the developing world, it is mainly housing that kills people, not disasters.
 
Worldwide, most injuries and deaths from natural disasters are a result of substandard housing. In Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, one-third of the population – 200 million people – lives in informal settlements, which are densely packed with deadly housing units. In 2010, when the 7.0-magnitude Haiti earthquake killed 260,000 people, 70% of damages were related to housing. Similarly, it’s estimated that if an 8.0-magnitude earthquake hit Peru, 80% of the economic losses would be to housing.
 
But the story in rich countries is different. In the past 10 years, high-income countries experienced 47% of disasters worldwide, but accounted for only 7% of fatalities.

Urban jungles in jeopardy

Ivo Germann's picture
Why the world’s cities are at risk – and what we can do to make them more resilient



We may not know exactly what the world will look like in two decades, but we know this: it is going to be a world of cities.
 
The global population is becoming increasingly urban, and at an astonishing rate. Each year, urban areas are growing by an average of more than 75 million people – more than the population of the world’s 85 smallest countries combined.
 
For the world’s economy, this is great news, since cities produce 80 percent of global GDP, despite currently being home to only 55 percent of the population. But it is a problem for urban infrastructure, which can’t keep up with such fast-paced growth. As a result, cities, already vulnerable, are becoming increasingly susceptible to natural disasters – from flooding and landslides that can decimate informal housing settlements, to earthquakes that can devastate power grids and water systems.
 
These risks could be disastrous for the urban poor, 881 million of whom currently live in slums (up 28 percent since 2000). And climate change – which is increasing the intensity and frequency of natural disasters – will only exacerbate the problem. For this reason, multilateral and government institutions now see resilience and climate adaptation as integral pillars of development.
 
The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), for example, considers low-emission and climate-resilient economies to be key to global competitiveness. A recent report by the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) found that climate change may force up to 77 million urban residents into poverty by 2030 – unless we take action to improve the resilience of cities around the world.

The “human scale” in public urban areas

Judy Zheng Jia's picture

Slideshow: Reimagining a park, a river, and other public spaces in Seoul (Photos by Judy Zheng Jia / World Bank)

"If you lose the human scale, the city becomes an ugly place," said Joan Clos, Executive Director of the UN-HABITAT at the Habitat III Conference last month. But more than being "ugly," the lack of good public urban spaces, such as open spaces, parks, and public buildings, often contribute to low livability in many of the world's congested and polluted cities. In fact, the importance of the issue received recognition in SDG 11, Target 7, which calls for the provision of “universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green, and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons, and persons with disabilities,” by 2030.
 
Global experience shows that disconnected, underutilized areas in urban settings can, instead, be opened up to a variety of uses to allow for improved social inclusion, social mixing, civic participation, recreation, safety, and a sense of belonging, ultimately contributing to urban prosperity. Well-designed and well-managed public spaces also offer benefits to environmental sustainability, transport efficiency, and public health improvements, and can equally serve women, the disabled, and people of all ages.

The importance of good urban spaces was the topic of an international workshop—“Vitalizing Cities with Public Space”—held in Seoul on November 14-17, 2016 and co-hosted by the Korea Research Institute of Human Settlements and the World Bank’s Urbanscapes Group. Eight cities from around the world—Seoul, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Chongqing, Kakamega, Zanzibar, Astana, and Tashkent—participated to discuss challenges and opportunities for better urban planning and design.

What the New Urban Agenda tells us about building inclusive cities

Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo's picture
 
Over a billion people—about 15% of the world’s population—have disabilities. Almost 80% of them live in the developing world, which is undergoing rapid urbanization.

While urbanization brings people closer to new economic and sociocultural opportunities, persons with disabilities still face a range of constraints in many cities, such as inaccessible buildings and public spaces, limited transportation options, inaccessible housing, and barriers in using technology-enabled virtual environments.

These urban constraints have a significant impact on those living with disabilities in terms of mobility, ability to engage in education and skills development, employability and income generation, and larger social and political participation.

Therefore, urban development must acknowledge and plan for the needs of a diverse population which includes persons with disabilities. And there is no better time than now to make that happen. 

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. 

Toward a “New Urban Agenda”: Join the World Bank at Habitat III in Quito

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Cities are home to more than half of the world’s population, consume two-thirds of the world’s energy, and produce 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And this trend will only continue: by 2050, 66% of the 10 billion people living on earth will be urban dwellers.
 
As we mark World Habitat Day, these numbers remind us of a serious fact: while rapid urbanization brings tremendous opportunities for growth and prosperity, it has also posed unprecedented challenges to our cities—and the people who live in them.

Chief among these challenges is meeting fast-growing demand for infrastructure and basic services such as affordable housing and well-connected transport systems, as well as jobs—especially for the nearly one billion urban poor who are disproportionately affected by climate change and adverse socioeconomic conditions.

So, what will it take to build inclusive, resilient, productive, and livable cities?

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