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Sustainable Communities

Are cities ready for their increasingly aging populations?

Ashna Mathema's picture

Virtually everywhere, the share of “older persons,” aged 60 years or over, is increasing. The number of older people globally is projected to grow from 901 million in 2015 to 1.4 billion in 2030 to 2.1 billion in 2050. In 2015, one in eight people worldwide was 60 or older; in 2030, this number will be one in six people, and by 2050, one in five people.

Aging – and by the same token, aging in cities – is an outcome of increasing longevity and declining birthrates, and is currently more prevalent in wealthier economies. However, between 2015 and 2030, the rate of growth of elderly populations is expected to be highest in Latin America and the Caribbean, followed by Asia and Africa. Not only is this rate likely to exceed that of the developed countries in the past, but it is also likely to occur at much lower levels of national income, and weaker systems of social protection (pensions, social security, etc.)


This demographic shift will have far-reaching social and economic consequences. Societies will not just be older, they will be more active for longer periods of their lives compared to previous generations, and they will function – and need to be understood – differently. Accordingly, it is important to recognize that aging is not a “problem” per se, but that it can become a challenge if the social, physical, economic, and policy environment is not adapted to demographic change. Aging is also changing the way money is spent and, as such, presents a massive opportunity for companies to tap into the “longevity economy” and to harness new innovations and disruptive technologies to increase the autonomy of older people.

From May 21-25, 2018, representatives from 15 cities in 12 countries visited Japan for a Technical Deep Dive on Aging Cities to learn about the fundamental paradigm shifts necessary to ensure that their cities offer a vibrant, productive, and livable environment for all residents, including the elderly.  In this video, Anna Wellenstein (Director, Strategy and Operations), Maitreyi Das (Practice Manager / Global Lead, Social Inclusion) and Phil Karp (Lead Knowledge Management Specialist) discuss the growing importance for cities and countries to understand, plan for, and adapt to the dramatic – but predictable – demographic shift that is occurring globally.

Five ways cities can curb plastic waste

Silpa Kaza's picture

As the world observes World Environment Day this week, we should be mindful that there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish by 2050 if nothing is done, according to the Ellen & MacArthur Foundation.
 
The negative impacts that plastic is having on the environment and human health is profoundly evident:
  • Respiratory issues are increasing because of air pollution from burning plastic.
  • Animal lifespans are shortened because of consuming plastic.
  • Littered plastic is clogging drains and causing floods.
  • And unmanaged plastic is contaminating our precious oceans and waterways…

Building safer, more inclusive, and more resilient cities

Ellen Hamilton's picture

Cities are where most people live and most economic activity takes place. Cities bring opportunities, but not equally for all residents. A lack of access, rights, and opportunities for people within cities undermines the positive role cities can play. 


When people cannot find a decent and safe place to live, or are discriminated against because of their race, religion or where they live, or lack the skills, education and transportation needed to find a job to support themselves, something needs to change.

To make cities safer, more inclusive, and more resilient to a range of shocks and stresses, mayors, planners, and other city leaders should support integrated approaches promoting social, economic, and spatial inclusion. City leaders need to carry out this work in close partnership with the communities themselves.

From April 23–27, 2018, representatives from 16 cities in 13 countries visited Japan for a Technical Deep Dive on Safe, Inclusive, and Resilient Cities to learn from one another about improving urban safety, inclusion and resilience. In this video, Jefferson Koije (Mayor of Monrovia, Liberia), Ellen Hamilton (World Bank Lead Urban Specialist), and Phil Karp (World Bank Lead Knowledge Management Officer) discuss how cities can address these crucial aspects of urban resilience. Watch the video to learn more.

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.

[Download: World Bank publications on urban development]

What Super Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines told us about building back better

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

The Philippines is increasingly exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards.
 
Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which struck the country in 2013, was considered one of the strongest tropical storms ever to make landfall (at 380 kilometer / hour wind gusts). It caused over 6,300 fatalities and affected 1,472,251 families in 171 cities and municipalities across the 14 provinces in 6 regions. Total damage and loss was estimated at $12.9 billion (Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda 2013).
 
The World Bank assessed the post-Yolanda rehabilitation and recovery efforts, and this has resulted in the following recommendations:

 

Building LGBTI alliances isn’t just for solidarity, but key to shared prosperity

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Also available in: Español | Français 

Show your support for LGBTI Inclusion by tweeting as a #RainbowAlly. (Photo: World Bank)

On May 17, we will join individuals, families, and organizations around the world to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, or IDAHOT.

The annual IDAHOT commemoration is an important reminder – to all of us – that the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) matters deeply for sustainable development. It matters because it is about fighting discrimination and promoting social inclusion. It matters because it is key to ending poverty and building shared prosperity.

Understanding Risk Forum 2018: How data and technology can save (hundreds of) billions of dollars from natural disasters

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

Natural disasters made 2017 a very expensive year.
 
At $330 billion, last year’s global losses from disasters set a record. These economic losses were primarily a result of meteorological events, such as floods and hurricanes, which are increasing in frequency and intensity due to climate change. An increasing number of people are also exposed to tectonic risks, such as earthquakes and landslides, due to rapid urbanization.
 
But growing disaster losses aren’t inevitable. Policy changes, education, and good disaster risk management practices have been proven to reduce losses – and the foundation of all of them is accurate, reliable information about disaster risks.
 
Risk data informs resilience investments. It drives decision-making. And it’s the focus of the open, global community of disaster risk management experts and practitioners called Understanding Risk (UR), which is supported by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).
 
This year, the community will convene at the Understanding Risk Forum 2018 May 14–18 in Mexico City. The Forum will highlight best practices, facilitate nontraditional partnerships, and showcase the latest technical knowledge in disaster risk identification.



It’s a critical time for a discussion of disaster risk information. A new GFDRR report, Aftershocks: Remodeling the Past for a Resilient Future, concludes that if past disasters were to repeat in the same places today, the losses would be far greater. Aftershocks, which will be discussed at UR2018, explores what we can learn from historic disasters to anticipate similar future events and build resilience ahead of time.
 
The good news is that the past few years have seen a surge of new ways to get more accurate, more detailed information more quickly, more easily, and in more difficult contexts. We can now use social media to gather increasingly valuable information in the immediate aftermath of an event. Drones are increasingly capturing high-quality images, and machine learning for image recognition is already helping us produce more and better risk data all the time.
 
These emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, will be one of the major themes of this year’s UR Forum. To find out more about the UR Forum, and how you can get involved, watch the video blog and visit understandrisk.org.
 
And don’t forget to keep up with all the great ideas coming out of #UR2018 by following along on Twitter: @UnderstandRisk, @GFDRR, and @WBG_Cities.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner

Barbara Minguez Garcia's picture
Ponto-cho Alley, Kyoto. (Barbara Minguez Garcia / World Bank, 2016)
Ponto-cho Alley, Kyoto. (Barbara Minguez Garcia / World Bank, 2016)
 

Ponto-cho mapIt is 7:45 p.m. in Ponto-cho, the historic narrow alley at the core of the Japanese city of Kyoto. Close to the Kaburenjo Theater – where still today Geikos and Maikos (Kyoto Geishas) practice their dances and performances – the traditional adjoining buildings with restaurants and shops are full of guests. Local people, tourists, students… On this Saturday in mid-April, the warm weather brings a lot of people to the streets nearby.

At 7:46 p.m., a M 5.1 earthquake strikes. Seven seconds of swaying. It doesn’t cause major damage, but it is enough to spread panic among a group of tourists. Screams, shoving, confusion… drinks spill, candles fall, people rush.

At 7:49 p.m., the fire starts spreading through the old wooden structures, also threatening the historic theater. Access is difficult due to the narrow streets and panicking crowd.

What happens next?

It could be a fire in the Ponto-cho traditional alley. It could be an earthquake shaking the historic center of Kathmandu (Nepal), the archaeological site of Bagan (Myanmar), or the historic town of Amatrice (Italy). It could be Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines or Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean, blasting sites with rain, flooding, and gale-force winds.

Cultural heritage assets around the world are at risk. They are often vulnerable due to their age, as well as previous interventions and restorations made without disaster risk or overall site stability in mind. Heritage sites reflect legacies, traditions, and identities. With all this, they carry a large cultural and emotional value of what could be lost – certainly beyond the traditional calculus of economic losses.

In many cases, it is not possible or advisable to conduct reconstruction on cultural heritage sites post-disaster. Therefore, the essence and soul of a cultural heritage site is at risk of being lost forever, making preparedness and preservation even more critical.

How can we protect these special places and traditions from the threat of natural hazards?

Go with the flow – adaptive management for urban flood risk

Adeline Choy's picture
Photo: Flooding in Yangon. Source: Flickr


The future is uncertain. It’s hard to know exactly how our climate will change. That means there is also deep uncertainty around its impacts on flooding, the most prevalent disaster worldwide. Floods account for 43% of all recorded disaster events in the past 20 years. Will climate change exacerbate flooding events? How much will sea level rise? How extreme will rainfall be?

What we do know is that the best way to cope with uncertainty is flexibility.

While it may be difficult to predict impacts, we can – and must – take action. Growing uncertainty means preparation is even more urgent. To meet future challenges, we need adaptable urban flood management today.

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