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

Sameh Wahba's picture
Also available in: 日本語
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.


Sameh Wahba's picture
Also available in: English
Also available in: Español | 日本語 
コスモクロック21を背景にみなとみらい21地区を歩く「競争力のある都市づくり」実務者研修会合の参加者たち。みなとみらい21地区は、横浜市の中でも付加価値の高い活動が集中し、生活の質の高さに重点をおいた地区となっている。 写真提供:東京開発ラーニングセンター(TDLC)

こうした中、都市には、市民の雇用と、基礎的なサービスに対応する事業のための税収を生み出す手段が必要になっています。 競争都市に関する世界銀行の主要報告書(2015年発行)では、 早急に大規模な雇用を創出することが不可欠だ と指摘されています。
2017年11月 、アルゼンチン、チリ、クロアチア、エジプト、エチオピア、マレーシア、フィリピン、ルーマニア、南アフリカ、チュニジア、ウガンダ等から約30名の都市および国の政府関係者、政策担当者が1週間にわたる「競争力のある都市づくり」実務者研修会合を行いました。世界中の都市を代表する参加者にとって、それぞれの都市や地域が競争力を高める手法を探すことが目的でした。


日本の横浜市と神戸市で行われた本 実務者研修会合では、都市の競争力に関連し、日本の優れた知見を学ぶことができました。横浜市と 神戸市は特に以下について豊富な知見を有しています。
  • 人口流入
  • 急速な産業化
  • 環境課題への対応
  • 先端技術の取得
  • 住宅バブル
  • 大規模な災害(阪神淡路大震災)と復興

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

How to capture public life in public spaces?

Fen Wei's picture
Photo credit: Lois Goh/ World Bank
Urbanization and economic growth go hand in hand.  Cities are turning into centers of attraction in developing countries and their population is rising constantly. In such cities, we often see in a city a mix of old and new, slow and fast: Street vendors hawking their wares by luxury shopping malls; highways segmentizing parks and walkways; high-rise crowding out traditional neighborhoods, etc. However, we do not often see a well-balanced mix that serves all urban dwellers with a wide array of needs, economically and socially.
What are the ingredients of a good urban life, or rather, what does it take for a city to make the public happy? The answer to this is multifaceted. Cities need to be accessible, vibrant, and create safe public spaces to meet public needs.
As UN-Habitat’s Charter of Public Space states, public spaces are a key element of individual and social well-being, the places of a community’s collective life, particularly in situations of poverty and limited public resources, such as those in the developing countries. The Charter also highlights that participation of citizens and in particular of communities of residents is of crucial importance for the maintenance and management of public spaces. While there might be no objection to this statement, it is also true that it has been easily overlooked, especially in developing countries, for the sake of “economic efficiency.”

How to manage urban expansion in mega-metropolitan areas?

Philip E. Karp's picture

As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, the number of megacities is growing rapidly.

Today there are 37 cities worldwide with populations of greater than 10 million, and 84 with populations greater than five million. More than three quarters of these cities are in developing countries. Together with their surrounding metropolitan areas, these cities produce a sizable portion of the world’s wealth and attract a large share of global talent.

These megacities face a series of common challenges associated with managing urban expansion, density, and livability—in a manner that takes advantage of the benefits of productive agglomerations, while mitigating the disadvantages of such high degrees of congestion and urban density.

Moreover, like other metropolitan areas, megacities face challenges of effectively coordinated planning, infrastructure development, and service delivery across multiple jurisdictions. Indeed, the New Urban Agenda issued at the Habitat III conference in 2016 identified metropolitan planning and management as one of the most critical needs to ensure sustainable urbanization.

One Planet Summit: Three climate actions for a resilient urban future

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Two years ago, more than 180 countries gathered in Paris to sign a landmark climate agreement to keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Tomorrow, on December 12, 2017, exactly two years after the signing of the historic Paris Agreement, the government of France will be hosting the One Planet Summit in Paris to reaffirm the world’s commitment to the fight against climate change.

At the summit, mayors from cities around the world, big and small, will take center stage with heads of state, private sector CEOs, philanthropists, and civil society leaders to discuss how to mobilize the financing needed to accelerate climate action and meet the Paris Agreement goals.

Why must we bring city leaders to the table for climate discussions?

Reversing the geospatial digital divide – one step, or leap, at a time

Anna Wellenstein's picture
Earth from space. Photo by NASA.

Global positioning systems (GPS), real time traffic maps, accurate weather forecasts, Uber, self-driving cars… Geospatial data is on full display 24/7 throughout the world these days.  It’s like nothing we have seen before. But none of this would be possible without the underpinning role of the government.

“Geospatial,” or location-based data has existed for hundreds of years – for example, in street and topographical maps. What’s different is how quickly new information is being gathered and the more sophisticated analytics that is being applied to it, thanks to technological advances.

What was once information only found in the domain of government, military, and select private sector, even up to the 1980s and 90s, has come into broad use over the last 20 years. With the increase of mobile technology and communications, handheld smart phones have democratized mapping, moving geospatial technology into the hands of every individual.

This summer, some tens of millions of people in the U.S. traveled to see the total solar eclipse, including a co-author of this blog. Not only was the eclipse amazing – but the drive back from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. showed the integration and impact of geospatial information in our daily lives.


Xueman Wang's picture
Also available in: English





今天是世界城市日,是最适合与你们分享本次摄影竞赛十位入围者名单的日子, 这些入围者中包括三位获奖者和一位气候行动荣誉奖获得者。
人们几乎可以从Yannick Folly的获奖作品中感受到贝宁城市的混乱和汽车尾气的味道,汽车沿着狭窄的巷子艰难爬行,与摩托车和行人挤在一起。


Yanick Folly (贝宁) 获奖者






尽管很多摄影师来自世界各地的发展中国家,然而,其中相当一部分分享的却是在我们看来的环境友好型城市:新加坡、阿姆斯特丹、伦敦、巴黎等的照片。我们看到了很多发达国家公园的照片,都在传递同一个信息: 这样的绿色空间和人行道正是我们希望城市拥有的。


Adedapo Adesemowo(英国/尼日利亚)

现在的奥林匹克公园曾经是石油、沥青、砷和铅的废物倾倒场所 #SustainableCities
所以当我们看到来自尼日利亚的Oyewolo Eyitayo的这幅获奖作品时,就更有理由感到兴奋。在你看到一半是土路的路上成排的太阳能板之前,你可能觉得这只是一张典型的平淡无奇的城市郊区的照片。
Oyelowo Eyitayo (尼日利亚) – 获奖者

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
Also available in: 中文
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