Riding on the tide of a rapid urbanisation process, more than half of the world's population now lives in urban areas. More often than not, development is being equated to urbanisation. Various projections estimate that by 2030, about 60 per cent of the world's population will be living in urban areas going up to 80 per cent by 2050.
If this were to be true, it would mean that a majority of the world's population would then be dependent on cities for their livelihood needs, putting a pressure on the infrastructure and impacting the environment.
To debate these and other challenges of urbanisation the 13thAnnual Global Development Conference is beginning today in Budapest. On the theme, ‘Urbanisation and Development – Delving Deeper into the Nexus', it is being organised by the Global Development Network (GDN) in partnership with Central European University. Noted sociologist and author of several books, Saskia Sassen is the key note speaker for the event. She is well known for her analyses on globalisation and human migration.
“Cities were, in the past, the natural place for social cohesion and progress. Today, the phenomenal speed of the process of urbanisation presents a challenge to maintain that very precious characteristic of cities as an engine for social mobility and inclusiveness,” said Gerardo della Paolera, president of GDN. About 350 participants are expected to attend, including influential researchers, corporate leaders and policymakers from transition and developing countries, plus representatives from the international donor community.
Mega cities, but also small ones throughout the world, struggle with providing decent living space, clean water and other amenities for their rapidly growing number of residents. Making cities more liveable is as much about quality of life as it is about economic development.
According to GDN, the fact that the future of the world will be urban is likely to be a good thing. Per capita incomes are five times higher and infant mortality rates are two-thirds lower in those nations that are more than 50 per cent urbanised relative to those countries that are less than 50 per cent urbanised. While this correlation does not imply causality, it is almost impossible to imagine the world's poorer countries becoming rich countries unless they too become largely urbanised, according to GDN. Urban concentration has historically enabled the flows of knowledge, the division of labour, the movement of goods and the combination of labour and capital that help transform poor places into prosperous ones.
“The overall nexus between urbanisation and development is expected to dominate the research and policy agenda for many years…The GDN Conference is envisaged to move the frontiers of knowledge to new directions in this absolutely vital area for the future of the developing world and beyond,” said Dr. George Mavrotas, GDN chief economist and conference director.
With rapid urbanisation on the horizon, policy makers and thinkers come together to debate development at a conference in Budapest