India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week launched his government's response to the urbanisation challenges it faces. The Smart Cities initiative was announced alongside a "Housing for All by 2022" programme. The aim is to create new Smart Cities while also regenerating old urban areas and addressing sustainability issues.
I was involved as a speaker in an event about indicators for sustainable urbanisation the UN-Habitat World Urban Forum in Naples. The Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP) has been working with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to explore ways towards harmonising approaches so that policy makers can be used to track progress towards (or away from) sustainable urbanisation. As Professor Eugenie Birch commented in the workshop, “There is lots of uncoordinated activity in this field”. In co-operating in this way CAP and HUD are contributing to global advocacy of the importance of urbanisation to sustainable development. Representatives of the Ford Foundation and of UN-Habitat also spoke on the same platform, demonstrating their support for the initiative.
This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 17 July 2012.
The next generation is going to witness a staggering amount of new urban development as the world’s economic centre of gravity shifts towards Asia. Cities in both developed and rapidly urbanising countries need professional planning if they are to prosper. Companies serving consumer markets should grasp the significance of the growing urban middle class and its diversity. Urban analysis is increasingly necessary for business success. These are the main messages from a dramatic new report from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI).
Ghana's urban population has grown from 4 million to 14 million in 30 years. This has underpinned economic growth, which has on average increased by 5.7% a year since 1984. Can this continue, or is the urban future bleak?
This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 27 June 2012.
The Rio +20 summit was widely ignored by the world’s political leaders – the clearest possible statement that they have no intention of providing leadership on sustainable development. Similarly, the media devoted scant attention to the event – in marked contrast to the coverage given to the landmark 1992 gathering, or the 1972 summit in Stockholm. So what actually happened at Rio and where does it leave planners and others whose work it is to deliver more sustainable forms of development?
Resilience of cities is the theme of the latest issue of the French publication of Villes en Développement edited by my old friend Marcel Belliot. As the preface notes, resilience is now central to "approaches and strategies of governments partnering urban development and of funders." It brings a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to understanding and managing urban development. There are articles about simulation of crises and responses to an earthquake disaster in Lima; efforts by Algiers to adapt to the consequences of climate change; emergency responses in South Sudan, a country particularly fragile and vulnerable to the risk of flooding; and how the French Development Agency (AFD) is bolstering the resilience of vulnerable neighbourhoods in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 7 May 2012.
The UN-Habitat World Urban Forum will meet in Naples in the first week in September. It is the pre-eminent meeting place for the global community of those who are actively engaged in trying to create more sustainable and equitable human settlements. It brings together mayors and grass roots activists, professionals and politicians, slum dwellers and developers, the global North and the global South. This week saw the launch of a series of on-line dialogues that will lead into the main WUF. You may not be able to get to Naples, but you can have your say on the ways you think urban planning should be used to tackle the challenges of the towns and cities.
This blog was first published on the Planning Resource website on 7 March 2012.
The use of major sporting events to drive development and regeneration has become increasingly controversial. Who gains? Who loses? Since the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona such spectacles have been widely seen as offering a unique opportunity to rebrand places and upgrade problematic sites. However, the planning of such infrastructure typically displaces poor and marginalised residents and small businesses. The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions estimated in 2007 that globally millions of people had suffered forced removal as a result of development for sporting and other mega events. Are such outcomes justified in the wider public interest?
This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 13 February 2012.
Last week’s forced departure of the President of The Maldives has brought global attention to this small country. It is one of 29 small island developing states (SIDS) listed by the UN Commission on Trade and Development, though there is no official definition of a SIDS. These small countries face a range of sustainable development challenges, as I discussed in a recent article in Small States Digest. For example, many have to deal with debt and economic volatility, a particular problem for countries economically dependent on the export of a few natural resources. Energy dependency, HIV/AIDS and youth unemployment can be added to the list. While there has been some recognition of the threats from climate change to small islands, the urban growth dimension of all these issues has attracted little attention, yet is critical to the future of these places.
This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 28 January 2012.
I went to the cinema last night to watch a new film from China. I recommend “Mr Tree” as a film that gives you a flavour of the great transition that China is going through as people move to the cities. It shows some of the processes of change and their impacts on villages in the countryside. It will prompt planners, environmentalists and those involved in economic development to debate the costs and benefits of an annual growth rate of 8% per annum growth rate, and to ask could similar gains be achieved without some of the less desirable side effects?