On Monday, May 6, The Spindle and the International Civil Society Centre’s Scanning the Horizon initiative facilitated the first webinar of the miniseries on ‘Urban Futures and Resilience’. This miniseries aims at exploring the challenges and opportunities of rapid urban growth and its implications for the (future) work of international civil society organisations (ICSOs).
The webinar saw the contribution of two thought-leaders in the field: Sanjeevani Singh, Director of International Housing Programs at Habitat for Humanity International (HfHI), and Paula Nagler, researcher at the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam. For their presentation, respectively see link 1 and 2.
Growing urban population, larger cities, increasing informal settlements
The world is increasingly becoming more urban. By 2050, 68% of humanity will be living in cities. Already now, 1,6 billion people live in substandard housing and 1 billion people – which means 1 in 8 – live in slums. And these numbers are doomed to grow. In particular, Africa and Asia are the fastest urbanizing continents, with Sub-Saharan Africa being the youngest region in the world by 2050. Cities are growing in size, and by 2030, there will be 41 cities with more than 10 million inhabitants. Behind these phenomena lies a combination of pull and push factors, where employment perspectives play a central role.
Why does this matter? Urbanization and population growth are not new trends, are they?
The critical issue with the current trends is the inability of cities to cope with this massive influx of people. In fact, differently than in Europe during the Industrial Revolution, rural-urban migration in the Global South does not follow job creation: there is a lack of jobs in the formal economy and wage employment is not easily accessible. Moreover, services and infrastructures in quickly growing cities are often already scarce by themselves.
Accordingly, most rural-urban migrants – and especially the youth – do and will end up in the informal sector in conditions of poor and vulnerable employment. What is more, unemployment brings along a number of other obstacles. Think of weak social and legal security, lack of access to housing as well as to other services and infrastructure. Two worrying consequences are the growth of inequalities and the increase in the level of informality in urban areas, both in terms of employment and of housing.
What does this mean for civil society and development organisations?
The main lesson that can be drawn from this analysis is that we need to rethink how we support the development of urban areas and the access to services and infrastructures. As envisaged by the new HfHI’s global urban approach, only a comprehensive, integrated and collaborative framework can contribute to inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities. To be successful, interventions in cities need to:
- be based on a prior context analysis and needs assessments
- be designed with the local community with a co-creation process
- be supported and executed by integrated, comprehensive and inclusive partnerships among all relevant actors.
- take place on multiple levels: community, policy, market and institutional capacity.
To conclude, the main call to action that emerged from the seminar was to break the silos, come together and create integrated platforms in order to maximise synergies and support the needs of the local urban communities.
Did you miss the webinar? Don´t worry, you can watch it back here!
Moreover, you can still join our next Future Session with Paula Nagler as well as the second webinar of this series on June 3, with Peter Gijs van Enk (Cordaid) and Aline Rahbany (World Vision).