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Concept Paper / DRAFT Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sustainable Urban Futures: Urbanization in an Era of Globalization and Environmental Change


Background 1. The future of humankind will be an urban future. The challenges of our time is that the world population is growing, people are coming to live in urban spaces that in most cases are at higher densities than non-urban spaces and the previously frontier areas (e.g. the Amazon Basin, Tibet, etc) are increasingly inhabited (i.e., inhabited space is expanding) The key questions concerning the future urbanized world will be: a. What kind of urban places will exist in 2030? b. How can we assure that these urban places are organized and managed in such a way so that the eco-resource systems of which they are part are sustained so as to ensure that they continue to provide the inputs such as water etc that are necessary to sustain urban places? c. What needs to be done to develop the types of urban places that provide the basic needs of their population so that they exist in healthy, safe and livable environments and that can productively contribute to the economic, social and political aspects of the nations of which they are part?

2. The UNU has been active in the study of global urbanization over the last fifteen years particularly focusing on the study of globalization and mega-cities (Fuchs, Brennan, Chamie, Lo, & Uitto, 1996; Gilbert, 1996; Hamilton, Andrews, & Pichler-Milanovic, 2005; Lo & Yeung, 1996, 1998; Rakodi, 1997; Sassen, 2002) and more recently on aspects of sustainability (Inoguchi, Newman, & Paoletto, 1999; Lo & Marcotullio, 2001; Marcotullio & McGranahan, 2007; Mitchell, 1999; Tamagawa, 2006). The wealth and depth of these studies provides an ample starting point for a new UNU Urban Programme. 3. These studies have noted, inter alia, that the problems and disadvantages of high population densities for extended urban spaces have become increasingly clear: the supply of water, sanitation, energy, food, public transport, even clean air as well as e.g. waste management and pollution control /reduction are ever more problematic. At the same time the population of rural areas is aging and decreasing; villages are dying. In some cases, rural populations are concentrating in secondary small town centers, where they are increasingly in non-agricultural economic activities. In other cases, rural depopulation continues to be a major challenge for countries. In other countries increased transport between urban and rural areas means that there is continuous movement between urban and rural areas. 4. In line with the studies of Jean Gottmann (1961), the current population distribution continues to change in character. The urban and rural are not anymore in opposition to each other, but rather in synergy, in many different ways. The megalopolises that are 1

developing take on the character of ill-defined entities or nodes spread over space in which many different activities occur. Furthermore, the physical character of the networks of nodes of different sizes articulates across vast spaces as can clearly be seen on pictures from space of the earth by night (see also, Castells, 1996). 5. Traditional ways of thinking about population distribution and cities (from small towns to extensive conurbations like the mega-cities) are inadequate if we wish to explore trends in contemporary urbanization. In order for us to construct positive scenarios of future urbanization we need to unbundle contemporary understandings of the urbanization process and develop new ways of thinking to interpret urban development in to the future. 6. The new Programme on Sustainable Urban Futures aspires to provide a carefully researched evaluation of the future of global urbanization up until the year 2030. In view of the massive challenges posed by this increase in world urbanization at a global scale. It is also important to emphasize that virtually all global urban growth will occur in the developing countries over the next 25 years while the urban places of developed countries that have already gone through these phases of rapid urbanization will be faced with challenges of a different nature. It is important to try and identify the positive aspects of the growth of urbanization in developed countries that may contribute to an understanding of the present phase of urbanization in developing countries. At the same time the present phase of rapid urbanization in developing countries is occurring at very different conjuncture of global development so there are opportunities to utilize recent developments to help the process of producing sustainable urban places. 7. The project is urgent and from the perspective of quality research: the scientific tools/methods are available and the United Nations University can mobilize the talented researchers needed, worldwide. Japan fulfills all the conditions to provide the base and give direction to this project. Because of its global character, objectivity and integrity UNU is the obvious choice to execute the project, jointly with its Japanese and overseas partners.

Proposal 8. This proposal outlines a new United Nations University (UNU) collaborative effort with the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science on global urbanization and urban growth. The programme is being developed under the direction of the UNU Rector, Hans J.A. van Ginkel, who is also the programme leader. Terry McGee, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia and Peter J. Marcotullio, UNU-IAS Fellow, are special consultants to the Rector. Funding for the programme is expected to come from both the UNU and will be supplemented by grants from outside funding organizations. 9. The purpose of the Programme is to create a worldwide network of scholars actively engaged in re-conceptualizing urban challenges and related policies in light of contemporary forces of change. The intent is creating greater understanding of how to make urban centers around the world healthy, attractive and less resource intensive. The programme defines a long term research agenda which will provide a fruitful

organizational scheme for conferences, knowledge products (such as edited volumes, books and articles) and training seminars and materials. 10. The goals of the Programme include: Identification of policy relevant research products that are accessible to those involved in the governance of urban centers around the world at all scales of governance; Dissemination of these research products through a worldwide network of scholars, an annual conference, a quarterly journal/newsletter and working papers and reports. 11. The research designs will include a number of new and different methodologies, some area outlined in this proposal, but certainly not all of them. Importantly, the Programme will highlight case studies in each of these specific study areas. In this way, the projects will: 1) to identify ways in which lessons can be transferred from one location to another; and 2) to provide examples of solutions to challenges that might provide these lessons. 12. Research tasks: We see six major inter-related research elements which form the core of the programme. Each of these key elements is further described. 13. Element 1: Urbanization: re-conceptualizing the challenge The programme is based upon the notion that urban places can be part of the solution to the sustainability conundrum not only the sources of problems. The expansion of cities is inevitable. For example, the UN predicts that by 2030, two thirds of the worlds population will be living in cities, at which point global urban growth rate (1.54 percent) will be about twice that of total population growth rate (0.82 percent). Moreover, cities have been and remain the centers of culture and energy for societies. Breathing urban air does more than make one free, it will keep most people of the planet alive in the next century. The questions facing us is whether we can create healthy, attractive and resource conserving spaces that house most of humankind. Moreover, we are moving beyond the simple opposition or distinction between urban and urban. Cities are not longer the place of residence for the majority of the urban population, while rural lands are locations for more activities than simply agriculture. Scholars and practitioners are increasingly elaborating the many connections between the urban region and distant elsewheres (Rees, 1992). Indeed, the current transactional revolution (i.e., The speed-up in the flows of people, commodities, information and capital) within national and global space as part of the transformation of national and global space economies means that interactions , linkages and flows are a more accurate reflections of reality than the idea that rural and urban areas are undergoing separate development transitions. Understanding of the transcending networks enables researchers and policy makers to reassess activities about negative and positive aspects of rural and urban places. They are in fact inextricably linked in a developmental process. Therefore an important part of the project will be to ascertain how these transcending networks can be utilized in order to create sustainable and livable settlements as the world become more urbanized. The programme accepts these facts and further suggests that the way societies organize their urban regions will not only be the key to moving nations to sustainable pathways, but will impact the developmental transitions at the global level. Therefore underpinning 3

the general goals of the programme is the need to reconceptualize the urbanization process as part of the development process in which urban places play a major role and there fore central to issues of global sustainability as well the sustainability of urban places. 14. Element 2: Identifying Urban Constellations Urban places are both distributors within transactional networks and nodes within these systems (i.e., they sit within larger scale networks and contain within their own systems smaller scale systems). Hence, understanding contemporary dynamics associated with urban places must include operationalizing the inters-scale linkages amongst activities associated with the growth. Yet, while work on urban population change and the environmental impact of urban activities has been evolving, the absolute measurements of conditions within these spaces and the linkages between drivers and impacts are contested. This is partly because there are variants in definitions of what is, and is not, urban, partially because there is an inability to directly associate impacts across scales and partly because all these dynamics are also directly related to political, ideological and value struggles. On potential solution to the first set of challenges is to move beyond the (mega) city to develop and understanding of the relationship between built up cores of urban settlements and the spreading urban activities at the margins of urban places. This work will be advanced through satellite and GIS technologies that have helped to provide a clearer picture of the extent of urban nodes and their growth patterns. Further, identifying databases and new methodologies to understand how and in what ways cities are networked to each other underpins much of the work intended for the programme. Questions concerning where people are residing, what are the conditions within which they are living and how their activities are related to environmental change and livability at different scales are primary concerns of the programme. Using remote sensing, GIS and modeling, scholars engaged in this aspect of the research and training programmes will examine and define urban populations urban systems, built up areas and urban activities in the margins of urban cores. They will also use various databases to link direct drivers emanating from urban activities to impacts within and outside urban areas. This will be particularly important for the urban margins where most of urban population growth will occur over the next twenty five years. This part of the project will help to identify basic information including what urban forms are emerging in urban settlements trends in economic, demographic growth, how they are connected within transactional networks to each other (via transport, communications, trade, investments, etc) and how they are impacting their environments. 15. Element 3: Driving Forces Shaping Urban Areas It is well established that the growth of urban places of different size within the urban system of which they are part is quite variable depending upon the pace of development in the region of which the urban places are part and their role in the national and global economic system. During an era of rapid integration of the global economy (often called 4

globalization) it does appear that the economic, political and social forces that are driving globalization are focused on the largest city regions at a global level. These urban regions are generally thought to be the most dynamic form of urban settlement. But at the global scale they do experience considerable regional fluctuation in this dynamism. These trends are in part driven by large scale social, political, economic and technological shifts experienced by individual societies and at the global level. Global changes in economic and technological processes, for example, have helped to create a footloose capitalism, where investments can move rapidly across geographic spaces. This urban economic impact of these changes are analogous to shifting cultivation cycles in rural areas as urban economies shift from one productive activity to the next with changes in their comparative advantages. The results can be seen rapidly changing economic structures of urban places as well as in the urban landscape such as the life span of buildings that becomes shorter. The removal of perfectly good buildings for other purposes is related to a host of factors, and importantly to changing land values and shifting market demands. Another crucial driving force in shaping urban places is the systems of transportation. The ongoing dominance of the automobile and the associated culture of automobility that promotes it is a major issue influencing the shape of cities of the future. The example of Japan in which the urban system and internal structure of urban space is dominated by rail transportation is particularly important for the predicting the future of global urbanization. Indeed, many informed observers believe that the Greater Tokyo metropolitan region with more than 30 million people could not provide an environment in which productivity and the quality of life have improved without this transportation system. On the other hand, there are other more proximate influences that impact how urban places cities are changing, including national and local policies. Moreover, as cities grow their urban economies, social structures, environments, etc, change and these different transitions create a set of new challenges to the management of urban places. This brings to question how we can provide fundamental research evaluations into these various transitions that will enable us to create more sustainable urban places. This part of the project will identify both the process and patterns (understanding the difference and the relationships) of these forces. Importantly we need to monitor and evaluate there impact (identify what issues to keep track of) 16. Element 4: Core Challenges: Quality of Life, Inclusiveness and Reducing Urban Impacts The quality of urban areas is closely associated with both the provision of services and the level of inclusion in decision making at all scales experienced by citizens. Public participation, collective action and progressive political change are vital aspects of creating cities that contribute to sustainable development and that are healthy and enjoyable places to live and work. Understanding who the actors (both formal and informal) that are most responsible for creating healthy, livable and less burdensome cities as well as the institutions that encourage and constrain these levels of inclusion is an important part of the project This involves governance at all scales, not least that of the metropolitan and city levels. 5

Urban leadership (both formal and informal) is an important factor in creating livable urban places that have reduced ecological footprints. Policies that promote activities that contribute to sustainable development are often controversial and would not typically be part of a business as usual agenda. Leadership at the local levels, from individuals and organizations as well as from government officials is needed to change policy trajectories. Importantly, leadership in financing needed infrastructure that is distributed amongst all urban citizens equitably is critical for developing cities. Necessary infrastructure may include large and expensive projects (such as those associated with central water supply and sewage treatment) or include autonomous community built low-technology forms (as was used in connecting households to waste removal systems in the Organi Pilot Project in Karachi Pakistan). In either case, leaders are important in helping to envision, organize and implement these advances. Moving in this direction requires identifying actors and institutions at multiple scale levels. 17. Element 5: Creating Responsible Urban Societies: Governance of the Urban Places One of the most important factors influencing the development of sustainable cities for the future is the way that urban places are governed and managed. In general it may be argued that there is an institutional lag in the development of effective administrative institutions for the larger urban regions that have become so important in the contemporary phases of global urbanization. Efforts to create institutions of regional urban management have been introduced in developed countries, but in the developing world these have been slow to emerge. But there is no reason why urban centers in low and middle income cities can not adopt such innovative institutions taking their advantage of their late arrival on the development trajectory. Many argue that the health and attractiveness of their environments depends upon it (Hardoy, Mitlin, & Satterthwaite, 2001). Governance issues, however, are challenging. They include creating the context for good governance, addressing decentralization, intra-governmental arrangements and national frameworks for local policies and addressing the cross-scale impacts of driving forces on local environments and what this means for different level of organization. This part of the project will explore major governance challenges related to managing urban areas and how these challenges shift with development and linkages to the global economy. Information developed for this element will help to shed light on areas in which decision makers at different scales of governance can find leverage points for making changes. 18. Element 6: Social developments and Attractiveness of Urban Milieus The quality and quantity of the integration of the social, economic and environmental trends, are important elements in making urban places attractive. Urban regions provide a variety of urban formations both within individual urban regional nodes and between urban regions. Some of these formations make cities or urban neighborhoods more attractive to specific groups and are arguable part of making cities more sustainable (i.e., 6

compact cities that provide convivial places for social contact). In other urban places these formations can lead to harmful if not deadly environments. At the core of these dynamics are the implications of demographic and social trends to issues of social justice and equity. Three areas of importance where parallels run between high income societies and middle and low income include: (1) Migration trends - ongoing rural-urban migration in middle and low income societies; and international migration to developed societies. Some of the important issues for these trends include how migrants are integrated into urban host societies how access to services such as health and education is provided by the urban place or host country and how migrants access and are treated within the labor force; (2) Demographic trends - rapid and continuing changes within domestic populations. Some of the issues related to social justice and equity for this trend include addressing the aging population, the delay of age of marriage and gender differentials as they effect the social structures of urban places; and (3) Social trends changes in the size and political and economic strength of the middle class and the dynamics of economic and social inequities. Issues related to this trend include the impact to the environment of increasing consumption generated from expanding middle classes, the emergence of the new urban poor, the issues of adolescence, security in the city gated communities, public and private space, etc. This part of the project will focus on identifying the various social and environmental attractive aspects of these forms both in terms of cities as a unit and areas within cities. Importantly research in this area will address the habitats and lack of choices of the poorer populations within cities. Moreover, it will address the issue of how can the best formations be created.

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