3 responses to “In the century of cities”

  1. Tony Marchi

    Parag Khanna touches on a number of the challenges facing the world’s cities in the 21st century. One phrase particularly stands out for me: “I strongly believe that governments should devote most of their attention to the issue of inequality between the slums and the glamorous side of the city”.

    A good example comes from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) in the way the Inter-American Development Bank has launched the Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative (ESCI). The idea is to support sustainable development in medium-sized cities in the region which have expanded at a rapid rate.

    Already the second-most urbanized region on the planet, LAC has gone from a 62% urbanization rate in 1980 to 81% in 2011 and is expected to reach 89% by 2050.
    This process happened without adequate planning and included placing the urban poor in marginalized slum areas most vulnerable to disaster risk and climate change. Twenty-six per cent of the urban population in LAC lives in poverty or extreme poverty and nearly one in four people live in slums. The Initiative hopes to address these challenges by developing planning tools like greenhouse gas inventories and risk maps as well as action plans that include low-carbon and climate-resilient development.

    The Initiative supports local efforts to improve the quality of life of citizens, focusing particularly on the urban poor. For example, an upgrade of the public transport system in La Paz, in Mexico, provides cleaner, more efficient and comfortable buses for up to 50,000 people per day. Street improvements in Mar del Plata, in Argentina, have enhanced walkability for more than 13,000 pedestrians every day. The action plan for Managua, in Nicaragua, includes a programme for upgrading poor neighbourhoods with new social housing, public transport and storm water drainage.

    Parag talks about the need for shared responsibility between the public and private sectors – “what I call hybrid governance”, he says, where industry plays an essential role in building sustainable and inclusive cities.

    Tony Marchi, New York City, USA

  2. Lena Duquemin

    I saw this fact in a UN tweet somewhere: “The world’s cities occupy just 2% of the Earth’s land, but account for 60 to 80% of energy consumption and 75% of carbon emissions.” Take the first part – when you hear some people talk of overcrowding, you would think there was no room left on this planet! Half of our population takes up just one fiftieth of the space. The second part – the very fact that cities have high density, means it’s possible to use smart governance and technological innovation to reduce resource and energy consumption.

  3. Jabez Darnell

    This encouraged me to find Khanna’s blog which has lots more insight into the development of cities across the globe (http://www.paragkhanna.com).

    There’s much talk about China’s slowdown. Parag looks a bit further afield. He points out: ‘The most recent forecasts from Harvard’s Atlas of Economic Complexity suggest that almost all of the top 25 fastest growing countries between 2015 and 2024 are either in Asia or Africa, with rising giant India in the lead at a projected 7 percent annual growth.’

    India is finally committing over $100 billion to major infrastructure projects, undertaking significant regulatory reforms and tripling the volumes of foreign direct investment it attracts (surpassing China in 2015), with further projected FDI growing almost another 50 percent in 2016 alone.

    Parag argues that ‘world trade has become far more distributed, with the new “Silk Roads” across the greater Indian Ocean region from China to Africa delivering almost all global trade growth of the past decade.’ He says that new institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank ‘will make fresh investments that further unlock the economic potential of this zone’, which comprises three-fifths of the world population, and that ‘demographic and urbanization trends should put the greater Indian Ocean region much more in the eye of global investors, from real estate to retail and beyond.’

    He also points out: ‘that many highly populous countries, from Kenya to Pakistan and Indonesia, actually benefit from lower commodities prices that allow them to reduce import costs and cut subsidies and instead invest in infrastructure and services. And as trade agreements such as Trans-Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a proposed Asian regional trade agreement, advance, “new tiger” economies like Vietnam and the Philippines are attracting sizable new FDI inflows and delivering surging exports from smoother multi-directional trade.’