“UN stresses positives of urban growth with new tool to track city prosperity
Claire Provost. Wednesday 5 September 2012
Cities should be seen as drivers of economic growth and human development, says report published at World Urban Forum
A new index to measure and track the prosperity of cities has been unveiled by UN-Habitat, the UN human settlements programme, in a bid to encourage a more upbeat view of the world’s rapid urbanisation.
Cities should be seen as drivers of economic growth and human development, according to the agency’s flagship State of the World’s Cities report, published on Wednesday at the sixth World Urban Forum (WUF) in Naples, Italy.
“A fresh future is taking shape, with urban areas around the world becoming not just the dominant form of habitat for humankind, but also the engine-rooms of human development as a whole,” said the report, which called on city planners, particularly in developing countries, to see urbanisation in a positive light. In 2010 the agency announced that, for the first time, more people live in cities than in rural areas.
“Cities have been perceived as the ‘engines’ of national economies and there is no reason to depart from that view,” said the report, pointing to numerous examples, from the US to Kenya, where urban areas contribute disproportionately to national wealth.
“A critical mass of people, ideas, infrastructure and resources acts as a magnet of development, attracting migrants, private firms, investors and developers. All of this enhances the prospects for more employmentopportunities, wealth creation, innovation and knowledge, which are all major factors of prosperity.”
However, the report echoed previous attempts to recalibrate measures of progress and called for a view of prosperity that goes beyond a narrow focus on economic growth.
“A lopsided focus on purely financial prosperity has led to growing inequalities between rich and poor, generated serious distortions in the form and functionality of cities, also causing serious damage to the environment – not to mention the unleashing of precarious financial systems that could not be sustained in the long run,” said the executive director of UN-Habitat, Joan Clos, in a foreword to the report.
The new city prosperity index will attempt to track progress across five key issues: productivity, infrastructure, quality of life, equity, and environmental sustainability. This should help urban policymakers pinpoint problem areas, it says. Low scores on the equity component of the index, for example, push South African cities Cape Town and Johannesburg from the tier of cities with “solid” prosperity rankings to those with “weak” or “very weak” values.”
Via: The Guardian
Photo: Satellite images show the growth of Manila, the world’s most densely-populated city, from 1989 to 2012. A new report stresses urbanisation’s positives. Photograph: Nasa
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