Friday, June 29, 2007

The State of the World’s Population – Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth

Featured Speakers: George Martine, Brazilian Association for Population Studies and Scientific and Anthony Kolb, USAID

Concurrent with the release of the UNFPA’s State of World Population 2007: Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth, Wednesday’s speakers sought to challenge misconceptions, evaluate current policies, and make suggestions about the future of urban population growth worldwide. By next year, over half of the world’s population will live in cities, and urban population growth shows no signs of slowing. Particularly in the developing world, urban growth is a fact of life that policymakers must address. Over 80% of worldwide urban population growth comes from Africa and Asia, whose cities will see their populations double in the next 30 years.

Dr. Martine, a consultant to the UNFPA, first challenged the conception widely held by policymakers that urbanization is inherently bad. He argued that not only does city-dwelling promote favorable changes in social organization, as populations break free from the traditional rural environment, but its benefits are enhanced in the age of globalization, when cities act as centers of information, communication, and culture. Moreover, most of the urban growth in coming decades will be in smaller cities of 500,000 or less, avoiding many problems inherent to unwieldy “megacities.” The idea that urban growth is detrimental to the environment is often misguided as well, as a higher proportion of urban dwellers serve to preserve the rural biodiversity essential to a healthy planet.

Given all this, Dr. Martine proposed that policymakers shift policies away from combating urban growth, toward managing it effectively and cultivating its benefits. It is much cheaper for cities to avoid slums before they form than to relocate large groups. Organizations like USAID can help by adding new urban health initiatives, as most preexisting programs are geared toward remote rural areas. According to Dr. Kolb, USAID has already begun to take this step in the developing world, most notably in India.

Sponsor: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Location: Wilson Center, 5th Floor Conference Room

Date: Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Time: 3:30-5pm

Approximate Number of Attendees: 60

Intern Attending: Mike Heslin

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