City2City
COVID-19 and Human Development: Assessing the Crisis, Envisioning the Recovery
02 July 2020 - This note takes a capabilities approach to document the severity of the unfolding human development crisis. Such an approach implies an evaluative framework to assess the crisis and shape the policy response that emphasizes the potential for people to be and do what they aspire in life as opposed to material resources or economic activity.

02 July 2020 - The COVID-19 pandemic is unleashing a human development crisis. On some dimensions of human development, conditions today are equivalent to levels of deprivation last seen in the mid-1980s.

But the crisis is hitting hard on all of human development’s constitutive elements: income (with the largest contraction in economic activity since the Great Depression), health (directly causing a death toll over 300,000 and indirectly leading potentially to an additional 6,000 child deaths every day from preventable causes over the next 6 months) and education (with effective out-of-school rates – meaning, accounting for the inability to access the internet – in primary education expected to drop to the levels of actual rates of the mid-1980s levels). This, not counting less visible indirect effects, including increased domestic violence, yet to be fully documented.

The pandemic was superimposed on unresolved tensions between people and technology, between people and the planet, between the haves and the have-nots. These tensions were already shaping a new generation of inequalities—pertaining to enhanced capabilities, the new necessities of the 21st century, as defined in the 2019 Human Development Report. But the response to the crisis can shape how those tensions are addressed and whether inequalities in human development are reduced.

This note takes a capabilities approach to document the severity of the unfolding human development crisis. Such an approach implies an evaluative framework to assess the crisis and shape the policy response that emphasizes the potential for people to be and do what they aspire in life as opposed to material resources or economic activity. To assess the crisis, the note draws from original simulations that are based on an adjusted Human Development Index—with the education dimension modified to reflect the effects of school closures and mitigation measures—and that incorporate current projections of gross national income (GNI) per capita for 2020.

The simulations suggest conditions today would correspond to a steep and unprecedented decline in human development. With almost 9 in 10 students out of school and deep recessions in most economies (including a 4 percent drop in GNI per capita worldwide), the decline in the index –reflecting a narrowing in capabilities-- would be equivalent to erasing all the progress in human development of the past six years. Importantly, if conditions in school access are restored, capabilities related to education would immediately bounce back – while the income dimension would follow the path of the economic recovery post-crisis. The simulations also show the importance of promoting equity in capabilities. In a scenario with more equitable internet access—where each country closes the gap with the leaders in its human development category—the decline in human development would be more than halved. This would be eminently affordable. In 2018 it was estimated that $100 billion would be needed to close the gap in internet access in low- and middle-income countries—or about 1 percent of the extraordinary fiscal programmes announced around the world so far.

The note suggests three principles to shape the response to the crisis:

  • Look at the response through an equity lens.i Countries, communities and groups already lagging in enhanced capabilities will be particularly affected, and leaving them further behind will have long-term impacts on human development.
  • Focus on people’s enhanced capabilities. This could reconcile apparent tradeoffs between public health and economic activity (a means to the end of expanding capabilities) but would also help build resilience for future shocks.
  • Follow a coherent multidimensional approach. Since the crisis has multiple interconnected dimensions (health, economic, and several social aspects, decisions on the allocation of fiscal resources that can either further lock-in or break free from carbon-intensive production and consumption), a systemic approach—rather than a sector-by-sector sequential approach—is essential. A recent survey conducted in 14 countries found that 71 percent of adults globally consider that climate change is as serious a crisis as COVID-19, with two-thirds supporting government actions to prioritise climate change during the recovery. ii

The United Nations has proposed a framework for the immediate socioeconomic response,iii with which this note is fully consistent and meant to inform and further flesh out both the analysis of the crisis and possible responses.

Finally, the note also highlights the importance of collective action—at the community, country, and global levels. And the response to this crisis is showing how people around the world are responding collectively. The adoption of social distancing behaviour—which in some cases started before formal policies were put in place—could not possibly be fully enforced. It depended on the voluntary cooperation of billions of people. And it was done in response to a shared global risk that brought to the fore as a priority something other than having economies grow more rapidly. If we needed proof of concept that humanity can respond collectively to a shared global challenge, we are now living through it.

Read the full report here or download the attached PDF of the report.

COVID-19 and Human Development: Assessing the Crisis, Envisioning the Recovery
02 July 2020 - This note takes a capabilities approach to document the severity of the unfolding human development crisis. Such an approach implies an evaluative framework to assess the crisis and shape the policy response that emphasizes the potential for people to be and do what they aspire in life as opposed to material resources or economic activity. 

02 July 2020 - The COVID-19 pandemic is unleashing a human development crisis. On some dimensions of human development, conditions today are equivalent to levels of deprivation last seen in the mid-1980s.

But the crisis is hitting hard on all of human development’s constitutive elements: income (with the largest contraction in economic activity since the Great Depression), health (directly causing a death toll over 300,000 and indirectly leading potentially to an additional 6,000 child deaths every day from preventable causes over the next 6 months) and education (with effective out-of-school rates – meaning, accounting for the inability to access the internet – in primary education expected to drop to the levels of actual rates of the mid-1980s levels). This, not counting less visible indirect effects, including increased domestic violence, yet to be fully documented.

The pandemic was superimposed on unresolved tensions between people and technology, between people and the planet, between the haves and the have-nots. These tensions were already shaping a new generation of inequalities—pertaining to enhanced capabilities, the new necessities of the 21st century, as defined in the 2019 Human Development Report. But the response to the crisis can shape how those tensions are addressed and whether inequalities in human development are reduced.

This note takes a capabilities approach to document the severity of the unfolding human development crisis. Such an approach implies an evaluative framework to assess the crisis and shape the policy response that emphasizes the potential for people to be and do what they aspire in life as opposed to material resources or economic activity. To assess the crisis, the note draws from original simulations that are based on an adjusted Human Development Index—with the education dimension modified to reflect the effects of school closures and mitigation measures—and that incorporate current projections of gross national income (GNI) per capita for 2020.

The simulations suggest conditions today would correspond to a steep and unprecedented decline in human development. With almost 9 in 10 students out of school and deep recessions in most economies (including a 4 percent drop in GNI per capita worldwide), the decline in the index –reflecting a narrowing in capabilities-- would be equivalent to erasing all the progress in human development of the past six years. Importantly, if conditions in school access are restored, capabilities related to education would immediately bounce back – while the income dimension would follow the path of the economic recovery post-crisis. The simulations also show the importance of promoting equity in capabilities. In a scenario with more equitable internet access—where each country closes the gap with the leaders in its human development category—the decline in human development would be more than halved. This would be eminently affordable. In 2018 it was estimated that $100 billion would be needed to close the gap in internet access in low- and middle-income countries—or about 1 percent of the extraordinary fiscal programmes announced around the world so far.

The note suggests three principles to shape the response to the crisis:

  • Look at the response through an equity lens.i Countries, communities and groups already lagging in enhanced capabilities will be particularly affected, and leaving them further behind will have long-term impacts on human development.
  • Focus on people’s enhanced capabilities. This could reconcile apparent tradeoffs between public health and economic activity (a means to the end of expanding capabilities) but would also help build resilience for future shocks.
  • Follow a coherent multidimensional approach. Since the crisis has multiple interconnected dimensions (health, economic, and several social aspects, decisions on the allocation of fiscal resources that can either further lock-in or break free from carbon-intensive production and consumption), a systemic approach—rather than a sector-by-sector sequential approach—is essential. A recent survey conducted in 14 countries found that 71 percent of adults globally consider that climate change is as serious a crisis as COVID-19, with two-thirds supporting government actions to prioritise climate change during the recovery. ii

The United Nations has proposed a framework for the immediate socioeconomic response,iii with which this note is fully consistent and meant to inform and further flesh out both the analysis of the crisis and possible responses.

Finally, the note also highlights the importance of collective action—at the community, country, and global levels. And the response to this crisis is showing how people around the world are responding collectively. The adoption of social distancing behaviour—which in some cases started before formal policies were put in place—could not possibly be fully enforced. It depended on the voluntary cooperation of billions of people. And it was done in response to a shared global risk that brought to the fore as a priority something other than having economies grow more rapidly. If we needed proof of concept that humanity can respond collectively to a shared global challenge, we are now living through it.

Read the full report here or download the attached PDF of the report.

Hamamatsu Voluntary Local Review Report 2019
01 July 2020 - 

Hamamatsu City is a government ordinance designated city, located between Tokyo and Osaka along the Pacific coast, with an area of 1,558km2 and a population of about 800,000. The population of the city is on a downward trend from its peak in 2008. It is projected that the population trend will continue and the aging ratio (27% as of 2018) will increase. One of the features with regard to the population in Hamamatsu is the number of foreign nationals, which accounts for 3% of the total population, 1% higher than the national average.

As a result of the merger of 12 local municipalities in July 2005, Hamamatsu became the second largest municipal area nationwide with diverse natural and social environment that includes urban, rural, mountainous and hilly areas. For this reason, it is referred to as a government ordinance-designated city that is a model of Japan in miniature. With rich forest and fishery resources, the primary industry is thriving in Hamamatsu. In addition, the city is famous for manufacturing and is the location of large corporations that are active on the global stage, such as Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawai, Hamamatsu Photonics, Roland, and FCC. Not only large companies but also small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and venture companies are also active. The higher ratio of primary and secondary industries compared to other government-ordinance designated cities in Japan is one of the characteristics of Hamamatsu.

Challenges

Hamamatsu City faces various challenges including the administrative costs to maintain and upgrade municipal services covering large administrative area, independence of underpopulated areas, administrative services that can meet to socio-economic environment and social needs that changes according to the population decline, low birthrate and progressive aging society, and co-existence with foreign residents. Against the background of the nuclear disaster as a result of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the subsequent deregulation of the electric power industry, Hamamatsu is also facing the need to put measures in place to continue to secure a stable supply of energy and to protect people’s lives and livelihoods against natural disasters (disaster prevention and mitigation).

Localisation and mainstreaming of the SDGs in Hamamatsu City

To tackle with a lot of local challenges, Hamamatsu City is managing city administration in partnership with various local stakeholders and by leveraging municipal budgets and local resources effectively. The Hamamatsu City Comprehensive Plan, the 30-year plan from 2015 is integrated with the principles of the SDGs, and therefore the city is promoting the SDGs implementation through the implementation of the comprehensive plan. The comprehensive plan of the city was drawn up using backcasting techniques. The comprehensive plan includes 12 vision-points for the desirable future of city called the “One Dozen Futures” and sets out comprehensive policies to achieve the vision. In the process of making the comprehensive plan, "the Hamamatsu Future Design Council" composed of experts and citizens having different backgrounds was established to review and discuss the plan. In addition to the discussion at the Council, the city interviewed citizens to hear and reflect more voices from citizens.

Read the full report here or download the attached PDF of the report.

Voluntary Subnational Review: Oaxaca, Mexico
01 July 2020 - This preliminary version of the Voluntary Subnational Review is a first report on the activities that Oaxaca has carried out in relation to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, as well as a space for reflection and self-evaluation that identifies the challenges and lessons learned.

This exercise will be complemented by a methodology that enables the inclusion of citizens, academia, and the productive sector to evaluate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in the state and municipalities. Additionally, management and performance indicators will have to be built to allow monitoring and faithful monitoring of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its impact, in order to generate periodic evaluations of the work carried out in the state and municipalities.

Subnational Level

1. As part of the efforts at the subnational level, a diagnosis was made of the situation in Oaxaca to determine the level of linkage between the planning structure and the state priorities with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

  • An analysis of the compatibility of the goals of the 17 SDGs with the objectives set out in the 2016-2022 State Development Plan
  • An exercise to link the 97 indicators of the 2018 budget programs with the 240 indicators of the 2030 Agenda
  • A classification of the 240 indicators of the 2030 Agenda according to the competencies, attributions, and scope of the 32 dependencies that make up the State Public Administration

2. The Legal Group made a proposal to reform the State Planning Law with the modification of 27 of its 121 articles, with the objective that the SDGs are considered in the planning process and that sustainable development is understood in its three dimensions: social, economic, and environmental.

3. The 2016-2022 State Development Plan is the governing document of public policy in Oaxaca. Currently, work is being done to update this plan with a focus on sustainability framed in the 2030 Agenda.

4. In 2018, the 12 sector plans, which establish the priorities, objectives, goals; as well as the current expenditure and investment estimates of each sector for the fulfillment of its objectives, were aligned in its strategic framework to the 2030 Agenda.

5. Three trainings were carried out during 2019 related to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for state public officials, municipal authorities, the staff of the Technical Liaison Modules, and for students of the Economics Department at the Benito Juarez Autonomous University.

Multi-Actor Alliances

1. The methodology for the inclusion of civil society, academia, and the productive sector was set up through which three Working Committees have formed: 1) Social Inclusion, 2) Economic Growth and 3) Environmental Sustainability, considering the three dimensions of sustainable development. These committees are integrated by representatives of state agencies, civil society, academia, and the productive sector. They aim to be a space for public policy innovation.

2. The Government of the State of Oaxaca has a technical cooperation agreement with the GIZ, which has the purpose of contributing to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda at the state and municipal level so that the vision of sustainable development is adopted for the fulfillment of the SDGs.

Municipal Level

1. As part of the technical cooperation with the GIZ, the Municipal Sustainable Development Plans Guide was prepared, which has as its main objective to guide the municipal governments in the preparation of the Municipal Development Plans with a participatory approach and sustainable development.

2. Likewise, in this same cooperation, a pilot sample of 10 municipalities was chosen to work in a coordinated manner with the GIZ and the Technical Work Committee in municipal planning, the prioritization of works, and citizen participation.

3. In order to strengthen the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, 547 Municipal Social Development Councils have been installed, which are spaces for a plural and inclusive participation and dialogue for the implementation of this agenda and are constituted as instances of linkage of the three levels of government, the social, and private sectors.

Read the full report here or download the attached PDF of the report.

Volunteers as Essential Community Heroes: the Role of Volunteering in driving action on Covid-19 and the SDGs
27 June 2020 - Volunteer Groups Alliance: We will focus on the critical role that volunteers have played across the world delivering the SDGs and helping build stronger, more resilient, and inclusive communities for the final decade of action.

Given the current context of Covid-19, we will include case studies demonstrating how volunteers have played a key role in responding to the pandemic. Governments and institutional partners will share evidence of how volunteers have supported the Covid-19 response, through mobilisation of community health workers, promoting responsible public health messaging, combating fake news, and supporting marginalised children’s access to education, as well as accountability of delivering the SDG agenda.

When: Jul 7, 2020 12:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Topic: Volunteer Groups Alliance Side Event to the UN High-Level Political Forum 2020

Register for the Event Here: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?page=view&type=20000&nr=6942&menu=2993

COVID-19 in African Cities: Impacts, Responses and Policies
27 June 2020 - The report proposes several interventions to promptly and effectively address the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic in Africa at the urban level led by national and local governments supported by international and regional development institutions.

27 June 2020 - COVID-19, a global pandemic declared by the World Health Organization (WHO), is crippling the global economy and upending people’s lives thereby threatening sustainable development across all its dimensions. Africa is also facing the dire consequences of the crisis, necessitating timely response, recovery and rebuilding policies and strategies. Globally, urban areas are the epicenters of the epidemic accounting for most of the confirmed COVID-19 cases.

UN-Habitat in collaboration with UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG), African Development Bank (AfDB), and Shelter Afrique have joined hands to produce this new report: COVID-19 in African Cities: Impacts, Responses and Policies.

The report proposes several interventions to promptly and effectively address the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic in Africa at the urban level led by national and local governments supported by international and regional development institutions.

Download the Full Report Here: https://unhabitat.org/covid-19-in-africa-cities-impacts-responses-and-policies

WUF11 closes with calls for urgent urban action

After five days of debate and discussion, with 400 events featuring 700 speakers from government, civil society, communities, academia and the private sector, the Eleventh Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF11) in Katowice, Poland closed. New friendships and partnerships were formed, new agreements reached and bold ideas formulated among the 17,003 people from 155 countries who attended WUF11.

WUF11 closes with calls for urgent urban action

Originally posted by UN-Habitat on 1 July 2022

After five days of debate and discussion, with 400 events featuring 700 speakers from government, civil society, communities, academia and the private sector, the Eleventh Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF11) in Katowice, Poland closed. New friendships and partnerships were formed, new agreements reached and bold ideas formulated among the 17,003 people from 155 countries who attended WUF11.

Photo: IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director

The closing ceremony in the Spodek Arena concluded with the torch for WUF12 being officially passed to the Egyptian government, represented by General Mohammed Sharawy, Minister of Local Development, in a short signing. 

“What we have witnessed here was a rich experience with many inspiring topics,” he said. “I am extremely proud that Cairo is the first African city to stage the World Urban Forum since Nairobi staged the first event in 2002.”

The enthusiasm generated by participants throughout WUF11 was however balanced by warnings that there could be no further delays in taking urgent action to deliver sustainable urbanization, given the multiple crises confronting world cities. 

Addressing the closing ceremony in the Spodek Arena, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, said: “The climate emergency, pandemics, the housing crisis, violence and conflict, all converge in cities.

“If we want to transform to a better urban future, we will have to increasingly deal with urban crises. We have no excuse not to be prepared.

“We don’t have much time to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal targets of 2030. We have only 7.5 years, 90 months or 2,742 days left to implement the New Urban Agenda in order to achieve the SDGs. So, what shall we do? The time to act is now.”

Ms Sharif announced that the global observance of the World Habitat Day this year will be on 3 October in Belkiser, Turkey.  She also opened a call for the expression of interest to host the World Urban Forum in 2026.

IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera, Martha Delgado, President of the United Nations Habitat Assembly at the World Urban Forum 11

Photo: IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera, Martha Delgado, President of the United Nations Habitat Assembly at WUF11

The Executive Director warmly thanked Małgorzata Jarosińska-Jedynak, State Secretary at Poland’s Ministry of Regional Development and Funds, Marcin Krupa, the Mayor of Katowice, and the local organising committee. 

“The Government of Poland as well as the city of Katowice have exceeded all expectations helping us make WUF11 a most memorable and accessible event,” she said.

Ms Jarosińska-Jedynak responded that WUF11’S Declared Actions must be a basis for action. “This is the time for bold steps and bold action,” she said. “The World Urban Forum has given us energy and enthusiasm to push for change in our cities for a better future.”

IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera, Mahmoud Shaarawy, Minister of Local Development, Egypt, and Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director, sign the WUF12 agreement

Photo: IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera, Mahmoud Shaarawy, Minister of Local Development, Egypt, and Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director, sign the WUF12 agreement

Speakers acknowledged the special Urban Crises Track created at WUF11 on responses to conflict and disaster, prompted by the conflict in neighbouring Ukraine, and Poland’s hospitality to an estimated three million Ukrainian refugees.

The Executive Director thanked the President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, H.E. Collen Kelapile, for leading the Group of Friends of Sustainable Urbanisation and UN-Habitat in New York, which is putting its full weight behind the New Urban Agenda. 

She acknowledged the contributions of H.E Madame Martha Delgado, President of the UN-Habitat Assembly and Co-Chair of the Advisory Group, for her work to bring the key messages from all the constituencies of WUF11 to the UN-Habitat Assembly next year.

Retrieved from https://wuf.unhabitat.org/news/wuf11-closes-calls-urgent-urban-action

Urban resilience: Addressing an old challenge with renewed urgency

The need for development action in cities cannot be overlooked. Over half of humanity lives in urban settings, and this figure projected to rise to two thirds by 2050.

Urban resilience: Addressing an old challenge with renewed urgency

Author: Asako Okai, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director, UNDP Crisis Bureau

Originally posted by UNDP on 27 June 2022

The need for development action in cities cannot be overlooked. Over half of humanity lives in urban settings, and this figure projected to rise to two thirds by 2050. Photo: UNDP Kenya/Kevin Ouma

Incredibly, over half of humanity already lives in urban settings. With this figure projected to rise to two thirds by 2050, the need for development action in cities can no longer be overlooked.

Urban resilience – the ability of city dwellers to withstand economic, social, health, environmental, disaster and climate related risks – has assumed renewed urgency and has become central to our development discourse. We know that the impact of COVID-19 has been predominantly urban (nearly 90 percent of people affected, according to a UNSDG Policy Brief), and most significant socio-economic disruption has occurred in cities. The pandemic has exposed the “soft underbelly” of our urban development, governance and risk management systems.

More than ever before, a multitude of risks are manifesting themselves with higher frequency, greater magnitude and cascading impacts in cities. According to UNDRR, nearly 84 percent of the fastest growing cities face extreme climate and disaster risks; the vast majority of which are in Asia and Africa. This disconcerting scenario is compounded by the location of many high-risk cities in challenging development contexts such as least developed countries (LDCs), low-income countries (LICs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDs), coupled with considerable governance deficits and resource constraints. In fact, the World Bank projects that COVID-19 may have pushed an additional 88 million to 115 million people into extreme poverty, with a majority engaged in informal services and living in congested urban settings.

Crises are no longer stand-alone or episodic. In fact, crises and risks of all types tend to converge in cities. The increasing “urbanization of risks” is making them even more systemic, with cascading impacts across all walks of life and inter-dependent sectors of development – lingering much beyond their immediate occurrence. In parallel, particular city contexts tend to amplify their effect on weaker segments of society, leaving them further behind due to high socio-economic vulnerabilities and pre-existing structural issues like poverty, inequality, migration, informality, etc. and low capacities for managing risk.

The new UNDP Urban Risk Management and Resilience Strategy has identified five strategic priorities for policy and programmatic action to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 11 on sustainable cities and communities.

Driven by this sense of new urgency, UNDP is revisiting its urban risk management and resilience-building practices through a multifaceted approach. The newly published UNDP Urban Risk Management and Resilience Strategy has identified five Strategic Priorities for policy and programmatic action, focusing on urban resilience through a multidimensional lens.

First, UNDP will give more focus to neglected geographies where greatest capacity gaps exist, such as small, medium and transitioning cities in LDCs, low- and middle-income countries and SIDS, including cities in or on margins of crisis/fragile contexts. UNDP’s risk assessment tools such as its Crisis Risk Dashboard will be strengthened to make better use of data in risk atlases, while initiatives like the European Commission’s INFORM as well as UNDP and the Government of Japan’s Global Centre for Disaster Statistics (GCDS) will provide actionable risk analysis and information to support risk management and resilience building needs.

Second, UNDP will strengthen urban governance by bridging the gap between national policy and implementation at the municipal level, and by stepping up engagement with key city interest groups.  Effective urban governance means engaging all actors to shape urban development through connected policies and collective actions. This will improve decision-making processes by fostering participation and overcome traditional barriers to address existing risks and prevent new ones.

Third, UNDP will ensure that urban development and services address the specific needs and vulnerabilities of marginalized groups in urban communities. This will include improving their access to urban services such as health and education, while addressing the circumstances which increase their exposure and vulnerability to small-scale localized incidents as well as growing “everyday” risks.

Fourth, UNDP will augment capacities of less-resourced cities to manage multidimensional risks through well-financed, risk-informed urban development planning and investments. This includes facilitating its application at city levels, and bringing it to scale by fostering an enabling environment that aligns public and private finance to meet development and resilience-building needs. In order to help realize this objective, access to actionable risk information, forecasting and anticipating shocks while effective end-to-end early warning systems is currently being facilitated.

Finally, UNDP will expand innovation for resilient urban futures. Recognizing the dynamic and evolving needs in cities, the potential of innovative and digital technology-based solutions such as modelling, scenario planning and resilience benchmarking are being optimized to improve urban services and functionality, while augmenting urban planning and crisis management systems. The expertise of UNDP and the Government of Japan’s DX4Resilience (“Accelerating Disaster Risk Reduction and Enhancing Crisis Response through Digital Solutions”), UNDP’s Accelerator Labs and the SDG AI Lab will help devise contextual solutions.

But UNDP cannot do it alone. The need to join hands in this Decade of Action to bring the capabilities of all actors and stakeholders to achieve SDGs is well recognized. UNDP is fostering partnerships across the UN system as well as with other key players to adopt an “all hands on deck” approach to help meet current needs, unlock development constraints and address existing governance deficits while laying the foundation for meeting emerging priorities.

Recognizing this imperative, UNDP’s Strategic Plan 2022-2025 seeks to transform our development approach by mutually reinforcing investments in structural transformation, addressing the needs of the poor and the marginalized to ensure that no one is left behind and ensuring resilience to intersecting and systemic risks to foster sustainable development.

Retrieved from https://www.undp.org/blog/urban-resilience-addressing-old-challenge-renewed-urgency

World population to reach 8 billion this year, as growth rate slows

15 November 2022 is predicted to be the day that the global population reaches eight billion. The projection is revealed in the UN’s World Population Prospects 2022 report, which also shows that India is on course to surpass China as the world’s most populous country in 2023.

World population to reach 8 billion this year, as growth rate slows

by United Nations News | Published on 11 July 2022

15 November 2022 is predicted to be the day that the global population reaches eight billion. The projection is revealed in the UN’s World Population Prospects 2022 report, which also shows that India is on course to surpass China as the world’s most populous country in 2023.

India is on course to surpass China as the world’s most populous country in 2023.

© WPP | India is on course to surpass China as the world’s most populous country in 2023.

The latest UN projections suggest that the world’s population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050, before reaching a peak of around 10.4 billion people during the 2080s. The population is expected to remain at that level until 2100. 

Slowest growth rate since 1950s

However, the annual World Population Prospect report, released on Monday to coincide with World Population Day, also notes that the global population is growing at its slowest rate since 1950, having fallen to less that one per cent in 2020.

Fertility, the report declares, has fallen markedly in recent decades for many countries: today, two-thirds of the global population lives in a country or area where lifetime fertility is below 2.1 births per woman, roughly the level required for zero growth in the long run, for a population with low mortality.

In 61 countries or areas, the population is expected to decrease by at least one per cent over the next three decades, as a result of sustained low levels of fertility and, in some cases, elevated rates of emigration.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an effect on population change: global life expectancy at birth fell to 71 years in 2021 (down from 72.9 in 2019) and, in some countries, successive waves of the pandemic may have produced short-term reductions in numbers of pregnancies and births.

“Further actions by Governments aimed at reducing fertility would have little impact on the pace of population growth between now and mid-century, because of the youthful age structure of today’s global population,” said John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

“Nevertheless, the cumulative effect of lower fertility, if maintained over several decades, could be a more substantial deceleration of global population growth in the second half of the century”. 

People wear protective masks in Tokyo, Japan.

© ADB/Richard Atrero de Guzman

People wear protective masks in Tokyo, Japan.

Growth concentrated in eight countries

More than half of the projected increase in the global population up to 2050 will be concentrated in eight countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Countries of sub-Saharan Africa are expected to contribute more than half of the increase anticipated through 2050.
Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, warned that rapid population growth makes eradicating poverty, combatting hunger and malnutrition, and increasing the coverage of health and education systems more difficult. 

The ‘demographic dividend’

In most countries of sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in parts of Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, recent reductions in fertility have led to a “demographic dividend”, with a rise in the share of the working age population (25 to 64 years), providing an opportunity for accelerated economic growth per capita.

The report argues that, to make the most of this opportunity, countries should invest in the further development of their human capital, by ensuring access to health care and quality education at all ages, and by promoting opportunities for productive employment and decent work.

Achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially those related to health, education and gender equality, will contribute to reducing fertility levels and slowing global population growth.

People walk on a busy street in a popular shopping district in Downtown Manhattan, New York.

Unsplash/Yoav Aziz - People walk on a busy street in a popular shopping district in Downtown Manhattan, New York.

More older people, living longer

The world should expect to see far more grey hairs by 2050: by then, it is expected that the number of persons aged 65 years or over worldwide will be more than twice the number of children under the age of five,  and about the same as the number under age 12.

Further reductions in mortality are projected to result in an average global longevity of around 77.2 years in 2050. Yet in 2021, life expectancy for the least developed countries lagged seven years behind the global average.

The report recommends that countries with ageing populations should take steps to adapt public programmes to the growing numbers of older persons, establishing universal health care and long-term care systems, and by improving the sustainability of social security and pension systems.

“This year’s World Population Day falls during a milestone year, when we anticipate the birth of the Earth’s eight billionth inhabitant”, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, reacting to the report’s findings.

This is an occasion to celebrate our diversity, recognize our common humanity, and marvel at advancements in health that have extended lifespans and dramatically reduced maternal and child mortality rates,” he added. “At the same time, it is a reminder of our shared responsibility to care for our planet and a moment to reflect on where we still fall short of our commitments to one another”.

World Population Day 

“Let us protect human rights and the ability of all individuals to make informed choices about whether and when to have children,” the UN chief said in his message marking World Population Day, coinciding with the report. 

We still live in a world of vast gender inequality – and we are witnessing renewed assaults on women’s rights, including on essential health services,” said the Secretary-General. 

He called the day “an occasion to celebrate our diversity, recognize our common humanity, and marvel at advancements in health that have extended lifespans and dramatically reduced maternal and child mortality rates”. 

At the same time, Mr. Guterres described it as a reminder of “our shared responsibility to care for our planet and a moment to reflect on where we still fall short of our commitments to one another”. 

Amidst COVID-19, the climate crisis, wars and conflicts, humanitarian emergencies, hunger and poverty, he attested that “our world is in peril”. 

“Complications related to pregnancy and childbirth are still the leading cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19”. 

Mr. Guterres underscored that “eight billion people means eight billion opportunities to live dignified and fulfilled lives”. 

He urged everyone to contribute to a common future with greater equality and solidarity for the planet and future generations. 

Road to prosperity

World Population Day offers a moment to celebrate human progress, the World Population Fund (UNFPA) said in its message for the day.

Despite global challenges, UNFPA upheld that we live in a world in which "higher shares of people are educated and live healthier lives than at any previous point in history".

"Societies that invest in their people, in their rights and choices, have proven time and again that this is the road to the prosperity and peace that everyone wants—and deserves".

Retrieved from https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/07/1122272

We need smarter cities, not “smart cities”

A singular focus on high-tech will dilute the vibrancy of our cities and limit their potential.

OPINION

We need smarter cities, not “smart cities”

A singular focus on high-tech will dilute the vibrancy of our cities and limit their potential.

by Riad Meddeb and Calum Handforth | Published on June 27, 2022

Terminal bi-articulated bus in Curitiba Brazil

Terminal for the bi-articulated bus in Curitiba Brazil. Photo: Getty Images

The term “smart cities” originated as a marketing strategy for large IT vendors. It has now become synonymous with urban uses of technology, particularly advanced and emerging technologies. But cities are more than 5G, big data, driverless vehicles, and AI. They are crucial drivers of opportunity, prosperity, and progress. They support those displaced by war and crisis and generate 80% of global GDP. More than 68% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050—2.5 billion more people than do now. And with over 90% of urban areas located on coasts, cities are on the front lines of climate change.

A focus on building “smart cities” risks turning cities into technology projects. We talk about “users” rather than people. Monthly and “daily active” numbers instead of residents. Stakeholders and subscribers instead of citizens. This also risks a transactional—and limiting—approach to city improvement, focusing on immediate returns on investment or achievements that can be distilled into KPIs. 

Truly smart cities recognize the ambiguity of lives and livelihoods, and they are driven by outcomes beyond the implementation of “solutions.” They are defined by their residents’ talents, relationships, and sense of ownership—not by the technology that is deployed there. 

This more expansive concept of what a smart city is encompasses a wide range of urban innovations. Singapore, which is exploring high-tech approaches such as drone deliveries and virtual-reality modeling, is one type of smart city. Curitiba, Brazil—a pioneer of the bus rapid transit system—is another. Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, with its passively cooled shopping center designed in 1996, is a smart city, as are the “sponge cities” across China that use nature-based solutions to manage rainfall and floodwater.

Where technology can play a role, it must be applied thoughtfully and holistically—taking into account the needs, realities, and aspirations of city residents. Guatemala City, in collaboration with our country office team at the UN Development Programme, is using this approach to improve how city infrastructure—including parks and lighting—is managed. The city is standardizing materials and designs to reduce costs and labor,  and streamlining approval and allocation processes to increase the speed and quality of repairs and maintenance. Everything is driven by the needs of its citizens. Elsewhere in Latin America, cities are going beyond quantitative variables to take into account well-being and other nuanced outcomes. 

In her 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs, the pioneering American urbanist, discussed the importance of sidewalks. In the context of the city, they are conduits for adventure, social interaction, and unexpected encounters—what Jacobs termed the “sidewalk ballet.” Just as literal sidewalks are crucial to the urban experience, so is the larger idea of connection between elements.

Truly smart cities recognize the ambiguity of lives and livelihoods, and they are driven by outcomes beyond the implementation of “solutions.”

However, too often we see “smart cities” focus on discrete deployments of technology rather than this connective tissue. We end up with cities defined by “use cases” or “platforms.” Practically speaking, the vision of a tech-centric city is conceptually, financially, and logistically out of reach for many places. This can lead officials and innovators to dismiss the city’s real and substantial potential to reduce poverty while enhancing inclusion and sustainability.

In our work at the UN Development Programme, we focus on the interplay between different components of a truly smart city—the community, the local government, and the private sector. We also explore the different assets made available by this broader definition: high-tech innovations, yes, but also low-cost, low-tech innovations and nature-based solutions. Big data, but also the qualitative, richer detail behind the data points. The connections and “sidewalks”—not just the use cases or pilot programs. We see our work as an attempt to start redefining smart cities and increasing the size, scope, and usefulness of our urban development toolkit.

We continue to explore how digital technology might enhance cities—for example, we are collaborating with major e-commerce platforms across Africa that are transforming urban service delivery. But we are also shaping this broader tool kit to tackle the urban impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. 

The UrbanShift initiative, led by the UN Environment Programme in partnership with UNDP and many others, is working with cities to promote nature-based solutions, low-carbon public transport, low-emission zones, integrated waste management, and more. This approach focuses not just on implementation, but also on policies and guiderails. The UNDP Smart Urban Innovations Handbook aims to help policymakers and urban innovators explore how they might embed “smartness” in any city.

Our work at the United Nations is driven by the Sustainable Development Goals: 17 essential, ambitious, and urgent global targets that aim to shape a better world by 2030. Truly smart cities would play a role in meeting all 17 SDGs, from tackling poverty and inequality to protecting and improving biodiversity. 

Coordinating and implementing the complex efforts required to reach these goals is far more difficult than deploying the latest app or installing another piece of smart street furniture. But we must move beyond the sales pitches and explore how our cities can be true platforms—not just technological ones—for inclusive and sustainable development. The well-being of the billions who call the world’s cities home depends on it.

Riad Meddeb is interim director of the UNDP Global Centre for Technology, Innovation, and Sustainable Development. Calum Handforth is an advisor for digitalization, digital health, and smart cities at the UNDP Global Centre.

Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/2022/06/27/1053896/we-need-smarter-cities/