Tomorrow's Crises Today explores the effect living in today's cities has on the millions of people who already live in metropolises, and those who are being drawn into them from the countryside every day - by the millions.
Using 10 cities from around the world (and over 70 photographs) as illustrations of different crises that face today's urban poor, this new publication by OCHA/IRIN, in collaboration with UN-HABITAT, seeks to emphasise the urgent needs of many urban dwellers.
It has been said that the real battles to achieve the Millennium Development Goals will be fought in today's and tomorrow's cities. If this is the case, then the need for humanitarian and development agencies, donors and strategic policy or research institutes to focus on cities and the urban poor is more urgent than ever before. Tomorrow's Crises Today sheds light on the challenges we face in the urban environment.
Somewhere, some time this year, a baby will be born on the 25th floor of a city hospital or the dirt floor of a dark slum shack; a first-year college graduate will rent a cramped apartment in lower Manhattan or a family of five will finally concede their plot of farm land to an encroaching desert - or sea - and turn towards Jakarta or La Paz or Lagos in search of a new livelihood and a new home.
The arrival of this family or graduate or baby will tip the world’s demographic scale and, for the first time in history, more than half the human population will live in cities.
At present, 3.3 billion people live in urban centres across the globe. By 2030 this number is predicted to reach five billion, with 95 percent of this growth in developing countries.
Over the next three decades, Asia’s urban population will double from 1.36 billion to 2.64 billion, Africa’s city dwellers will more than double from 294 million to 742 million, while Latin America and the Caribbean will see a slower rise from about 400 million to 600 million, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
While megacities appear more frequently in headlines and on development agendas, overall growth in urban centres of 10 million or more inhabitants is expected to level out. Instead, over the next 10 years, cities of less than 500,000 will account for half of all urban growth.
Two sides of the urban coin
All this growth is not necessarily a bad thing. As David Satterthwaite of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) points out, the speed at which a city grows - if it is responding to economic opportunities - is a benefit, not a problem.
“A very large part of the economic value in any country is being generated in the urban areas,” Satterthwaite says. “Even in [developing] nations, where 60 to 70 percent of the population is in rural areas, you still have more than half the economy - and often more than that - generated in urban areas.”
(Read the rest of this overview feature)