Tuesday, 31 May 2011

United Nations World Urban Forum

In 2008, human beings became a predominantly urban species. By

2050, based on current trajectories, more than 70 percent of the projected

9.25 billion people on earth will live in urban environments.

Globally, we are not designing these urban areas; rather, they are

being developed helter-skelter on the hillsides, in the drainage ditches,

and on the dumps of existing cities. Currently, an estimated one billion

people live in slums and barrios, cardboard and plastic cities

that are unplanned, unmanaged, and unsustainable. Slums are defined

as living areas that do not have one of the following four critical

services: potable drinking water, sanitary waste disposal (liquid and

solid), durable housing, and improved living spaces. The UNWUF recommends

the following steps to address the immediate and impending

crisis in urban systems (UN, 2009):


Prioritize urban policy

Planning legislation

Decentralization of urban planning functions

Urban planning function within municipalities

Urban research and data

: The process of designing urban ecosystems

is evolving rapidly, and must be informed by local research

and data relevant to the challenges of that municipality.


Planning education

: Urban leaders around the world need common

resources and frameworks to use for assessing their community


: Urban planning

should not be separate from other decision making in urban

systems, but rather should dictate criteria for all decisions to

ensure that urban systems function in a sustainable manner.


: While global and

national policies and legislation are necessary for empowering

urban ecological design, decisions on urban planning issues should

be made as close as possible to those affected by them.


: Implementing urban planning will require

national legislation to respond to rapidly expanding urban crises.

Colonial-era policies that currently dominate urban planning are not

adequate for this challenge.


: Develop formal commitments from governments

to adhere to basic principles of social and environmental

justice and sustainability. Global standards for an urban policy that

responds to the local tensions between urban and rural needs must

be developed, adopted, and implemented.

Global challenges for urban resources will include energy (and thus

greenhouse gas emissions), water resources, housing, and transportation.

These challenges are not dissimilar to those in the developed

world, but are more extreme (Figure 14-5). The largest growth in

urban demand will be in developing countries, especially those in Asia

(not including Japan) and Africa. The urban population of 3.3 billion

reside predominantly in smaller towns and villages—55 percent live

in towns of less than 500,000 people (UN, 2010). Urban sprawl is

resulting in the merging of previously separated urban areas, and creating

even more discord between traditional governance structures and

pressures for common criteria for managing urban systems. The ecological

engineering opportunities in these dynamic situations are significant.

Expanding cities have economic and social pressures that can be

addressed using ecosystem services design, and can reduce infrastructure

costs as well. The UNWUF platform does not currently address

ecosystem services, but the opportunities for informing and enhancing

urban design with ecological engineering principles are clear.

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