Kontraster mellan nybyggen och dåliga bostäder i slumområden i Indien.

Sharp contrasts between poor housing and new constructions in a slum area in India.

Photo: Mikael Atterhög

sustainable societal development

Sustainable urban development

Updated: 12 June 2014

More than half of the world’s population lives in cities, which are today growing faster than ever. But there are several aspects of that growth: while urbanisation contributes to economic growth and development, an increased migration to cities also means a greater pressure on the environment. Involving citizens and several sectors of society in urban planning is crucial if urbanisation is to be sustainable.

According to the UN, almost one billion people live in informal settlements adjacent to cities – a number that is likely to double by 2030. These slum areas are often overcrowded and lack clean water, as well as effective solutions for sanitation, energy supply and waste management.

The UN predicts that in the next 20 years, another two billion people will live in cities in developing countries. At the same time, negative effects of climate change will affect the citizens even more. Because of this, it is important that the global growth of cities occurs in a sustainable way.

Sida's support for sustainable urban development currently focuses primarily on urban planning and strengthening cities' ability to develop in an environmentally and socio-economically sustainable manner, where residents have the opportunity to participate in and influence the city’s development. Cities that grow uncontrollably often affect poor and marginalised people in a negative way. An integrated planning process is crucial for handling the complex reality. Planning tools should involve multiple sectors of society, and women and men should be involved in decision making at all levels. Housing is a human right and the issue of ownership and possession rights is therefore crucial for sustainable development.

City services should be available and affordable to everyone. Laws, rules, policies and plans should, as far as possible, simplify access to land and housing for people living in poverty. Promoting a more sustainable use of natural resources is also important, for example through new technologies, recycling and safe management of chemicals.

Today, poverty is growing faster in urban than in rural areas, and poor people living in cities are particularly vulnerable to environmental and health problems. Sida supports the developing countries’ efforts to implement environmental conventions and to ensure a sustainable use of resources.

Sida also supports measures to reduce citizens’ vulnerability to disasters, including the formulation of environmental strategies on national and local levels. A strong ownership is instrumental if we are to succeed in achieving a sustainable urban development. Equally important is to involve civil society and private sector.

Sida supports initiatives on urban development on global, regional, national and local levels.

Page owner: Communication Unit

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