Four regional development banks inaugurate report on livable cities

22Oct 2019
Washington, DC
The Guardian
Four regional development banks inaugurate report on livable cities

Rapid urbanisation has provided most cities in the world with opportunities to provide more sustainable, vibrant and prosperous centres for their citizens.

However, the cities must first address challenges such as inadequate infrastructure investments, pollution and congestion, and poor urban planning, according to a new report released on Friday.

The report, ‘Creating Livable Cities: Regional Perspectives’, looks at urbanisation trends across emerging and developing economies in Africa; Asia and the Pacific; Eastern Europe, Southern and Eastern Mediterranean; and Latin America and the Caribbean.

It is a joint publication by four regional development banks (RDBs) operating in these regions – African Development Bank (AfDB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

“Cities offer access to key infrastructure, institutions, and services for a good quality of life,” ADB President Takehiko Nakao said, adding: “They can be centres of innovation for a more livable future for all. But realising that potential requires forward thinking and flexible planning, adequate capacity at the municipal level and good governance.”

Nakao took part at a launch at the IDB headquarters, with the presidents of the other three development banks: Akinwumi Adesina of AfDB, Suma Chakrabarti of EBRD, and Luis Alberto Moreno of IDB.

The world’s urban population has grown from just 750 million in 1950 (or 31 per cent of the total population) to 4.2 billion in 2018 (55 per cent of the total population) – number that is estimated to reach 5.2 billion in 2030 (60 per cent of the total population).

While the majority of leading economic hubs are still in advanced economies, the centre of economic activity is moving towards the developing and emerging markets, the report says.

Asia and Africa was forecast to account for 90 per cent of urban population growth between 2018 and 2050, with more than one--third of this growth to happen in just three countries – the People’s Republic of China, India and Nigeria.

The report says megacities of more than 10 million people and national capitals are large and still dominant but are not the fastest-growing urban areas.

Urban areas with fewer than 1 million residents account for 59 per cent of the world’s urban population and are experiencing a faster growth rate across the regions.

“We are helping to open up rural areas to development as a means of reversing migration trends,” said Adesina, adding: “To do this, we are investing in skill upgrades, creating jobs, providing access to SME finance for young men and women. Ultimately, we need to create livable and workable cities for the younger generation.”

Cities need large scale investments to develop and maintain infrastructure and services such as urban transport, water supply, sanitation, and solid waste management. In the face of rapid growth, overstretched services, skills shortages and increased vulnerabilities to disasters are adding to cities’ environmental stress.

The publication examines the types of policy interventions and approaches needed to promote competitive, inclusive, equitable and environmentally sustainable and climate-resilient cities – four factors that taken together make cities “livable”.

“RDBs play an important role in identifying, distilling, and diffusing knowledge and actions that can accelerate progress toward creating more livable cities,” the report says.

Making cities more livable is one of the seven operational priorities of ADB’s Strategy 2030.

ADB’s Livable Cities approach puts people and communities at the centre of urban development and promotes the strengthening of urban institutions through holistic and participatory urban planning and sustainable financing as well as use of data and digital technologies to improve urban services to the residents.

Adesina called for increased regional development bank cooperation in information sharing, shared learning from existing diagnostic tools, and a joint action plan and collective effort to help create sustainable and livable cities.