The Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) hosted a conference entitled `Fit for the future: resources and capacity for effective local government’ in Valletta, Malta on November 21-24, 2017 in order to coordinate a Commonwealth response to population growth and the rise of urbanisation
The Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) hosted a conference entitled `Fit for the future: resources and capacity for effective local government’ in Valletta, Malta on November 21-24, 2017 in order to coordinate a Commonwealth response to population growth and the rise of urbanisation.
The focus was on the opportunities available for local governments to manage funds for projects targeted towards Commonwealth citizens and communities, particularly in urban areas.
Together with climate change and measures aimed at ensuring sustainable development, increased urbanisation and the exponential growth in population will present significant social, economic and environmental challenges.
Figures from the United Nations show that cities currently occupy only 2% of the total global land area, but are responsible for 70% of global GDP, 70% of global waste, 60% of global energy consumption and 70% of greenhouse gas emissions.
The CLGF is collaborating with the Commonwealth Association of Architects and the Commonwealth Association of Planners to advocate for `urbanisation’ to be included on the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting agenda, in line with the summit’s overarching theme `Towards a Common Future’.
They are calling for improved planning and investment that fall in line with commitments to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and New Urban Agenda, in order to reap the benefits of urban development.
Whilst urbanisation is occurring globally, the diversity of the Commonwealth presents unique opportunities and challenges.
Statistics published for the conference indicate that the number of Commonwealth urban residents, currently at 879 million, is projected to grow to 1.3 billion by 2030.
Bangladesh, India and Pakistan will see the highest rate of growth, with India alone set to see 404 million additional citizens by 2050.
Many Commonwealth countries, particularly in the Caribbean and Pacific regions, are Small Island Developing States and are particularly vulnerable to climate change and its impact on their fragile economies.
These states, as well as those vulnerable to conflict or political or economic instability, will also see a significantly high rate of urbanisation of 3-5% per year, compared to, for example, 0.5% in the UK.
Furthermore, the World Bank classifies 13 of the 16 most rapidly urbanising Commonwealth countries as `low’ or `low-middle’ income countries, and several score poorly on the UN’s City Prosperity Index.
Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Uganda rank as the five Commonwealth countries with the lowest Human Development Index.
The UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs estimates that of the 2.5 billion global urban population increase predicted by 2050, almost 90% will occur within Asia and Africa.
Population growth and the inevitable accompanying urbanisation could bring prosperity to some of the Commonwealth’s poorest countries if it is correctly managed.
Urbanisation has the potential to improve the quality of life for the Commonwealth’s poorest citizens by providing opportunities for employment, social mobility, greater access to trade, healthcare and education, amongst others.
It can also help to strengthen the resilience of cities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
President of the Commonwealth Association of Architects, Vince Cassar, said in an article for The Times Malta that engagement at the CHOGM forums in April 2018 would enable Commonwealth countries to build coalitions on topics such as rapid urbanisation, resilience and climate change, governance and inclusion, and local economic development.
He added that the CAA was keen to emphasise the need for heads of governments to adopt appropriate urban policies at local and national levels.
Read More: Dr Joan Clos, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN-Habitat, asserts that urban development can be the driving force behind sustainable growth and prosperity – if we move away from power-hungry urbanisation towards a new productive, safe and inclusive model