Speed, scale of urban growth will require 'revolution in thinking', warns UNFPA

    Canadian NGO, Action Canada for Population and Development, calls on
    Canada to lead by example

    OTTAWA, June 27 /CNW Telbec/ - Humanity will have to undergo a
"revolution in thinking" in order to deal with the doubling of urban
populations in Africa and Asia by 2030, warns UNFPA, the United Nations
Population Fund. In a new report released today in Ottawa and other national
capitals, The State of World Population 2007: Unleashing the Potential of
Urban Growth, the organization maintains that within 23 years, the population
of African and Asian cities will double, adding 1.7 billion people.
    "What happens in the cities of Africa and Asia and other regions will
shape our common future," says UNFPA representative, Patricia Leidl. "We must
abandon a mindset that resists urbanization and act now to begin a concerted
global effort to help cities unleash their potential to spur economic growth
and solve social problems."
    To take advantage of potential opportunities, governments must prepare
for the coming growth. "If they wait, it will be too late," she says. "This
wave of urbanization is without precedent. The changes are too large and too
fast to allow planners and policymakers simply to react: In Africa and Asia,
the number of people living in cities increases by approximately 1 million, on
average, each week. Leaders need to be proactive and take far-sighted action
to fully exploit the opportunities that urbanization offers."
    According to the report, as of 2008, more than half the world's current
6.7 billion people will live in cities, one-half under the age of 25. Though
mega-cities (more than 10 million people) will continue to grow, most people
will be living in cities of 500,000 or fewer.
    By 2030, the urban population will rise to 5 billion, or 60 per cent of
world population. Globally, all future population growth will take place in
cities, nearly all of it in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
    The State of World Population 2007 reports that, although most new
urbanites will be poor, they must be part of the solution. Assisting them to
meet their needs-for housing, health care, education and employment-could also
unleash the potential of urban-dwellers to power economic growth.
    "The battle for the Millennium Development Goals to halve extreme poverty
by 2015 will be won or lost in the cities of the developing world," says
Ms. Leidl. "This means accepting the rights of poor people to live in cities
and working with their creativity to tackle potential problems and generate
new solutions."
    The response of national and municipal governments to urban growth has
often been to try to discourage, prevent or even reverse migration, say report
authors-despite the fact that migration can actually be beneficial. But it is
a failed policy, one that has resulted in less housing for the poor and
increased slum growth. It also limits opportunities for the urban poor to
improve their lives and to contribute fully to their communities and
    "Migration is nonetheless a key component that cannot be ignored by
governments", says Victor Piché, Senior Advisor on Migration, ACPD. "Combating
racism, xenophobia and discrimination are essential steps if we are to truly
unleash the potential benefits of urbanization. Young people need jobs,
whether they are migrants or not. Canada, for example, should ratify the
Convention on the Rights of Migrants and Their Families, and stop treating
temporary workers as people with fewer rights than Canadian citizens."
    Most urban growth results from natural increase rather than migration. To
reduce the pace of growth, policymakers should support interventions such as
poverty reduction initiatives, investments in the empowerment of women,
education-particularly of women and girls-and health, including reproductive
health and family planning services.
    "Addressing the needs of young people for comprehensive sexual and
reproductive helath information and services is also a necessary condition to
enable young people to reach their full potential" says Katherine McDonald,
Executive Director of ACPD. "Canada could leverage considerable benefits by
increasing foreign aid for health services, in accordance with the agreements
reached at the International Conference on Population and Development held in
Cairo in 1994, and reaffirmed at subsequent reviews".
    Policymakers and planners need to harness the potential of cities to
improve the lives of all. Three initiatives stand out:

    - Accept the right of poor people to the city, abandoning attempts to
      discourage migration and prevent urban growth. City authorities should
      work closely with organizations of the urban poor, including women's
    - Adopt a broad and long-term vision of the use of urban space. This
      means, among other things, providing minimally serviced land for
      housing and planning in advance to promote sustainable land use both
      within cities and in the surrounding areas.
    - Begin a concerted international effort to support strategies for the
      urban future.

    The full media kit and backgrounders for The State of World Population
    2007 report are available at www.acpd.ca and www.unfpa.org/swp.

For further information:

For further information: Johanne Fillion, (613) 562-0880 ext. 228,
cell.: (613) 852-8392, jfillion@acpd.ca

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