Urbanization - a challenge and an opportunity for developing countries

01 May 2015

More and more people in developing countries are living in cities but the next wave of urbanization need not be a threat to the betterment of their lives: indeed, an UNCTAD report says it presents an opportunity.

quoteScience, technology and innovation can definitely help address such challenges, for instance as regards spatial planning, mobility and traffic congestion, energy consumption, water and waste management, or resource-efficient buildings, just to name a few, [...]
These are precisely the topics that the report is examining, with a focus in particular on policy implications and practical guidelines on using STI for sustainable cities.quote
Ms. Anne Miroux
Director Division on Technology and Logistics

Today, just above half of the world's population lives in urban areas. By 2050, this percentage is expected to reach two-thirds.

While the next wave of urbanization presents opportunities to meet the sustainable development goals and help to raise people out of poverty, it is at the same time a core concern for developing countries.

UNCTAD's report - Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Urbanization - demonstrates that cities across the developed and developing world are already applying a great variety of science, technology and innovation solutions, including high, low, new and emerging technologies, innovative approaches to urban planning and institutional innovation.

The report will be made available at the eighteenth session of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) held in Geneva, Switzerland, 4-8 May 2015.

The findings of the report will be among the topics discussed at the first day of the commission at a ministerial roundtable on "Managing the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the sustainable development goals: the role of science, technology and innovation".

Sustainable Urbanization is High on the UN Agenda


In recent years, sustainable urbanization has become a very popular topic in development discourse. The report aims to contribute to this discourse by addressing the specific role of science, technology and innovation.

The report is based on literature review and an analysis of cities in developed and developing countries that provide examples that can be reapplied elsewhere.

It draws on lessons learned from CSTD panels on the topic of science, technology and innovation for sustainable cities and peri-urban communities (that is communities living in areas with fragmented urban and rural characteristics) during its 2012-2013 inter-sessional panel, held in Lima, Peru in January 2013, and the sixteenth session of the CSTD, held in Geneva, Switzerland in June 2013.

Increasing attention is being paid to the topic of urbanization in various bodies of the United Nations. The first ever Economic and Social Council Integration Segment, held in New York on 27-29 May 2014, focused on this theme, and received substantive inputs from the CSTD.

The third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) is scheduled to take place in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016. Habitat III will be one of the first United Nations global summits after the adoption of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Preparations for Habitat III are underway, with the second session of its Preparatory Committee to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, on 14-16 April 2015.

"Establishing platforms to share such knowledge, information, experiences and best practices that address the particular urbanization needs and challenges of developing countries is essential to accelerate progress towards sustainable urbanization," Ms. Miroux said.