Urbanisation Challenges and the Role of the CIFAL Global Network
Urbanisation is one of the defining trends of our time. The global
population is expected to grow from about 50% urban today to about 70%
urban by 2050. The great majority of this urban growth is taking place
in developing countries, particularly in Asia and Africa.
This unprecedented urban growth poses significant challenges to
humanity, such as addressing the higher demand for basic services and
infrastructure. Cities must be able to cope with the transport, housing,
water supply and sanitation needs of urban populations.
From an environmental perspective, cities are greatly contributing to
climate change while at the same time they are becoming primary victims.
The intensified human activity in cities is leading to an increased
generation of waste, greenhouse gases and other pollution, having a
great impact on the environment and accelerating weather and climate
hazards. In turn, cities themselves are the ones mostly affected by the
induced-risks of climate change, especially due to the large numbers of
people living in them. Urban residents, mainly the poor and marginalized
ones, are increasingly vulnerable to natural hazards such as tropical
storms and flooding.
From a social standpoint, the growth of urban population goes hand in
hand with the growth of poor urban population. According to UN-Habitat, a
manifestation of urban poverty in the developing world is the
proliferation of slums; to date one third of urban population in this
part of the world is living in slums. The challenge of these widespread
informal settlements is strongly linked to the limited access to basic
services and the increased vulnerability to environmental hazards, among
Moving onwards to the economic sphere, the growth of urban population
poses pressure on the cities' growth and employment capacity, facing
constant pressure to be competitive as well as to create jobs.
The CIFAL Global Network acknowledges that in order to address these and
other pressing challenges, there is a need for capacity development.
The CIFAL centres (CIFALs) provide innovative training in the areas of
urban planning and governance, social development, environmental
sustainability and economic development. Depending on the geographical
location, each CIFAL covers specific themes that are in line with the
needs and priorities of the countries and regions they serve.
CIFALs' training initiatives contribute by building capacities of key
actors (government authorities, civil society leaders and private sector
representatives) to plan and design cities in a sustainable way,
improve the provision of public services and infrastructure, promote the
creation of jobs, reduce the urban ecological footprint and prepare
cities to be resilient to natural hazards, among many others. In doing
so, urbanisation is not only acknowledged as a challenge but also as an
Cities are engines of economic growth as well as settings that foster
innovation and provide opportunities to improve the living standards of
people; therefore the cities of the 21st century have the potential to
bring sustainable development and global prosperity.