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Cities facing a new crossroad

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Cities facing a new crossroads

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01 March 2013

Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and within two decades, nearly 60% of the world’s people will be urban dwellers. Urban growth is most rapid in the developing world, where cities gain an average of 5 million residents every month. This explosive growth of urban communities is one of the most significant demographic trends of the 21st century and it will become even more significant in the future.

Thus, it will be necessary to keep facing the same problems, which cities have already been dealing with until now, but magnified (urban transport and mobility, urban safety, waste management, energy consumption…) and face the new challenges linked to this population growth (talent and innovation management, social sustainability, Open Government) without neglecting their own day-to-day responsibilities (Citizen attention, administrative processes, e-Administration, inter-administrative collaboration).

Historically, cities have been driving forces in economic and social development, centres of industry and commerce and a concentration of wealth and political power.

Other non-economic benefits are higher incomes, improved health, higher literacy, quality of life, access to information, diversity, creativity, and innovation.

Due to various factors but mainly in the current socio-economic context, cities and their governments are facing different issues which are forcing them to adapt to the new trends. You can see the most relevant issues below:

  • Citizens demand from the Local Government an Administration that matches their needs and delivery of public services with quality.
  • The current democratic and governmental system is under an increasing wave of distrust, and population is willing to participate in the system. They are increasingly asking for an Administration that is more transparent and participatory.
  • Cities are gaining weight in the global economy. There will be many cities with a higher GDP than some countries, therefore cities will tend to compete between each other reducing (or complementing) the role of the states.
  • Especially in developed countries, the economy is expected to evolve from the post-industrial production economy to the knowledge-based economy . This will strongly affect the economic context of the cities.
  • We should not forget that cities have become the 3rd most polluting entity in the world, following USA and China. Being an important part of the problem means that they are also an important part of the solution.
  • It is also a fact that cities have become an insatiable consumer of resources and people believe environmental ‘bads’ are the price we must pay for economic ‘goods’ . How do we deliver a quality of life with fewer resources?

Today’s world is more about cities than countries –a city like New York City, for example, has more in common with London than with any American town.

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