Changing Cities: Climate, Youth, and Land Markets in Urban AreasSeptember 3, 2012 By Lauren Herzer
The number of urban slum dwellers worldwide is staggering. According to UN-Habitat, 827.6 million people live in slums around the world. Despite meeting a Millennium Development Goal to significantly improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020, the total number of people living in these areas still increased by 55 million between 2000 and 2010. By 2020, the world slum population is projected to reach 889 million. With the majority of people now living in cities, urban priorities are synonymous with human security and environmental sustainability and must be accounted for in the global development agenda.
Recognizing a need to strengthen the ties between urban policymaking and scholarly work on urban development, and to disseminate evidence-based programming, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Comparative Urban Studies Project, USAID’s Urban Programs Team, the International Housing Coalition, Cities Alliance, and the World Bank came together in 2010 to co-sponsor an academic paper competition for graduate students studying urban issues.
The success of the 2010 competition led to the expansion of the competition in 2011 and publication of the top papers. In this third year, the focus is on three topics: climate change, youth, and land markets. A panel of urban experts representing the sponsoring institutions reviewed over 70 abstract submissions, from which 15 were invited to write full-length papers. Of these, eight were selected for publication.
Cities are harbingers of both the challenges posed by climate change and some of the most promising opportunities to mitigate and adapt to it. Megacities, especially in developing countries, may be acutely vulnerable to resource scarcity, and coastal cities around the world will face increased natural disaster risks.
In their chapters, authors Yifei Li and Allison Bridges explore the impacts that the development and implementation of climate change strategies can have on the urban poor.
Research on urban youth and social disorders finds “higher levels of youth exclusion – notably absence of democratic institutions, low economic growth, and low levels of secondary educational attainment – are significantly and robustly associated with increasing levels of urban social disturbance.”
In chapters discussing community involvement of at-risk youth in Argentina, hip-hop in Senegal, and English clubs in Senegal, authors Valerie Stahl, Maren Larsen, and Marika Tsolakis highlight the importance of inclusivity and grassroots youth involvement in shaping their political and social future.
Land Markets and Security of Tenure
The absence of efficient land and housing markets, and lack of secure tenure for both renters and homeowners, are impediments to urban and economic development and perpetuate the substandard living conditions of the urban poor.
Lindsay Carter, Simon Gusah, and Liza Cirolia each take on different aspects of land security in their sections, analyzing existing challenges in Benin, Nigeria, and Nairobi and setting forth alternative frameworks for approaching these challenges.
The Wilson Center congratulates the graduate students who participated in this competition for their contribution to our understanding of the complex relationship between urbanization and development. Their work highlights the new research and innovative thinking of the next generation of urban planners, practitioners, and policymakers. It is our hope that by infusing the academic and policy dialogue on these issues with fresh perspectives, we will foster new and innovative strategies to reduce global urban poverty.