Poverty and inequality: Enduring features of an urban future?

The future of Humanity is undoubtedly Urban. The United Nations' recent report on Climate Change declares that an upsurge in extreme weather conditions like heat waves and flooding will affect urban areas the hardest, making climate change adaptation a matter of grave importance.

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The world is becoming a much more urban place. The stats are increasing globally which means that nearly two-thirds of the population will be urban dwellers by 2050. The future of Humanity is undoubtedly Urban. The United Nations’ recent report on Climate Change declares that an upsurge in extreme weather conditions like heat waves and flooding will affect urban areas the hardest, making climate change adaptation a matter of grave importance.

Keeping this in view, a United Nations program known as UN-Habitat launches its World Cities Report 2022, which highlights those urban areas are responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions, meaning that cities around the globe need to act as a responsible leaders in climate action to meet the 1.5-degree Celsius goal set by the Paris Agreement.

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“With the right policies and the right commitment from governments, our children can inherit an urban future that is more inclusive, greener, safer, and healthier,” said Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-Habitat, which produced the report. “We must start by acknowledging that the status quo leading up to 2020 was in many ways an unsustainable model of urban development, and take the best practices learned in our responses to COVID-19 and the climate crisis.”

Role of UN-Habitat

The overall aim of UN-Habitat is to promote transformative change in cities and human settlements through knowledge, policy advice, technical assistance, and collaborative action to leave no one and no place behind. With humanity becoming increasingly urban, UN-Habitat focuses on reducing spatial inequality and poverty in communities across the urban-rural continuum, strengthening climate action, and improving the urban environment.

It is noteworthy to mention that since 2005, UN-Habitat has supported Pakistan’s authorities and people in humanitarian and development efforts. It works through partnerships closely with the Government of Pakistan, particularly with national and local institutions, and cities. It aims at engaging communities for action towards improving the lives of vulnerable communities.

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The World Cities Report 2022

In Chapter 3 of the report titled, “Poverty and Inequality: Enduring features of an Urban Future?” examines the outlook of poverty and inequality in the future of cities. It highlights that Urban poverty and inequality are some of the most relentless problems confronting cities in developing regions today. Under the component of the complexity and multidimensionality of urban poverty, it analyzes how residents of slums and informal settlements experience one or more of the following deprivations: Lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities; overcrowded and insecure housing conditions and location; voicelessness and powerlessness in political systems and governance processes; and lack of tenure security.

For example, in the Pakistani cities of Karachi and Lahore public funds have been diverted to large-scale infrastructure projects to the detriment of smaller-scale, pro-poor development proposals. According to the statistical table of Urban Population Size and Rate of Change, in the Southern Asia region, Pakistan’s Average Annual Rate of Change in the Urban Population, from 2020-2025 is 0.81%, and from 2025-2030 is expected to rise to 0.99%. Whereas, a 1.15% rise is expected around 2030-2035.

It is self-explanatory that with the sharp rise of human settlements in cities, the future of towns and cities is all doom and gloom. The cities not only face a critical economic challenge but also social and environmental challenge looms large that requires immediate attention. Sustainable development Goal: 11, Sustainable cities and communities have set significant targets, aiming to achieve them by 2030. Sustainable urbanization is seeking practices that will target the building of cities proper for the well-being of both humans and the environment.

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Policy Points of the report

The reports highlight a few of the policy points; The overall vision of equitable urban futures will not be achieved unless cities and subnational governments take bold actions to address the pervasive presence of urban poverty and inequality.

Cities and subnational governments should adopt a multidimensional approach to addressing poverty and inequality. The last point highlights that investing in and extending infrastructure to deprived neighborhoods is a critical policy lever to address poverty and inequality.


Hajrah Waqas is a social sciences graduate. She tweets @iHajraa. The views expressed by the writers do not necessarily represent Global Village Space’s editorial policy.