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70% of the World’s Population Will Live in Cities by 2030, While 60% of Urban Settlements Remain to be Built

Parul Dubey on November 23, 2017 - in Featured, Water

Marseille, Brasilia, Bonn, Barcelona – Within a decade, 70% of the Earth’s population will live in cities. This reality places them at the forefront of sustainable development and facing global challenges, including climate change. In light of this, five organizations have joined forces to create greater support for these issues. Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), the Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA/UN-Habitat), the Brazilian Confederation of Municipalities (CNM) and the World Water Council (WWC) are bringing together decision-makers, local leaders and practitioners to tackle local water challenges. This year, the United Nations has selected the theme Innovative Governance, Open Cities to highlight the importance of urbanization as a source of global development and social inclusion.

Urbanization is one of the 21st century’s most transformative trends. Cities are the dominant force in sustainable economic growth, development and prosperity in both developed and developing countries. Currently 54% of the world’s population (4 billion people) resides in urban areas. By 2030, 2 billion people will have migrated to cities, placing unprecedented pressure on infrastructure and resources, particularly those related to water. The world’s ten biggest cities will include Tokyo (37.2 million), Delhi (36.1 million), Shanghai (30.8 million), Mumbai (27.8 million), Beijing (27.7 million), Dhaka (27.4 million), Karachi (24.8 million), Cairo (24.5 million), Lagos (24.2 million) and Mexico City (23.9 million). From 2016 to 2030, a 35% population increase is expected in these top ten mega cities. Forecasts indicate cities in developing countries including Karachi, Lagos and Dhaka will surpass cities like New York, Osaka and Sao Paolo by 2030. This represents a 50% increase in demand for energy and water, generating challenges that exert pressure on water resources and threaten global water security. This has a palpable effect on public health, economies and development. Local solutions for local problems are most suited to meet these challenges. Furthermore, as more than three-quarters (76%) of the world’s mega-cities are coastal, there will be a considerable impact on water ecosystems from ridge to reef. Because of this, local and regional authorities lead initiatives targeting water-related obstacles, including housing gaps, climate change and an increased demand for food, energy and water.

Climate change in particular represents a daunting challenge for cities, as 40% of the world’s population will live in river basins under severe water stress, while 20% will risk floods by 2030. “Flooding and droughts have increased globally and the impact is devastating. Cities across the world are already experiencing effects of climate change. Infrastructure and houses are destroyed and we call on governments to be aware of the effects that adequate water infrastructure can have to improve or aid these situations,” comments World Water Council President, Benedito Braga. Financing needs should therefore be centered on urban areas and infrastructure in both urban and rural areas that serve these cities, driven by local needs for which local solutions are necessary. 


Numerous UN sanctioned global agreements compliment these actions including the Paris Climate Agreement, the New Urban Agenda, the Sendai Framework and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Water investment thus becomes a unifying factor in fostering healthier and more prosperous cities, offering impoverished populations a real chance at progress. “Water has a significant place throughout all these agendas. Local Authorities play an essential role in providing services to their citizens and in ensuring adapted and sustainable infrastructure for their residents,” stated Mohamed Boussraoui of UCLG during a session he moderated on resilient cities during the recent International Conference on Water and Climate (ICWC) held in Marseille on 3-4 October.


Although much of the implementation of these agendas will be led by national governments, success will also rely on the commitment and empowerment of local and regional authorities to do their part. Cities and regions often lack guidance on how to achieve them locally, contribute to nationally set targets and implement concrete solutions. Mayors, and the networks they belong to, need to develop strategies to deliver and adopt integrated approaches to overcome political, financial, technological and behavioral barriers. “You can’t find a more intimate link to citizens than Local Authorities. This relationship of proximity can lead us to mobilize citizens and raise their awareness for issues like no one else,” commented Mayor Fatimetou Abdel Malick, from Tevragh-Zeina, Mauritania during the recent ICWC conference.


The signed Partnership Agreement will serve as an important stepping stone for the preparation and organization of the Local and Regional Authorities Conference to be held in conjunction with the World Water Forum between 18th – 23rd March 2018 in Brasilia, Brazil. The Forum is expected to be attended by over 30 000 participants, including global leaders, opinion makers, experts and professionals with the objective of catalysing positive change for a water-secure world.


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CNM – The Brazilian Confederation of Municipalities is an association that represents municipalities in Brazil politically and institutionally to the Federal Government and the Brazilian Congress. It focuses on the strengthening of their management in various areas, contributing to environmental policy management through research, technical studies, development of technological tools and legal counseling. In addition to their knowledge in international frameworks, the Confederation has been implementing initiatives to engage municipalities and town managers in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the New Urban Agenda and climate changes issues. www.cnm.org.br

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability is an international association which represents the interests of local authorities world-wide and supports local government in the implementation of sustainable development. Their mission includes global advocacy for interests and needs vis-à-vis international organizations as well as locally, providing technical consulting, training, and information services to build capacity. www.iclei.org


United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) is the united voice and global advocate of democratic local self-governance. Representing over half of the world’s population, members of UCLG are present in 140 of the United Nations member states and in all regions of the world: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Eurasia, Middle-East West Asia, Latin and North America – organized into seven continental sections and one metropolitan section and one Forum of Regions. UCLG has more than one thousand cities in regions that are direct members and 155 member associations of local governments. Among the key areas of political interest for UCLG are: Local democracy, climate change and environmental protection, achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, local finance, urban development and city diplomacy in peace building. www.uclg.org


Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA) of UN-Habitat is a network of water operators and partners working to make Water Operators’ Partnerships (WOPs) more common and more impactful by creating awareness about WOPs, producing and sharing knowledge, tools, and rallying the funds and political backing to enable effective WOP practices. The GWOPA Secretariat is in Barcelona, Spain and managed by UN-Habitat, the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future.


The World Water Council (WWC) is an international multi-stakeholder platform organization, the founder and co-organizer of the World Water Forum. The World Water Council’s mission is to mobilize action on critical water issues at all levels, including the highest decision-making level, by engaging people in debate and challenging conventional thinking. The Council focuses on the political dimensions of water security, adaptation, and sustainability, and works to position water at the top of the global political agenda. Headquartered in Marseille, France, and created in 1996, the World Water Council brings together over 300 member organizations from more than 50 different countries. More on www.worldwatercouncil.org @wwatercouncil #wwatercouncil

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