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World Slums Set For Huge Growth

Slums in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
by Staff Writers
Vancouver, Canada (AFP) Jun 23, 2006
A huge chunk of urban growth around the world will be concentrated in slums that will become a magnet for terrorists and crime, the UN World Urban Forum was warned as it closed Friday. If left unchecked, slums will become "centres of deprivation and instability," Inga Bjork-Klevby, assistant UN secretary general, told one meeting on the future of cities at the forum.

The State of the World Cities report presented at the conference said that 38 per cent of urban growth will be in slums, and that by 2020 six of 10 people in the world will live in cities.

Clive Harridge, president of Britain's Town and Planning Institute, warned that leaving slums to fester will increase security threats and that urban terrorism "is having an increasing impact on cities, and all projections suggest urban political violence will continue to escalate."

"Cities not only suffer the effects of terrorism, but if their unplanned growth leads to marginalized people, that can lead to terrorism itself," said Harridge.

He warned that slums and wealthy suburbs in Westernized cites, marked by sprawl and consumption of resources at a much higher rate than the world average, are equally unsustainable, and their growth is a cause of climate change.

Many speakers at the conference said governments and agencies must involve populations in the answers to solve the problems.

"We are fed up with being the subject of the agenda," said Rose Molokoane of the South African Homeless People's Federation and Slum Dwellers International.

"We are fed up with just sitting down and seeing government doing every thing for us ... give us land, give us security of tenure."

Global funding agencies need to change how they operate to improve slums, said David Satterthwaite of the British-based International Institute for Environment and Development.

Most agencies give money to central governments "in the name of administrative convenience," he said, while adding that funds should go directly to small projects "to support the initiatives of grass roots organizations."

The next World Urban Forum will be held in two years in Nanjing, China, where the pace of urbanization is among the world's fastest.

There are already 600 cities in China, compared to 220 cities 25 years ago, said Chinese researcher Xuemei Bai, of the Japan-based Institute for Global Environmental Strategies.

"This enormous transformation is not going to stop or to be reversed," she warned, and so China has to overcome its challenges of extreme pollution and the loss of agricultural areas to urban development.

But urban theorist John Friedmann urged that the dire warnings about the state of world cities needs to be put in a historical context.

Talk about the future "tends to swing wildly from doomsday to a technological utopia," said Friedmann, who received the UN-HABITAT Lecture Award at the conference.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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