By Sharon Atieno

In order to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, sustainable urbanization is vital.

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) in their 2018 report estimates that by 2050, the number of global urban populations will rise to 68 percent, a plus of 2.5 billion people. Nearly 90 percent of the growth will take place in Asia and Africa.

This means that current and new development problems such as extreme poverty, socioeconomic inequalities, slums, social exclusion and marginalization, gender-based discrimination, humanitarian crises, conflicts, air pollution, climate change, and high unemployment, will be heightened in urban areas.

Speaking at the launch of the first United Nations Habitat Assembly in Nairobi, Maimuna Mohd Sharif, UN Habitat Executive director called upon governments to position sustainable urbanization at the center of development priorities.

“I am appealing to you to strongly position sustainable urbanization at the center of your development priorities through deliberate efforts to implement the New Urban Agenda, strengthening the urban governance structure and institutions, and by adopting integrated sustainable urban development policies and plans, implementing impact-based projects and programmes while strengthening the linkages between urban and rural areas, building on their existing economic, social and environmental ties,” she said.

“As the world continues to urbanize, sustainable development depends increasingly on the successful management of urban growth, especially in low-income and lower-middle-income countries where the pace of urbanization is projected to be the fastest,” notes the UN report titled: 2018 Revision of World Urbanization prospects.

Statistics from the UN indicate that between 2000 and 2014, the proportion of the global urban population living in slums dropped from 28.4 percent to 22.8 percent. However, the actual number of people living in slums increased from 807 million to 883 million.

Sustainable urbanization can be achieved through deployment of appropriate and effective policies, laws and regulations, and developing adequate institutional frameworks.

“To ensure that the benefits of urbanization are fully shared and inclusive, policies to manage urban growth need to ensure access to infrastructure and social services for all, focusing on the needs of the urban poor and other vulnerable groups for housing, education, health care, decent work and a safe environment,” the UN report recommends.

In 2016, 167 countries signed the New Urban Agenda, an outcome document of the Habitat III Conference in Ecuador on housing and sustainable urban development.

The document recognizes the correlation between good urbanization and development as well as underlining the linkages between good urbanization and job creation, livelihood opportunities, and improved quality of life, which should be included in every urban renewal policy and strategy.

Although countries have developed national urban policies that support sustainable urbanization, efforts should be increased to ensure effective implementation of such policies.