Development and Globalization: Facts and Figures2016 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Goal 11 is a complex cross-cutting goal, of immediate relevance for a rapidly urbanizing planet11.1. The successful implementation of Goal 11 will play a vital role in the wider realization of the aspirations for planet, people, peace, partnership and prosperity. It aims to provide safe and affordable housing and public transport, and develop well-planned cities with environmentally sustainable buildings and increased green public spaces where cultural and natural heritage is protected.

Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody. Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities
More than 880 million people live in slums today compared with 689 million in 1990

The goal also aims to improve resilience to disasters and risk management. It also continues work begun as part of Millennium Development Goal 7 in improving basic services11.2 and reducing slums11.3. As already noted in Goal 6, between 1990 and 2015, 2.6 billion people gained access to improved drinking water sourcesOne that, by the nature of its construction and when properly used, adequately protects the source from outside contamination, particularly faecal matter.
and more than 2 billion people gained access to improved sanitation.

The global proportion of urban populations living in slumsIt can be defined as densely populated urban areas characterized by poor-quality housing, a lack of adequate living space and public services.
has fallen from 46 per cent in 1990 to 30 per cent in 2014. Simultaneously however, urban populations have grown, leading to a situation where the absolute numbers living in slums have increased from 689 million in 1990 to 881 million in 2014 (see figure 11.1).

Figure 11.1. Population and proportion of urban population living in slums, 1990-2014 (Population in millions and proportion of slum population as percentage of urban population) Download data
Figure 11.1: Bar and line chart
Source: UN-Habitat (2016).
Note: Data refer to developing regions only.

The decline in the proportion of slums has occurred in every region of the world with the exception of Western Asia, where the proportion has been more volatile and slightly increased to 26 per cent in 2005 (see figure 11.2). In sub-Saharan Africa, one of the least urbanized regions, the proportion of slums is very high but has fallen considerably, from 70 per cent in 1990 to 56 per cent in 2014. Even more dramatic improvements are evident for Southern and South-eastern Asia.

The world population living in urban areas has increased dramatically from 746 million (29 per cent urbanization) in 1950 to almost 4 billion (54 per cent urbanization) in 2014. People will continue to move to cities in search of opportunities - employment, a better quality of life, or access to modern public infrastructure and facilities. This turbo-urbanizationThe term turbo-urbanization is taken from Robert Muggah’s paper on fragile cities (Muggah, 2016).
is expected to continue and projected to rise even further to 6.4 billion, accounting for 66 per cent of the global population by 2050 (United Nations, 2014). These additional 2.5 billion urban dwellers are the equivalent of roughly 192,000 people moving into cities across the world every single day for the next 35 years. Most of this population and urban growth will occur in the cities of Africa and Asia (see special note on population). By 2050 it is estimated that more than 2 billion people will live in slums (Eaves, 2007).

An additional 2.5 billion urban dwellers are projected by 2050 - 192,000 additional urban dwellers every single day for the next 35 years

The continuing demographic swing from rural to urban settings poses risks regarding an increase in slums. Rapid urbanization will pose significant infrastructural challenges, particularly in Africa and Asia, where projected population growth will be largest. Providing sufficient durable housing with basic services, such as clean water and good quality sanitation will be a major challenge.

Unfortunately, failures will disproportionately affect the world’s poorest and most vulnerable cities (Weiss, 2013). Political instability and conflict also pose risks of a deterioration in provision of basic services and shelter in cities, resulting in an increased prevalence of slums. UN-Habitat identifies conflict-affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the Central African Republic and Côte d’Ivoire, as high-risk areas for slum growth (UN-Habitat, 2008) (see Goal 16). The authors cite Zimbabwe as the most conspicuous case, where the proportion of slums increased from 3 to almost 18 per cent between 2000 and 2010.

Figure 11.2. Proportion of urban population living in slums by region, 1990-2014 (Percentage of urban population) Download data
Figure 11.2: Bar chart
Source: UN-Habitat (2016).
Notes: 2014 urban population figures include South Africa and Sudan as part of sub-Saharan Africa. UN-Habitat region definitions.

Egypt, Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia have been the most successful countries in the developing world in reducing the proportion of people living in slums. For example, the proportion of inhabitants living in slums in Egypt fell from 28 per cent of the urban population in 2000 to 17 per cent in 2010. This represented improved living conditions for 5 million people (UN-Habitat, 2008). Mexico, too, has made great progress, reducing slum prevalence from around 20 per cent in 2000 to an estimated 11.1 per cent in 2007.

Between 2007 and 2014, a number of other countries have had notable success in reducing the proportion of their populations living in slums. In sub-Saharan Africa, Angola, Rwanda, United Republic of Tanzania and Niger were the most successful countries. During this period Angola reduced the proportion of its population living in slum conditions from 76 to an estimated 55.5 per cent, and Rwanda and United Republic of Tanzania reduced the percentage of their populations living in slums from 68 to 53 per cent, and from 65 to 51 per cent, respectively.

In Asia, Bangladesh managed to reduce the percentage of its population living in slum conditions from 66 to 55 per cent. Mongolia has also had some success, reducing slum prevalence from 58 to 43 per cent (Millennium Development Goals Indicators).

Figure 11.3 compares changes in the growth in the proportion of urban population living in slums, urban population and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita for a selection of developing countries. The data show that for most countries there appears to be a positive correlation between the growth in GDP per capita and a reduction in slums. In most countries urban population growth exceeded slum growth. However, this relationship doesn’t always hold, as is evident in Cote d'lvoire, Philippines, Liberia and Jordan, where there is no consistent trend between urban population, slums and GDP per capita growth.

Figure 11.3. Changes in GDP per capita, slum and urban populations for selected countries, 2007–2014 (Annual percentage growth rate) Download data
Figure 11.3: Bar and line chart
Sources: UNCTAD calculations based on UNCTADstat for GDP per capita and urban population; and UN-Habitat for population living in slums.
Note: Countries are ranked by the annual average growth rates of urban population living in slum during the period 2007 to 2014.

The rapid growth of urban and slum centres brings new health risks, in particular, the prevalence of noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Strained health systems combined with poor air quality, less nutritious diets and lack of space to exercise are all contributing factors.