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Last Updated: 03/26/2004Half the World in Cities
This week the UN Population Division (www.un.org/esa/population/unpop.htm ) made its latest adjustments to its urban/rural prediction. While in 2003 48% of the world’s population lived in cities, by 2007 half the world will be in urban areas. Some of the cities are already unimaginably huge: Tokyo is 35 million and growing; Bombay and Delhi are both over the 20 million mark with San Paolo and Mexico close behind. The vast bulk of these cities are in the developing world. The size of the young male unemployed population thus becomes of great concern because they are among the prime movers of violence.
Given the scale of the growth, the speed of growth, the impoverishment of huge numbers in the cities, their poor rate of employment, the worsening housing conditions, the scope for violence is frightening. In addition in some parts of the world, say, Latin-America, elections become dominated by a kind of regression to populism that produces governments who are least suitable for the circumstances, and this populism is fed by the urban crowds.
The lack of good governance is all too often regarded as one of the major causes for the outbreak of violence and for its prolonged nature. Of course, some cities are noted for their good governance but when you run down the list of some of the largest and fastest growing cities in the world the alarmists may well have to be heard. But ringing alarm bells is not enough. Cities like countries need good governance. Will effective policy change be as speedy as the rapid growth of urban populations? It does not look like it.