Our Perspectives


Leave no one and no city behind

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By Tammam Azzam, Freedom Graffiti II.By Tammam Azzam, Freedom Graffiti II

In this blog series leading up to the World Humanitarian Summit, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on responding to conflict and disasters.

The world has witnessed rapid and often unplanned urban growth. Cities are where the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost. Between now and 2030, the world’s urban population is projected to grow by 1.5 billion people. More than 90 percent of that urban growth will occur in areas located in the developing world, mostly in Africa and Asia.

Urbanization and cities present opportunities for enhancing the economic prospects of countries and improving the lives of many. But rapid urbanization and rapidly expanding cities also pose challenges, especially to countries already grappling with a range of development priorities.

Frequently, the urbanization process is poorly managed, resulting in inequitable, exclusionary and fragmented cities with marginalized populations. This can fuel an increased risk of violence.

Conflict and violence present particularly significant challenges to cities in developing countries that are vulnerable to shocks and risks. This makes it necessary for humanitarian and development organizations to change their ways of working. “Leaving no one and no city behind” has to be a shared principle.

UNDP recognizes the nature, scale and complexity of urban crises. We understand how to work with the systems that shape cities and how to manage urban displacements. Therefore, we believe it is key to establish new partnerships to respond to “the urban turn” in today’s societies.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 is focused on making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Goal 16 refers to promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies.

Only by linking the aspirations of SDG 11 and 16 can we support cities to significantly reduce violence and work with governments and communities to find lasting solutions to conflict and insecurity.

This demands a multidisciplinary approach that links spatial and social planning practices. By embracing architecture and urban design as part of the governance process, we can strengthen social cohesion and build peaceful cities. In protracted conflict and fragile settings, urban resilience can be built if we re-think the humanitarian-development nexus and understand how integrated approaches can help promoting just, peaceful, and inclusive societies in cities.  For example, in Kabul, Afghanistan, urbanization has limited public spaces that would bring together diverse populations and help foster cohesion and participation.

Preparations for this year’s World Humanitarian Summit and Habitat III present an opportunity to focus discussions on interlinked issues that could help ensure the achievement of the SDGs, particularly in rapidly urbanizing Global South.

UNDP is working to raise the issue of urbanization to the global agenda, drawing on the principles and recommendations set forth by the Global Alliance for Urban Crises (an alliance of city leaders, urban professionals, the development community and the private sector) to explore how coordinated efforts to advance SDG 11 and SDG 16 can strengthen urban resilience as critical to sustainable development.

Crisis response blog series Blog post Sustainable development Sustainable Development Goals Hanne Kristoffersen Urbanization Conflict prevention