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close this bookPromoting Sustainable Human Development in Cities of the South: A Southeast Asian Perspective (UNRISD, 2000, 56 p.)
close this folderIII. The Structural Context
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentUnderstanding cities
View the documentDemocratization, decentralization and liberalization


While sustainable urban development initiatives are attempting to establish their own approach to revising the way in which decisions are made and how cities are planned and managed, they necessarily do so within a wider developmental context. The problems and opportunities that these initiatives face need to be understood in structural terms if they are to be better confronted. Two dimensions of this context are particularly important and are discussed in this section of the paper.

First, we discuss the issue of urbanization. In much of the South, the majority - often the vast majority - of the population lives in rural areas. However, everywhere urban areas are growing rapidly and within the foreseeable future most of the world's population will be urban. This process greatly affects the approaches that need to be taken to planning and managing the sustainable development process. Second, the world is currently in the grip of a particular ideological outlook that is strongly influencing the ways in which economic and political life is organized.

On the one hand, democratization and decentralization are being introduced throughout the South, displacing the authoritarian and centralized regimes that predominated throughout most of the latter half of the twentieth century. At the same time, neo - liberalism is being promoted - and has broad political support - as the correct framework for development at the international level. The following paragraphs analyse in more detail the implications of these dimensions of the changing structural context as they affect the possibilities of sustainable urban development initiatives.