| Monograph on the inter-regional exchange and transfer of effective practices on urban management |
Demographic trends around the world show that the distribution of people in settlements is neither random nor precisely planned. Historically, people clustered together in locations that were favorable to making a living. The urban structure of a country is shaped by a number of factors, among them history, topography, natural resources and climate. Economic forces, however, probably contributed the most to urban growth. Unfortunately, those forces have not been able to solve problems associated with urban poverty, a deteriorating urban environment and inadequate infrastructure. With limited budgets, cities in most countries also face urgent crises in land management, municipal finance and administration, and centralization of power.
Higher urban wages reflect the higher productivity of labor in cities where economies of scale and agglomeration have made households and enterprises more productive. This productivity growth, although beneficial, has not solved the massive urban problems of the developing world. The creation of jobs in new urban industries brings migrants from surrounding rural areas. Even after most jobs in the city are filled, the influx of migrants persists. Newcomers without skills or experience have little choice in the labor market. If they stay in the city they tend to fill in the niches of the informal sector with part-time or low-level jobs while they search for more permanent work. Many households have not found employment and income generating activities at all, leaving people with no choice but to live in squatter areas unserved by essential infrastructure.
Urbanization has brought an alarming rise in the incidence of urban poverty. According to UNDP estimates, more than half the poor will be concentrated in urban areas by the end of the 1990s. Approximately 90% of poor households in Latin America. 40% in Africa and 45% in Asia will be in urban areas. Although urban incomes are generally higher and urban services and facilities more accessible than in rural areas, the urban poor usually suffer comparable or even higher rates of disease and death than their rural counterparts. These people generally live in overcrowded slums or squatter settlements, and are forced to contend with bad sanitation and contaminated water. The close proximity of large numbers of people, in an environment which provides no protection from the pollution caused by their own and other city wastes creates conditions which allow the rapid spread of a variety of infectious diseases, often resulting in disastrous epidemics. The over-use of natural resources and the careless discharge of industrial wastes in cities, further exacerbates the problem of environmental degradation.
Failures of public management and the scarcity of financial and technical capacity have resulted in widespread deficiencies in water supply, electricity, transportation, communication. and solidwaste management. These deficiencies impose heavy burdens on the productive activity of urban households and enterprises, as well as the health of urban populations.' The performance of government is critical to the effective management of urban growth. While access to basic infrastructure, shelter and employment depends as much on private initiatives and enterprises, these are critically affected by public sector policies and functions that only government can perform. Growth in prices, population and economic activity in rapidly urbanizing countries imposes demands for public expenditure that can only be met by both substantial and buoyant resources. The challenge is to identify sources that combine these characteristics with a commitment to equitable distribution and the encouragement of efficient use.
The massive number of people "waiting in the wings of urbanization" will need to be properly fed, housed, clothed and provided with other basic urban services and amenities. Thus, a major challenge for urban planners and program implementors at the threshold of the twenty-first century is to create and sustain processes and structures which will focus on alleviating poverty, improving the urban environment, providing housing, infrastructure, and essential services for the poor, strengthening local government and decentralizing power and resources to cities.