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close this bookVolunteer Participation in Working with the Urban Poor (UNDP - UNV, 64 p.)
close this folderI. Urbanisation: recognition and response
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentUrbanisation and poverty
View the documentResponse to urbanisation
View the documentRecognition of ''Self-help'' initiatives


The twentieth century growth of the urban population in developing countries is unparalleled in human history. If current trends continue, it is expected that two-thirds of the world's total urban population will live in developing countries by the year 2000. Resource scarcity, social service and infrastructure needs and demands will magnify the already enormous socio-economic and political pressures in urban areas.

Cities in developing countries are increasingly unable to provide their growing populations with productive employment in the "formal" sector, adequate social services or housing. As a consequence, a mammoth "informal sector" has blossomed, which is beginning to dominate developing country economies. Even though there may be material improvement in some rural migrant lives, the general trend is a transfer of poverty from rural to urban areas.

It has been the churches and a few local NGOs -- rather than governments, international aid agencies, or international NGOs - which have worked in low-income urban communities for decades, particularly in Latin America and in some Asian cities. Initially this assistance focused on welfare work, but it has expanded to include micro-development schemes. Governments and municipalities, recognising their limitations in meeting the needs of urban low-income groups, have increasingly acknowledged the importance of the private sector and the communities' own initiatives in meeting basic needs. International organisations and VSAs are also recognising the importance of building upon local initiatives.