This chapter seeks to unfold not only a global perspective on rapid urbanisation and rapid planning, but also to illustrate a frame of reference to the global debate on sustainable development and urbanisation that has emerged over the past five to ten years.
The critical importance of cities in achieving sustainability in the 21st century has been increasingly recognised over the past years by political leaders, practitioners and also the academia. Notably in early 2012, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon pointed out „our global struggle for sustainability will be lost or won in cities”.() This is true for most of the themes in the contemporary international debate on sustainable development and urbanisation, including the quest for poverty eradication, the fight against climate change and for global environmental sustainability, and of cause for the question of how to tackle rapid urbanisation in the 21st century, i.e. to build the cities we need. Sustainable development in the 21st century by large will be interconnected with sustainable urban development.
The statement by Ban Ki-Moon echoes an earlier statement by the Secretary General Kofi Anan in 2001 that the „World is entering an urban Millennium“.() These two selected statements depict how emphasis is placed on urbanisation by the United Nations and increasingly also by other international and national development agencies, NGOs and political decision makers worldwide. They signify a turning point in the view of the developmental challenge that the World is facing today, away from the sector-based approaches of the past decades towards a more integrated approach that brings cities and human settlements more and more into the centre of interest.
It is now very clear: The 21st century will be the century of cities. Since 2006, more than half of the World’s population are living in cities with a tendency that will double the urban population from 3.5 billion today to around 7 billion over the next 35 years. In the mid 21st century, two thirds of the global population (of then 9 billion people) will be living in cities. Most of this growth (about 90%) is expected Sub-Sahara Africa and in Asia, i.e. in the Developing Countries and emerging economies of the Global South.()
The phenomenon is commonly referred to as rapid urbanisation. Especially developing countries in Africa and Asia are facing this immense challenge in managing rapid urbanisation. The speed and magnitude of urbanisations is taking place in countries that have much less means at their disposal in terms of the technical and financial capacity and readiness of their institutions than most of the OECD countries have. To put it this way: The urbanisation challenge in the 21st century is going to be felt hardest in those global regions that are currently least prepared to sustain it.
Thereby the speed and magnitude of change is unprecedented in human history. Already a decade ago, commentators highlighted the threat of an emerging planet of slums (), if the current urbanisation is not met by an adequate urban planning effort that is capable of upholding at least some basic principles of sustainability, like for instance formulated and proposed by UN-Habitat in 2012.() There is indeed a significant risk for proliferation of slums. Without intervention in the business-as-usual scenario, the global population of people living in slums may increase from today 856 million to as many as three billion slum dwellers until the mid of this century. This scenario will be the inevitable outcome of a failed urban development agenda and unplanned urbanisation. In consequence, it may also concur with the failing of all other development agendas that are currently discussed and decided by the international community.
Urbanisation must be understood as a transformation process of global dimension. Cities that actively prepare for it are more able to transform the challenge into opportunities. Short-term, reactive intervention approaches are not going to be enough to manage rapid urbanisation. To the contrary a pro-active urban development planning and management is required at an appropriate scale in space and time. The rapid pace of urbanisation coincides with a number of challenges in urban development planning that emerged over the past three or four decades in Africa and many places in South and South East Asia:
- The definitive failure of master planning in many cases;
- An urban design crises, where functional urban design has a diminishing impact on how urban plans are drawn, while other factors have an increasing impact;
- The rapid informal urban growth, with rapid extension of human settlements, to a large extent without any management or planning.
Effective urban planning and design of urban spaces and land-use is a necessary requirement to sustainable urbanisation, but also and especially the question of urban infrastructure planning and development. A rough calculation for illustration purposes: 3 billion new urban residents over 35 years would translate into an average of more than 85 million people annually (over the next 35 years). This means nearly 240,000 new urban residents every day until the mid of the century. 240,000 people would easily consume 4.8 million litres of water per day; they may generate an equal amount of wastewater; they may generate 240 tons of solid waste; and they may want to consume 120,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity () every day. A road network of 300 - 500 kilometres (at least) would have to be build, too, not to mention adequate housing, commercial buildings, parks etc. would have to be created together with educational facilities and with 60,000 new urban jobs every day. The immense challenge especially also for urban infrastructure development becomes quiet clear at an instance.
The illustration given above highlights that there are important other implications for global sustainable development that are going to be determined by the way urbanisation will be unfolding in the 21st century.
Today, there are three global agreements with a high relevance for urban development:
- The Post-2015-Development Agenda defining a direction, goals, targets and a clear set of indicators on sustainable development ().
- The New Urban Agenda providing a shared vision, principles and an implementation plan for housing and sustainable urban development, and providing a more extensive and holistic guidance on urbanisation.
- The Paris Agreement setting the two-degrees-target as the upper limit for global warming.()
In September 2015 the Post-2015 Development Agenda was agreed upon by the UN member states as a result of the organisation’s largest consultative process in its over 70 years history. As a result the international community agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The SDG are “replacing” the Millennium Development Goals that provided a global guidance between 2000 and 2015. The SDGs are now a comprehensive reference frame until 2030.
For the first time a global goal on cities and human settlement development was formulated: Make Cities and Human Settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. SDG11 marks a major step forward in the recognition of the transformative power of urbanisation for development, and of the role of city leaders in driving global change from the bottom up.()
Even though Goal 11 is the SDG with an explicit focus on cities and human settlements, most, if not all SDG are relevant to local governments and urban residents. The realisation of most of the SDGs is unthinkable without the involvement of cities, as they are the location where most of the SDGs are to be realised. Thereby cities must play a creative and active role in the implementation through sound policies, and effective planning and implementation. Local governments and (urban) civil society must assume the role of catalysts for sustainable development.
Besides Goal 11 (with targets 11.1, 11.3, 11.5, 11.6, 11.A and 11.B), the following sector specific SDGs are important in the context of the RP project:
- SDG 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture (especially targets 2.3 and 2.4).
- SDG 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all (especially targets 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, 6.6 and 6.B).
- SDG 7: Assure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (especially targets 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3).
- SDG 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation (especially target 9.1).
- SDG 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (especially target 13.B).
The New Urban Agenda (NUA) is the outcome document of the Habitat III conference that took place from 17 to 20 October 2016 in Quito, Ecuador, with participation of sub-national and local governments, parliamentarians, civil society, indigenous peoples and local communities, the private sector, professionals and practitioners, the scientific and academic community, and other stakeholders. Habitat III follows Habitat II that took place in 1996 in Istanbul.
The NUA includes the following main documents:
- The Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All,
- The Quito Implementation Plan for the New Urban Agenda,
The NUA acknowledges urbanisation as being one of the 21st century’s most transformative trends, thereby implying massive sustainability challenges in terms of housing, infrastructure, basic services, food security, health, education, decent jobs, safety, and natural resources, among others.
It formulates a shared vision of universal access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation, as well as equal access for all to public goods and quality services. It equally sets the guiding principle of leaving no one behind, which includes providing equal access for all to physical and social infrastructure and basic services as well as adequate and affordable housing.
Sustainable urbanisation is described as being critical in achieving environmental sustainability. The sustainable use of land and resources, as well as the (subsequent) protection of ecosystems, biodiversity and achieving harmony with nature as such is set as a shared vision. Water, energy, waste and food systems are key factors to this equation.
Therefore the Agenda provides an important reference for the development of urban service infrastructure, and supply and disposal infrastructure respectively. It highlights the importance of urban infrastructure development in resolving pressing global development problems in the 21st century. Moreover, it states the importance of leveraging the agglomeration benefits of well-planned urbanisation: High productivity, competitiveness and innovation, job creation, equal access to economic and productive resources and opportunities are unthinkable without appropriate urban service infrastructure; here especially supply and disposal infrastructure, besides the more spatially determined transport infrastructure is mentioned.
In November 2015, the global negotiations on the question of climate change under the leadership of the UNFCCC were concluded in Paris with the Paris Agreement as the outcome document of the COP21. Cities and human settlements, and particularly cities, due to the concentration of human life and activities, are responsible for the current climate change trends and dynamics. At the same time, cities are vulnerable to the increasing negative effects of climate change, including especially the risk of flooding and risks associated to the urban heat island effect. A significant and increasing amount of air pollution is influenced also by the way urban supply and disposal infrastructure is set up and managed.
In the pretext to 2015 COP21, the Fifth IPCC Assessment Report has underlined already in 2014:
Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid- 20th century.()
The urbanisation processes is causing increasing emissions of greenhouse gasses, which will further contribute to climate change. The very climate change fostered by human activities concentrated in cities is having various negative impacts on cities themselves, also having multiplying effects on already existing urban challenges like poverty, urban sprawl, inequality and health.
A study by UNEP from 2013 already underlined that:
“Cities consume 75% of the world’s natural resources, 80% of the global energy supply and produce approximately 75% of the global carbon emissions. In general, fossil fuel prices (coal, natural gas and crude oil) have risen steadily since the late ‘90s. This raises serious questions about the future sustainability of cities in terms of energy supply, their role in meeting global carbon emission reduction targets and their ability to participate in the carbon economy.”()
Many commentators () call for a radical re-thinking of the way cities are planned, managed and lived as indispensable in order to realise the two-degrees target for global warming set under the Paris Agreement. A redefinition of urban planning and management in this sense requires decoupling natural resource use and socio-economic development, which needs to be based in re-developing an urban circular (metabolic) approach. Supply and disposal infrastructure play a critical role in contributing and mitigating to greenhouse gas emissions from human settlements.
By providing a balanced set of tools and know-how for planning and development of urban supply and disposal infrastructure, the RP project makes a direct contribution to the realisation of the New Urban Agenda, but also to achieving the SDG and to a resilient response by cities to climate change in line with the Paris Agreement.
The RP methodology is trans-sectoral, thereby maximising cost-efficiency and maximising the resource efficiency at various scales of intervention. This will support cities in their efforts of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and in the effective use of energy and natural resources in the urban metabolism. In this way, the RP methodology is a suitable approach to regional resource management with cities in the centre of focus.
Since 2010, UN-Habitat’s Urban Planning and Design Branch has been spear-heading the development of a rapid planning approach to urban development with a main emphasis at first on spatial and land-use planning. The BMBF funded RP project with its focus on supply and disposal infrastructure and food systems is going to make a critical and complimentary contribution to this important effort.
While outcome documents like the New Urban Agenda of the Habitat III conference represent a global blueprint towards WHAT to do in terms of sustainable urbanisation, it is important to keep a focus also of the question of HOW to achieve the WHAT. Subsequently, there is an increasing need for enabling tools. Rapid urbanisation requires a rapid planning approach!
Selected contributions of RP to key themes of the contemporary international debate on sustainable development and urbanisation
During the reporting period the RP project was involved and contributed actively to most of the key themes of the contemporary international debate on sustainable development and urbanisation. This comprised (own) networking and side events at the major events (WUF7, Habitat III) or participation in podium discussion (German Habitat Forum).
Fig. 1: RP Kick-off and side event in the City Changer Room at WUF7
(pics from left to right: Nguyen Hung, D. Steinbach, Esther Matumba, Raf Tuts)
Within the context of the panel “Smart Cities: ICT & Smart Planning” at German Habitat Forum – Urban Solutions, RP contributed to proposals for input to the New Urban Agenda (Berlin Recommendations for the Cities of Tomorrow). Key messages from this panel were:
- Cities need demand-driven planning based on reliable data; municipalities must assume data stewardship.
- We need to move from participation to co-production, and build solutions based on the definition of the problem.
- A “Smart City” is not a goal; it is an instrument towards sustainable urban development.
Fig. 2: German Habitat Forum Panel “Smart Cities: ICT and Smart Planning”
At Habitat III, United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, October 17-20 in Quito (Ecuador) RP was represented within an event and at the German Pavilion. With a teaser on the project’s side event “Breaking Urban Silos – Gaining urban sustainability for all through trans-sectoral infrastructure planning”, a vivid discussion took place at the presentation site of the German Pavilion. The project’s networking event “Rapid Urbanization Requires Rapid Planning” was followed by more than 100 participants and was scheduled with a contribution from GIZ Sector Project „Sustainable Development of Metropolitan Regions“ (Urban Nexus).The very positive comments from the assorted participants (administration, planner, academia, private etc.) confirmed the necessity of the approach and there were several requests for cooperation with the project (especially from Latin America which is not represented in the range of case cities).
Fig. 3: Networking event “Rapid Urbanization Requires Rapid Planning” – panel
Fig. 4: Networking event “Rapid Urbanization Requires Rapid Planning” – audience
Fig. 5: Side event “Breaking Urban Silos – Gaining urban sustainability for all through trans-sectoral infrastructure planning”
Fig. 6: Interview with R. van den Berg from UN-Habitat “Urban Lab” on cooperation options
 Ban Ki-Moon at the opening ceremony of the High-Level Delegation of Mayors and Regional Authorities held in New York on April 23, 2012.
 Kofi Anan at the opening meeting of the Habitat Special Session, five years after Habitat II on June 1, 2001.
 UN DESA (2015), World Urbanisation Prospects – The 2015 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables, ESA/P/WP.242, New York: UN.
 Mike Davis (2006) Planet of Slums, London: Verso.
 UN-Habitat (2012) A New Strategy of Sustainable Neighbourhood Planning: Five principles – Urban Planning Discussion Note 3, Nairobi: UN.
 Electricity is considered a modern, clean and reliable form of energy. In reality many of the newly arriving urban residents rely on charcoal and fire wood for cooking with a severe and detrimental effect on natural resources, forests and ecosystems in reach of the rapidly growing metropolises.
 In fact the majority of all SDG’s has a direct or indirect implication on cities, however, Goal 11 now explicitly targets cities. There was no comparable MDG explicitly formulated on cities.
 The overwhelming share of the remaining carbon budget to stay below 2 degrees C. is in the control of cities and local governments, highlighting the role cities have to plan in fighting climate change.
 UCLG (2015), The Sustainable Development Goals - What Local Governments Need to Know, Barcelona: UCLG.
 IPCC (2014), Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In: Core Writing Team, R. K. P., L.A. Meyer (ed.). Geneva.
 UNEP-DTIE (2013), Cities and Buildings, Paris: UNEP.
 Nicola Tollin (2016), The Role of Cities and Local Authorities following COP21 and the Paris Agreement, UN-Habitat and Bradford University, Copenhagen.
 Source: UN-Habitat Photo Gallery 2014
 BMZ (2016): Urban Solutions – Proceedings of the German Habitat Forum 2016