“Managing urban areas has become one of the most important development challenges of the 21st century. Our success or failure in building sustainable cities will be a major factor in the success of the post-2015 UN development agenda”
John Wilmoth, Director of UN DESA’s Population Division
Today the world is faced with unprecedented challenges and opportunities: by 2030 two thirds of the world population will live in urban areas; 15% of world population will be over 65 in 2050. Nearly half of the world’s 3.9 billion urban dwellers reside in relatively small settlements with fewer than 500,000 inhabitants. Only around one in eight live in the 28 mega-cities with 10 million inhabitants or more. With many of the fastest growing urban areas in the world being small settlements, the future of towns and urban neighbourhoods matter.
However, the narrative is under represented in debates about contemporary urban change. All too often our towns and urban neighbourhoods:
- Are subsumed into wider city or city regional planning, reducing the potential to advance town sensitive solutions and opportunities;
- Have local economies which are dominated by the wider city economy, weakening local economic energy and activity;
- Are often remote from decision making, as they governed at a scale which sometimes fails to serve the needs, wants and desires of citizens.
Towns and urban neighbourhoods are places in themselves, the dynamics of which can help manage services, address climate change and address cultural shifts by migration. The challenge is around the ‘how’.
The World Town Leaders Summit in Edinburgh from June 15-16 will debate the role of towns in addressing global urban change. A key element of the conference will be the signing of an agreement on town futures in a changing global context. The agreement is being crowdsourced from communities and institutions across the world. A draft provocation to initiate debate has been prepared by Architecture and Design Scotland, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, Scotland’s Towns Partnership with support from the Academy of Urbanism. Your insights are welcome. Please follow this link to contribute to the agreement, which is hosted as an open source editable document.
Image: Pretoria, from the Steve Tiesdell Legacy Collection