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Urban Development

UN population forum urged to examine ways to protect people on the move, make cities work better

MD Staff

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A great migration of humanity into cities is under way, and with millions drawn to urban areas for the promise of a better life, the main United Nations forum on population opened its annual session on Monday examining ways to protect people on the move and help create cities that can embrace the massive number of new arrivals.

“People are moving at high rates within national borders, and international migration is growing more complex, with more countries serving simultaneously as countries of origin, transit and destination,” said Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed at the opening of the 51st Session of the Commission on Population and Development.

Created to advise the UN and its Member States on population issues and trends, the Commission is meeting this year under the theme ‘sustainable cities, human mobility and international migration.’

Over the next week, delegates will tackle a host of matters related to the dramatic population shifts under way driven by the movement of people from rural to urban areas, between cities of different sizes and from one country to another. By 2030, six of every 10 people will be an urban inhabitant. By 2050, it may be two out of three, according to the UN.

Ms. Mohammed said that some of the rapid population change is due to growing drivers of displacement, including conflict, poor economic prospects and, in some cases, climate-related hazards. But much of the mobility also stems from people seeking new opportunities – better jobs, education and training, expanded social and family connections, and more.

Questions of migration and urbanization cannot be distinguished from those of sustainable development because as young people seek a better life in cities, the potential loss to communities and countries of origin can be significant, she said.

Some cities have successfully managed migration, said Ms. Mohammed

For example, since 2013, São Paulo has been successful in this endeavor through an awareness-raising campaign focused on ending xenophobia and better policy coordination. These measures have helped the Brazilian city embrace migrants and their families and provide them with assistance.

In London, the Home Secretary and the Archbishop of Canterbury have launched a new scheme to encourage community groups to sponsor a refugee family. An online service for refugees in the UK now makes it easier for any individual to support refugees, allowing local authorities to focus on the provision of public goods and services.

Data collection is crucial to improve collective understanding of the changing situation.

The Government of Zambia has partnered with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) to generate district-level development indicators. Analysis of data collected have been used to inform the latest national development plan and mobilize investments in health and education for children and youth.

The Dominican Republic highlighted the contributions of Haitian migrants to gross domestic product (GDP), as well as the limited services they received.

“Because gaps in understanding are easily filled by myths and misperceptions, better data can usefully inform global discussions of migration and related issues,” Ms. Mohammed said.

“It is for this reason that the Commission on Population and Development, with its focus on population data and its emphasis on evidence-based policy-making, plays such a vital role,” she added.

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Urban Development

Smarter roads for smarter mobility

MD Staff

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As transport technology progresses at breath-taking speed we tend to focus on how advanced and intelligent vehicles are getting.  However, of equal importance is the infrastructure that they travel on and where new technology can be used to make these roads more secure, safe, efficient and environmentally sound to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

This is the subject that UNECE is now focusing on as part of the responsibilities of the Working Party on Road Transport (SC.1).  SC.1 works on the development and facilitation of international transport by road of both passengers and goods, helping to create simple harmonized transport rules and requirements.  The harmonization of intelligent infrastructure is a natural subject for these responsibilities, but has not yet received enough attention.  That changed this week when SC.1 held a special session which explored current practices, trends and perspectives in smart road infrastructure.

Smart road infrastructure can involve a number of factors, from using technology for better monitoring of movement, controlling traffic flow, updating travellers, or even communicating directly with cars to warn of a speed limit change.  It is as essential a part of the future of transport as smarter vehicles.

“Innovative new technology in transport is revolutionizing mobility, changing how people move, communicate, and pay for transport services, as well as how transport legislation is evolving,” said Mr. Yuwei Li, Director of UNECE’s Sustainable Transport Division, who emphasized the strong links with the work of SC.1.  “As countries make individual advancements in smart infrastructure, the technology may not be compatible with other countries in the region making international road travel more complicated, and also denying neighbouring countries of the chance to make greater advancements by moving forward together.”

Innovation in smart road infrastructure: a world of perspectives

A number of presentations highlighted new or ongoing projects focusing on using emerging technology for road infrastructure.  One of these focused on a project called Traffic Management as a Service from the City of Ghent, Belgium, co-financed by the European Regional and Development Fund through the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative. The project seeks to transform urban traffic control centres from giant immovable buildings which are difficult to update, into virtual traffic management services that are smarter and more accessible to the public.  Mr. Pieter Morlion, Project Manager of the city’s Traffic Control Centre, explained that virtual traffic management based on a central cloud-platform was being developed.

The platform integrated with a number of existing systems that hold information on real-time traffic patterns.  Currently existing systems such as Tom-Tom and Google maps may be familiar to most drivers, but modern traffic control centres find it difficult to constantly monitor or include data from these systems.  This new system would integrate local and global information sources and monitor them for anomalies. The advantage is that authorities will be able to access the platform and manage traffic instantly.  Additionally, citizens will be able to register with the system and, by providing their commuting routes and times, will be able to receive text updates when they might encounter an obstacle.

“By organizing traffic management as an online service, cities and countries around the globe can benefit from traffic management functionality just by subscribing to this service, without prior investments or installations,” said Mr. Morlion.  “They get immediately access to mobility data for their area and the tools to converse directly with citizens. I strongly believe that this will make the gap smaller between countries that have been investing for years in traffic management and, for example, developing countries.”

Additional presentations included an address from the Julius Baer bank on how new technology, regulation and changing lifestyles are rerouting energy expenditures and reshaping industries. Two alternative future scenarios of evolution or revolution of today’s trends were suggested based on population growth, a rising Asian middle class, urbanisation, fuel economy and electric mobility, autonomous driving and the sharing economy.

Hellastron (Hellenic Association of Toll Road Network) gave examples from the Aegean Motorway SA to demonstrate the continuous improvement in road infrastructure and services being provided to users. These improvements included developing a virtual traffic management centre and a National User Information System.

The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment in the Netherlands shared how the country is embracing smart infrastructure with an emphasis on public/private partnerships and projects. The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) provided insight into how their Smart Cities initiative came about.

The exploration of smart road infrastructure was also the chance to highlight the synergies between UNECE’s work on sustainable transport and housing and land management, as well as with initiatives undertaken by other UN organizations in this area, including the International Telecommunication Union.

SC.1 will include smart road infrastructure as a regular item on its agenda for future meetings so that all stakeholders may remain informed about emerging smart technologies for the planning of new, or upgrading of existing, road infrastructure.

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Urban Development

How Can Water Scarce Cities Thrive in a Resource Finite World? Strategies and Solutions

MD Staff

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Water scarcity is not a new concept, nor a new phenomenon. History provides us with many examples of cities and countries facing challenges to securing stable and reliable fresh water supplies.

However, current trends challenge water managers and decision makers in new ways – from progressive depletion and deterioration of water resources to drastic changes in hydrology due to climate change. In fact, water practitioners recently gathered in Brasilia, Brazil for the World Water Forum and World Water Day 2018 to discuss the world’s most pressing water issues. Recent crises in Cape Town, South Africa and Rome, Italy provided a backdrop and served as a reminder of the urgency with which water resilience is needed.

Despite such concerning events, water demands are skyrocketing as cities expand, draining already scarce resources — and water scarce cities are edging closer and closer to running dry. And, although a number of water scarce cities are actually beating the odds, their stories often remain undocumented, unavailable, and inaccessible.

A new World Bank report illuminates such valuable experiences to fill this important knowledge gap about the failures, successes, and innovative solutions of water scarce cities across the world. The report provides a cross-case analysis that dives into knowledge from over 20 case studies (to be published soon), to compare and contrast water resource challenges, technical solutions, and institutional mechanisms. In so doing, the report creates new knowledge and identifies the key drivers of positive change — including how governance, capacity, or technological changes were addressed.

Through a review of some of the cities and states already beating water scarcity odds, the report encourages water scarce cities to adopt urban water scarcity management approaches that include:

  • Demand management and infrastructure efficiency
  • Innovative surface and groundwater management
  • Non-conventional water resources
  • Cooperation with other users
  • Adaptive water system designs and operations

Water scarce cities solutions do not have to be high-tech, expensive, or complex. However, solutions must work – and even better if solutions work together. This report turns traditional urban water security approaches on their head, and shows that there is not a one-size-fits-all pathway to urban water security.

Innovation across water scarce cities is required to beat bleak water futures. Through an analysis of urban water security in scarcity contexts, the report shines a light on existing solutions and interprets information in new and powerful ways.

By illuminating sophisticated water-secure visions and strategies, the report aims to inspire further pioneering actions across all water scarce cities – to bend the curve towards a water-secure world for all.

World Bank

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Urban Development

What is next for Haiti’s tourism? Improving resilience and creating a new destination in the Caribbean

MD Staff

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Every year, half a million tourists flock to the beaches of Labadee, where Royal Caribbean Cruise ships dock for the benefit of passengers yearning for a brief escape to Caribbean shores.

The Atlantic-bathed beach resort is located some six kilometers from the northern city of Cap-Haïtien. It has become a genuine tourist destination thanks to its colonial architecture, it’s delicious ‘’capois’’ cuisine and its proximity to the National History Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting historic monuments such as the Citadelle Henry, the Sans Souci Palace, and the Milot Church.

Yet, a mere 80,238 tourists visited the National History Park in 2014. While these numbers represent a significant increase in tourism, it pales in comparison to the crowds of tourists lining Labadee’s beaches. For the Royal Caribbean passengers, the opportunity of walking through Cap-Haïtien’s historic city center and visiting the National History Park could stimulate both the development of tourism and the local economy.

“There is a growing demand to develop the North as a tourism destination in a sustainable way and to improving the generation of economic opportunities. With this is mind, the World Bank is supporting the government’s development strategy in the North and finances a large integrated program in the region to provide better delivery services and road connectivity” said Anabela Abreu, World Bank Country Director for Haiti.”

Cap-Haïtien is currently experiencing a high level of urbanization and is home to approximately 290,000 inhabitants, and will reach 330,000 by 2020. As the recently released World Bank report “Haitian Cities: Actions for Today with An Eye on Tomorrow” highlights: urbanization in other countries is often accompanied by economic growth, increased productivity, and improved standards of living. In the case of Haiti, and particularly in the North, the absence of planning remains one of the main bottleneck for the region’s sustainable economic development.

“Cap-Haïtien is trapped between mountain and ocean in a land space of scarcely more than several square kilometers. With virtually all available land space used up, residents are now headed for the mountain slopes overlooking the city, making matters worse. The community lacks the capacity to apply the necessary fixes, which require a much more significant capital, technical, and legislative intervention,’’ says Cap-Haïtien Mayor, Jean Claude Mondésir.

Uncoordinated and unregulated construction, particularly in at-risk areas, increases the city’s vulnerability to soil erosion and flooding, which has been a recurrent problem in the North in the last few years.

To tackle these challenges and put Cap Haitien on the road to resilience and robust tourism in the North, the World Bank is supporting the government’s development strategy for the Grand Nord region through a series of integrated projects in tourism, urban resilience, agriculture, climate investment, energy, health, transport and water amounting to USD 177 million in investments.

Among these investments, the Cultural Heritage Preservation and Tourism Sector Support project is supporting the conservation of the National History Park, upgrading of the historic city center, and supporting the creation of 370 small and medium enterprises providing cultural and tourism services. In addition, the project on Municipal Development and Urban Resilience aims to reduce the risk of flooding in the city center and improve the capacity of Cap Haïtien and neighboring communes to deliver services to city populations.

These investments open new opportunities for people in the North. Watch the video and go on a journey to Citadel Henri to discover Haiti’s rich cultural heritage and economic potential.

World Bank

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