In 2008, the world is reaching an important milestone: for the first time in history, half of the world population will be living in urban areas. Urbanization has significant social and economic implications: Historically, it has been an integral part of the process of economic development and an important determinant of the decline in fertility and mortality rates. Many important economic, social and demographic transformations have taken place in cities. The urban expansion, due in part to migration from rural to urban areas, varies significantly across regions and countries. The distribution and morphology of cities, the dynamics of urban growth, the linkages between urban and rural areas and the living conditions of the rural and urban population also vary quite substantially across countries and over time. In general, urbanization represents a positive development, but it also poses challenges. The scale of such challenges is particularly significant in less developed regions, where most of the urban growth will take place in the coming decades.
To discuss trends in population distribution and urbanization and their implications, the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat organized an Expert Group Meeting on Population Distribution, Urbanization, Internal Migration and Development. The meeting, which took place from 21 to 23 January at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, brought together experts from different regions of the world to present and discuss recent research on urbanization, the policy dimensions of urban growth and internal migration, the linkages and disparities between urban and rural development, aspects of urban infrastructure and urban planning, and the challenges of climate change for the spatial distribution of the population.
This volume presents the proceedings of the meeting. Part One includes the report of the meeting, which presents the main conclusions of each session of the meeting as well as a summary of the papers presented and the discussions held in each session. The papers contributed by participants are presented in Part Two.