7 April 2008


7 April 2008
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on Population and Development

Forty-first Session

2nd & 3rd Meetings* (AM & PM)

world urbanization to hit historic high by year’s end, Under-Secretary-General

says as commission on population and development opens forty-first session

For the first time in history, half of the world’s people would be living in urban areas by the end of this year, Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said as the United Nations Commission on Population and Development opened its forty-first session at Headquarters today.

More strikingly, future population growth would be absorbed almost entirely by urban areas in developing countries, the Under-Secretary-General said as the Commission turned its attention to population distribution, urbanization, and internal migration and development.  Understanding the components of that urban population growth was a concern for the vast majority of Governments.

Noting that the most common policy response had been attempts to reduce rural-to-urban migration, he said it was very difficult to keep people in the countryside when the cities offered greater opportunities and a better quality of life.  Large cities, despite their problems, produced better health outcomes than smaller ones, and tended to provide better livelihoods than rural areas.  At the same time, enabling local authorities to tailor interventions to their particular settings was an important consideration in responding to the challenges posed by uneven population distribution and access to services and resources.

He praised the Commission’s crucial role in ensuring that the root causes of population trends were understood and reflected properly in international discourse.  The transformational changes in population trends, which had begun last century, owed much to the Commission’s intellectual leadership and its success in garnering the political commitment necessary to influence population trends.

Commission Chairman Ivan Piperkov of Bulgaria said that given the prevailing view that urbanization was both pervasive and unavoidable, the present session would be especially relevant because it would focus on the profound changes in the distribution of world population, which offered a number of opportunities, but also posed major challenges.  Historically, many successful cities suffered from overcrowding, pollution and the proliferation of slums, but ways had been found to combat those ills.  This week’s discussions would highlight successful strategies to make cities more liveable.  Decisions taken today in cities around the world would shape humankind’s economic, social and environmental future, and the Commission had a unique opportunity to guide those decisions.

Hania Zlotnik, Director of the United Nations Population Division, described cities as complex systems shaped by the intense competition for space, adding that within the urban hierarchy, access to services tended to improve with city size, particularly in developing countries.  For decades, however, the growth of cities had been blamed for a multitude of problems.  While students of urbanization stressed that cities were centres of innovation, commerce, finance, technology, culture and general economic prosperity -- intricate exchanges and networks linked them with the countryside, making urban and rural development interdependent.

The real issue, asserted Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), was not just that cities grew too fast, but that Governments were not prepared to absorb urban growth.  The challenge was learning how to exploit the possibilities provided by better cities, one of the most important elements of which was a change in attitude.  It was time to embrace urbanization as a good thing for development and people -- the main message of the UNFPA 2007 State of World Population report:  Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth.

Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on financial flows for assisting implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), Ann Pawliczko of UNFPA’s Technical Support Division said both donor assistance and domestic expenditures for population activities continued to increase but, despite the significant funding increases, the resources mobilized were still not sufficient to meet the current needs of developing countries.  The sad reality was that the targets were out of date and not sufficient to meet today’s evolving needs.  “We cannot expect to be complacent about reaching the targets if the targets no longer meet our needs.”  The consequences of resource shortfalls included significant increases in unintended pregnancies, abortions, maternal morbidity and mortality, infant and child mortality, as well as AIDS-related morbidity and mortality, she warned.

Also introducing reports of the Secretary-General were Jose Miguel Guzman of UNFPA’s Technical Support Division; and Thomas Buettner, Assistant Director of the Population Division in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  (For summaries of the Secretary-General’s reports, see Background Press Release POP/960 of 3 April).

In the general discussion that began this morning, there was widespread agreement among delegations that while rapid urbanization was critically important, the challenges it posed defied simple solutions.  The representative of the United States deemed it an especially difficult issue for most bureaucracies because it was an intersection of many jurisdictions and areas of responsibility ‑– housing, water, sanitation, power, health, employment, pollution, crime, education, politics, transportation, loss of agricultural land and more.  Local and national governments in the developing world must be better able to plan for and manage the challenges of rapid and irrevocable urbanization.

Several speakers suggested that the problem was not the pace of urbanization, but the lack of preparedness on the part of Governments to handle that growth.  The Director-General of China’s International Cooperation, National Population and Family Planning Commission said that, since the overdevelopment of large cities could increase poverty, environmental pollution and social chaos, widespread migration from rural to urban areas could be alleviated through the development of small- and medium-sized cities.  It was also important to foster the coordinated development of urban and rural areas, establishing a sound, unified, open, competitive and orderly labour-market system and solving problems of medical care, housing, social security, education and safe drinking water.

The Commission also heard a keynote address on urbanization and internal migration and their relevance to sustainable development, delivered by David Satterthwaite, Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development.

Earlier, the Commission Chairman reported on the intersessional meetings of the Bureau and the Commission, following which members took note of the Bureau’s report.  The Chairman was elected on 13 April 2007, along with the following Vice-Chairpersons:  Alicia Melgar of Uruguay; Hossein Gharibi of Iran; and Frederick Matwang’a of Kenya.  Today, the Commission elected an additional Vice-Chairperson, Pauline Eizema of the Netherlands, and decided that Mr. Gharibi would also serve as Rapporteur.

In other business, the Commission adopted its provisional agenda for the session (document E/CN.9/2008/1), as well as its organization of work (document E/CN.9/2008.L.1*).  It was also decided that Vice-Chairman Matwang’a would lead the informal consultations.

Speakers in the general discussion also included the representatives of Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Slovenia (on behalf of the European Union), Kazakhstan, Brazil, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kenya and Iran.

Also participating were the Director of the Population Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Chief of the Population and Social Integration Section of the Emerging Social Issues Division in the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP); and the Population and Social Policies Team Leader of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 8 April, to continue its work.


The Commission on Population and Development opened its forty-first session this morning, focusing on the special themes of population distribution, urbanization, internal migration and development.  During the session, which runs from 7 to 11 April, it will discuss the growing urbanization of the world population and its implications for development issues such as poverty and the environment.

Opening Statements

Commission Chairman IVAN PIPERKOV ( Bulgaria) opened the session by saying it promised to be especially relevant because it would focus on the ongoing profound changes in the distribution of world population, which offered a number of opportunities, but also posed major challenges.  Historically, many of today’s successful cities had suffered from overcrowding, pollution and the proliferation of slums, but ways had been found to combat such ills.  This week’s discussions would bring to the fore many examples of successful strategies to make cities liveable and enhance the lives of all their inhabitants.  Decisions taken in cities across the world today would shape the economic, social and environmental future of humankind and this, the Commission had a unique opportunity to guide those decisions.

SHA ZUKANG, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the world had made major advances in reducing both mortality and fertility, improving in the process the lives and prospects of millions of families worldwide.  The transformational changes in population trends that had begun last century, which were still playing out, owed much to the intellectual leadership that the Commission had exercised and to its success in garnering the political commitment necessary to influence population trends.

By the end of this year, half of all the world’s people would live in urban areas for the first time in history, he said.  More strikingly, future population growth would be absorbed almost entirely by urban areas in developing countries.  In slightly more than a decade, the world’s rural population would peak at about 3.5 billion people and then start a slow decline.  From now until 2050, the urban population in developed countries would change little, remaining at about 1 billion, yet the urban population worldwide would continue rising, from 3.3 billion today, to well over 6 billion in 2050.  Factors driving that growth included the “natural growth” occasioned by the number of births exceeding the number of deaths, migration from rural to urban areas, and the often overlooked transformation of rural settlements into towns.  Understanding the components of urban population growth was important because the spatial distribution of populations was a concern for the vast majority of Governments.

The most common policy response had been to try to reduce rural-to-urban migration, which, however, was not the major contributor to urban growth in most developing countries, he continued.  It was very difficult to keep people in the countryside when the cities offered greater opportunities and a higher quality of life.  That suggested that developing countries wishing to slow urban population growth should focus instead on ways to reduce the natural increase in their urban areas.  There were still major disparities in access to services, not only between rural and urban dwellers, but also between poor urban dwellers and the rest.  Furthermore, the advantage of urban areas in terms of access to reproductive health and family planning was smaller than one would expect.  Much could be done to improve access for both poor urban dwellers and rural residents.  In that context, programmes focusing specifically on improving the health of poor children, whether in rural or urban areas, were also important.

As more effort and resources were concentrated on supporting efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, he said, it was important to understand how population distribution conditioned the lives of people and interacted with other demographic processes in order to plan and target interventions effectively.  Despite their problems, large cities produced better health outcomes than smaller ones.  In turn, cities tended to provide better livelihoods than rural areas.  Enabling local authorities to tailor interventions to their particular settings was an important consideration in responding to the challenges posed by uneven population distribution and access to services and resources.

The Commission played a crucial role in ensuring that the root causes of population trends were understood and reflected properly in international discourse, he said.  It was to be hoped that its valuable work might contribute to the newly mandated activities of the Economic and Social Council and, in particular, to the Annual Ministerial Review of progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed targets.  The focus of the Review this year was sustainable development commitments, and next year it would be global health.  According to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, effective population policies, while respecting the right of individuals to live and work in the community of their choice, took into account the effects of development strategies on population distribution.  Hopefully that principle would prove useful in guiding the Commission’s deliberations.

THORAYA AHMED OBAID, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), stressed that the goal of development was to support people, especially the poor and marginalized, in their quest to improve their lives, reach their full potential and realize their human rights.  The collective work towards achieving the goals and recommendations of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) would contribute to reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development.  Greater socio-economic development in the poorest countries would depend largely on success in addressing population and development issues, and that progress depended on partnership involving Governments, the United Nations, civil society, academic institutions and the private sector.

She said that, with the world undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history -- and given that this year, for the first time ever, more than half the world’s people would be living in towns and cities -- the unprecedented scale of urban growth marked differences in level and pace among all countries and regions.  Africa and Asia, currently the least urbanized regions, would have the most urban dwellers by 2030, with the urban population in those regions expected to double within a single generation.  Urban growth would also continue in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in more developed regions, but at a slower pace.  That wave of urbanization was happening mostly in developing countries with very large increases occurring very rapidly.  Between 2000 and 2030, Asia’s urban population was expected to grow from 1.4 billion to 2.6 billion, Africa’s from nearly 300 million to 740 million, and that of Latin America and the Caribbean from nearly 400 million to more than 600 million.  Today some 62 million people were added each year to the urban population in less developed regions, compared to no more than 2 million to 3 million annually in the more developed regions.

Pointing out that no country or region was exempt from the implications, benefits and challenges of that growth, she stressed that urbanization could play a very positive role in social and economic development if countries planned ahead now and responded with appropriate policies and programmes to address future urban growth.  Throughout history, cities had been engines for innovation, growth and productivity, and they could provide access to the benefits of technology, to social and health services and to basic infrastructure.  But while cities facilitated social change through the educational and cultural opportunities they provided, for the growing numbers of poor city dwellers, those opportunities were not fully realized.  There were already 1 billion slum-dwellers living in sub-standard conditions.  Urban mismanagement and lack of planning had resulted in overcrowding, lack of public services or clean water and sanitation, and inadequate infrastructure.

In response, many Governments had adopted measures to reduce or reverse rural-to-urban migration, with little success, she said.  The real issue was not just that cities grew too fast, but that Governments were not prepared to absorb urban growth.  The challenge was learning how to exploit the possibilities that better cities provided, one of the most important elements of which was a change in attitude.  It was time to embrace urbanization as a good thing for development and people.  That was the main message of the UNFPA 2007 State of World Population report:  Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth.  There was, first and foremost, a need for a proactive approach focusing on planning and managing change.  Urgent action was needed to improve housing and living conditions, ensure access to basic social services and generate employment.  Realistic planning called for explicit consideration of the needs, rights and participation of the poor.  Providing minimally-serviced land for the poor would help meet present and future needs.  Investing in education and health, including reproductive health and voluntary family planning, was another of the best ways to address urban population growth.

Drawing attention to the large youth population in cities in less developed countries, particularly in urban slums, she said greater investment was needed to provide young people with basic services, education, employment and housing.  Failure to invest in youth would derail efforts to reduce poverty and increase the chances for social unrest.  Environmental challenges, including climate change, also required urgent attention.  There was no doubt that the response to those challenges must be characterized by imaginative planning and foresight, with the public and private sectors, as well as development partners, sharing the burden and cost.

It was also important that policies addressing urban growth not come at the expense of strategies for rural development, she cautioned.  Although urban areas accounted for an increasing share of the poor, the large majority of poor people still lived in the rural parts of development countries, and investment should, therefore, be balanced and targeted to both urban and rural populations.  Committed to working with the Population Division to bring the analysis of population trends into national development discussions, UNFPA was guided in its work by the ICPD Programme of Action and the Millennium Declaration.  As such, the Fund was encouraging policymakers to proactively address urban growth, with particular emphasis on providing services to the poor and vulnerable, while continuing to provide guidance on building national capacity.

Turning to the issue of financial flows for implementing the Cairo Programme of Action, she noted the rising support to the Action Programme, as demonstrated by increasing contributions to UNFPA and a widening donor base.  In 2007, a record 182 donor countries had provided voluntary contributions, including all countries in Africa and the Latin America and Caribbean region.  That was a powerful symbol of the importance that Member States attached to the question of population and development, attesting also to the commitment of less developed countries.  Despite their commitment, however, most less developed countries could not mobilize sufficient resources to fund population, gender and reproductive health programmes, and they continued to rely on donor assistance.

Noting that conducting a census was the most expensive exercise in national statistics, she said that process was threatened by lack of financing.  Many countries to which UNFPA provided support had expressed the need for increased resources to undertake censuses, which provided the data needed to guide development.  Solid data were also necessary for monitoring the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, including the new target, under “Goal 5”, of improving maternal health and ensuring universal access to reproductive health by 2015.  While the resource flows for population assistance was on the rise, and even if projections held and the financial targets were surpassed, the resources mobilized would not be sufficient to meet current needs, which had grown dramatically since the ICPD targets were agreed a decade and a half ago.  At that time, the global population and health situation had been far different from that prevailing today.  For one thing, no one had foreseen the escalation from 12 million people living with HIV in 1994 to the present 33 million.  Since 1994, health-care costs had increased substantially while the value of the dollar had declined.

As a result, she said, the ICPD financial target of $18.5 billion in 2005 was not sufficient to meet current developing-country needs in the areas of family planning, sexual and reproductive health; sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS; and basic research, data and population-and-development policy analysis.  HIV/AIDS activities received by far the largest proportion of population assistance, while funding for family planning lagged far behind.  In fact, donor assistance for family planning as a percentage of all population assistance had decreased considerably since Cairo, from 55 per cent in 1995 to 7 per cent in 2005.  If not reversed, the lack of financing for family planning threatened efforts to reduce poverty, improve health and advance women’s empowerment.  The victims of that funding gap were poor women in poor countries who could not exercise their reproductive rights and plan their families.  Today, 200 million women in the developing world needed effective contraception, with the highest unmet need in Africa.  The result was increasing numbers of unwanted pregnancies, rising rates of unsafe abortion, and increased risks to the lives of women and children.

Underscoring that the benefits of reproductive health care, including family planning, could not be overstated, she said the Millennium Goal 5 would not be attained unless universal access to reproductive health was ensured.  Sexual and reproductive health was essential to women’s empowerment and gender equality.  Family planning was key to maternal and child health.  It was estimated that ensuring access to family planning, alone, would reduce maternal deaths by 20 to 35 per cent, and child deaths by 20 per cent.  If not reversed, the trend towards less funding for family planning and reproductive health would have serious implications for the ability of countries to address unmet needs for those services, possibly undermining efforts to attain universal access to reproductive health by 2015.  That, in turn, would affect population dynamics and conditions for development, especially poverty reduction.

HANIA ZLOTNIK, Director, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said there were just 49 large urban agglomerations with populations surpassing 5 million, 19 of which were mega-cities of more than 10 million inhabitants.  Each had more inhabitants than any one of 118 countries on Earth and generated a significant share of its country’s gross domestic product.  Each encompassed several distinct urban centres that were functionally linked but usually fell under different jurisdictions, posing challenges for the management of the agglomeration as a whole.  Middle-sized cities with populations ranging from half a million to 5 million inhabitants numbered about 800, many of which were the largest in their respective countries.  Small cities, with populations ranging from just 2,500 to half a million inhabitants, were home to about half of the world’s urban population.

Rural areas, where half of humanity lived today, often lacked electricity, she said, adding that, in Africa, 92 per cent of the rural population lived without that advantage, compared to 55 per cent in Asia.  Out of every 12 people on Earth, 6 lived in rural areas, 3 in small cities, 2 in medium-sized cities, and 1 in large urban agglomerations.  Between 2005 and 2025, 5 out of every 10 additional persons added to the world population would be added to small cities, 3 to medium-sized cities, and 2 to the large urban agglomerations, while rural areas would get no additional inhabitants.  In the future, most cities would gain population, but new cities would continue to emerge in rural areas.

Evidence showed that rural populations had poorer access to key services than inhabitants of small cities, who in turn were less well served than inhabitants of larger cities, she said.  Consequently, levels of nutrition, health or education were worse in rural areas than in small cities, and poorer in small than in larger cities.  Poverty was largely concentrated in rural areas, although that had dropped since the early 1990s, particularly in Eastern Asia.  In highly urbanized Latin America, however, poverty was mainly an urban phenomenon and, whereas rural poverty had decreased in the region, urban poverty had risen.  Moreover, the number of urban poor in Africa and Asia, where poverty was mostly rural, surpassed that in Latin America.

Local authorities in developing-country small cities often could not raise locally all the revenue needed to improve local services, she said.  Therefore, strategies to reduce poverty, improve education and achieve better health must ensure assistance for the local authorities in securing the means and capacity to deliver basic services.  Interactions between rural populations and cities could be leveraged to promote synergies and increase access to services, and the authorities must recognize the necessity of internal mobility and migration for synergy to exist.  Rural-urban social networks were part of the survival strategies of poorer inhabitants in many countries, and rural-urban migrants contributed to reducing poverty in rural areas.

In sum, cities were complex systems shaped by the intense competition for space, she said.  Within the urban hierarchy, access to services tended to improve with city size, particularly in developing countries.  Disparities in access, both across the settlement hierarchy and within cities, were at the root of detrimental population outcomes.  For decades, the growth of cities had been blamed for a multitude of problems.  While students of urbanization stressed that cities were indeed “points of light”, being centres of innovation, commerce, finance, technology, culture and general economic prosperity, intricate exchanges and networks linked cities with the countryside, making their development interdependent.

Report on Intersessional Meetings of Bureau

The Chairman, reporting on the Bureau’s three intersessional meetings, said they had been held before the middle of January 2008, including one in Sofia, where Bureau members had had a chance to hold a lively interaction with Bulgarian population experts.  Two of the experts had joined the Commission for a presentation in New York of a side event on rethinking policies for sustained urban future, to be jointly convened tomorrow by the Government of Bulgaria, UNFPA and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).

He said the Bureau had also met just prior to the start of the Commission’s resumed session to review the preparation of the session.  The decisions taken by the Bureau related to the keynote speakers and the special theme for the forty-third session in 2010 -- “Health, morbidity, mortality and development”.  Hopefully the Commission would accept that recommendation as it had been made in view of the fact that the theme of “health, mortality and their interrelations to development” had last been considered in 1998; that issues relating to health, morbidity and mortality were crucial to attaining several Millennium Goals; and that the General Assembly was due to review, in 2010, the achievement of the goals set out in the Millennium Declaration and the 2005 World Summit Outcome.  The Bureau had also recommended that the Commission consider adopting decisions or resolutions concerning the agenda for the forty-second session, the themes associated with a multi-year work programme and the establishment of a theme for the forty-third session; on the special theme of the forty-first session; and on the work programme of the Population Division.

He said the events where he had represented the Commission included a panel discussion of the Chairs of functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council and the meeting of that organ’s Bureau with the Chairs of the functional commissions in July 2007.  Following a suggestion by the Bureau, he had invited the Council President to make a presentation on its new mandates.  In addition, the Bureau had taken note of the special theme selected for the Annual Ministerial Review in 2008 -- “Implementing the internationally-agreed goals and commitments in regard to sustainable development”, and requested that the Chair make a statement during the Review in July 2008.  Among other things, the Bureau had also suggested that the draft agenda for the forty-second session include a new item entitled “Debate on the contribution of population and development issues to the Annual Ministerial Review and the Development Cooperation Forum”.

Follow-up to Recommendations of International Conference

THOMAS BUETTNER, Assistant Director, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on “world population monitoring, saying it focused on population distribution, urbanization, internal migration and development.  Accelerated urban growth had occurred during the second half of the twentieth century, particularly in the developing world, leading to the milestone that the world was about to reach -- the point where the urban population surpassed the rural population for the first time in history.  The document reviewed trends in, and prospects for, urban and rural population growth and changes in city populations.

Whereas the urban population would continue to increase, the rural population would peak at 3.5 billion around 2019 and decline thereafter, he said.  Despite the rapid urbanization expected to occur in Africa, Asia and developing Oceania, those three major areas were expected to remain the least urbanized until 2050.  In contrast, Latin America and the Caribbean were already among the most urbanized areas in the world, with a proportion of urban dwellers falling between those reached by Europe and North America, while Africa, Asia and Oceania would be at least 84 per cent urban by 2050.  India’s rural population would reach a maximum around 2025, at over 900 million, and was expected to decrease to 743 million in 2050.

Today’s 3.4 billion urban dwellers were distributed unevenly among urban settlements of different sizes, he continued.  In discussing urbanization, emphasis was often placed on mega-cities of at least 10 million inhabitants.  Today, there were 19 such mega-cities, most of them in populous Asian countries.  The urban agglomeration around Tokyo was the largest, with nearly 36 million inhabitants.  However, 52 per cent of all urban dwellers lived in small cities of fewer than half a million inhabitants.  The report recommended that improvement of service delivery to the urban poor, inhabitants of small cities and those of rural areas be given priority.

Meeting the family planning needs of poor urban dwellers and rural inhabitants would help reduce population pressure over the long run, he said.  In order to accommodate future urban growth, local authorities must plan ahead, especially by providing the urban poor with serviced land to build and improve their own housing.  Civil society organizations should be encouraged to collaborate in addressing the problems associated with urban poverty.  To combat rural poverty, efforts should be made to ensure secure land tenure, improve access to water resources, and to facilitate and encourage investment to enhance agricultural productivity.  Integrated development strategies that capitalized on the interactions between small cities and neighbouring rural localities could provide a framework for the generation of off-farm employment for rural areas.

JOSE MIGUEL GUZMAN, Technical Support Division, UNFPA, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on Monitoring of the Population Programmes, Focusing on Population Distribution, Urbanization, Internal Migration and Development (document E/CN.9/2008/4), saying it had been prepared in response to the topic-oriented and prioritized multi-year work programme of the Population Commission.  It examined the unprecedented migration-driven transformation of the world population from rural to urban, the natural increase of the urban population and the reclassification of settlements previously considered rural.  It also examined the economic, social, demographic and environmental implications of urbanization, and described some common misconceptions about urban growth, as well as UNFPA’s programmatic assistance to countries in responding to the challenges of rapid urbanization.

Recalling the Fund’s prediction more than 10 years ago that the growth of cities would be the single largest influence on development in the twenty-first century, he noted that, while a billion people already lived in slums, many in overcrowded conditions without access to adequate public services, sanitation or clean water, urbanization could nevertheless play a positive role in development.  Policies and programmes must be developed by involving different stakeholders, and they must respond to the needs of the diverse demographic groups in cities, particularly the poor, whose voices must also be heard.  UNFPA helped countries develop effective public policies and sought to raise awareness of the interrelationships among global population growth, demographic dynamics, urbanization, the environment, sustainable development and poverty reduction.  The Fund encouraged policy dialogue, capacity-building, data collection, research and advocacy as part of a good strategy for policy and programmatic support.

ANN PAWLICZKO, Population and Development Branch, Technical Support Division, UNFPA, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on The Flow of Financial Resources for Assisting in the Implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (document E/CN.9/2008/5), explaining that the document responded to the Commission’s request for an annual report on financial flows to assist the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action.  It analysed international and domestic financial resource flows, which were part of the “costed population package”, which included funding in family planning services; basic reproductive health services; sexually-transmitted-disease activities; and basic research, data and analysis of population and development policy.

The ICPD Action Programme had estimated the cost of implementing the population and reproductive health package in developing countries and those with economies in transition at $18.5 billion annually by 2005, and $20.5 billion in 2010, she said.  Approximately two thirds of that cost was expected to come from developing countries, and one third, or $6.8 billion, from the international donor community.  Both donor assistance and domestic expenditures for population activities continued to increase.  Once all data were in, donor assistance was expected to surpass $8 billion in 2006 and domestic resources were expected to be $23 billion for that year.  Continued increases in donor and domestic resources were expected in both 2007 and 2008.

She said that, despite the significant funding increases, the resources mobilized were still not sufficient to meet current developing countries’ needs because the targets had been fixed based on experiences as of 1993 and the population and health situation in the world today was very different.  The needs were greater than anticipated when the Cairo financial targets were agreed, and costs had risen astronomically.  The value of the dollar was far lower than it was in 1993.  In short, the sad reality is that the ICPD targets were out of date and not sufficient to meet today’s evolving needs.   “We cannot expect to be complacent about reaching the targets if the targets no longer meet our needs.”

The consequences of resource shortfalls included significant increases in unintended pregnancies, abortions, maternal morbidity and mortality, infant and child mortality, as well as AIDS-related morbidity and mortality, she said.  Maternal mortality remained unacceptably high in many parts of the world.  Many people did not have access to the family planning and reproductive health services that they wanted and needed.  It should be ensured that sufficient resources were mobilized to meet the unmet needs, especially among the poorest populations, for good quality, affordable and accessible family planning, reproductive health, and sexually transmitted disease and HIV/AIDS services, including prevention.

Noting that the increase in resource mobilization was due largely to increases in funding for HIV/AIDS, and acknowledging that a substantial amount of money was need to stop its spread, she stressed the importance of mobilizing adequate resources for the other equally critical components of the ICPD population package, especially for family planning and reproductive health.  It was important for both donors and developing countries to mobilize additional resources.  Developing countries should increase their national budgets for population, while substantial donor assistance was essential to enable the least developed countries to achieve the ICPD goals.  The lack of adequate funding remained the chief constraint to full implementation of the ICPD Action Programme for many developing countries that could not mobilize sufficient resources to fund much-needed population and AIDS programmes.


JOHN ASHE (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, voiced concern that the documentation before the Commission focused on the inevitability of urbanization, without addressing the steps needed to arrive at truly sustainable urban growth.  The reports also failed to address the consequences for rural areas as a result of rapid urbanization, the impact of which could be devastating to rural communities, especially as the growth of cities was occurring now at a much faster pace in developing countries.

Noting that increased urban growth was more often a result of natural increase than migration, he said unemployment, poverty, and hunger were among the other causes that could affect the economic and social stability of many countries and regions.  The Group of 77, therefore, reaffirmed Principle 7 of the ICPD Programme of Action, which described poverty eradication as “an indispensable requirement” to achieve sustainable development, reduce the disparities in living standards and better meet the needs of the majority of the world’s people, especially those living in the rural parts of developing countries.

He said full implementation, particularly of reproductive health goals, had a direct impact on the ability to achieve the Millennium Goals relating to health and social and economic outcomes affecting children, mothers, HIV/AIDS, gender, poverty and employment.  In the context of population and development, the targets aiming to halve the proportion of people living in poverty by 2015 and significantly improving the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers, by 2020, were even more significant.

SANJA STIGLIC (Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said urbanization was an integral part of economic and social development which, if rapid and unregulated, could have adverse consequences for populations by straining existing urban infrastructure and services, resulting in higher rates of urban poverty and environmental degradation.  One challenge facing European cities was joblessness among youth.  With an unemployment rate of 18.6 per cent among young people under 25 years of age, cities had to compensate for enormous fluctuations.  Urban development policy also had to tackle social exclusion and isolation in individual neighbourhoods.  Long-term and stable economic growth was not possible unless cities remained socially balanced and stable.  Even more attention must be devoted to the educational and other needs and rights of children and young people in urban areas.  The European Union had developed, or envisaged, a wide variety of policy responses.

As urban growth stemmed mostly from natural growth rather than migration, Governments must ensure long-term investment in sexual and reproductive health, family planning and the empowerment of women and girls, she stressed.  Urban growth, if ill-planned and ill-governed, would only increase poverty and misery.  Global urbanization could neither be prevent nor stopped.  The key concern was to make the best of it for humankind.  Proactive urban governance, including regulation of land supply, and minimal services, such as secure tenure, water, sanitation, waste disposal and power were important, as was anticipating the future growth of cities and their present needs.  Urban areas in developing countries were also environments in which women and young people were more vulnerable to violence, abuse and deaths associated with pregnancy and childbirth.  Poverty in urban slums forced people into the sex industry, which was a driving force in HIV transmission.

The demand of city dwellers for housing, schools, jobs and health facilities, including family planning and access to sexual and reproductive health services, would increase and must be met, she said.  At the same time, migration to urban centres should not be prevented, as it was now clear that urbanization could reduce poverty in the long term.  The European Union fully endorsed the view that employment was a key route out of poverty.  Large urban areas played a crucial role in contributing to the Lisbon Agenda, and the European Union financial instruments, such as the European Social Fund -- which invested more than €10 billion in individuals each year -- were also available to support the active inclusion approach, or the integration of deprived neighbourhoods and vulnerable groups into urban areas.

The year 2008 marked a defining moment in terms of human settlements and human history as, for the first time, the number of urban dwellers would equal the number of rural dwellers, she noted.  That unprecedented shift of the world population highlighted the important role of the international community in helping States to reach the Millennium Development Goals.  The challenges of urbanization could not be addressed in isolation from rural developments, such as labour migration or population ageing.  Rural poverty, particularly in developing countries, should be effectively addressed as a root cause of mass rural-urban migration that challenged well-managed urbanization processes.  On that basis, the European Union favoured prioritizing the improvement of service delivery, not only to the urban poor and inhabitants of small cities, but also to rural areas.  Strategies for rural poverty reduction must address the whole range of problems and take due account of the diversity of rural areas and population groups, as well as the changing context of rural poverty.

HAO LINNA, Director-General for International Cooperation, National Population and Family Planning Commission of China, said that, since the over-development of large cities could bring about increased poverty, environmental pollution and social chaos, alleviating widespread migration from rural to urban areas through the development of small and medium cities, in accordance with their own reality and needs, could be an effective approach.  China appreciated the United Nations system’s support for population programmes and expected the Organization’s agencies and other international organizations to help developing countries work out a scientific urbanization strategy and strengthen the management of urbanization and population migration.  It was also important to foster the coordinated development of urban and rural areas, establishing a sound, unified, open, competitive and orderly labour-market system and solving problems of medical care, housing, social security, education and safe drinking water.  Consistent efforts were also needed to alleviate absolute poverty, address population ageing and meet the basic needs of rural elders.

It was still a great challenge to maintain sustainable development, harmony between man and nature and the stability of the world population, she said.  Governments should, in line with the Millennium Development Goals, make every effort to deliver basic family planning/reproductive health services to migrating and floating populations, especially young and poor people, and to prevent and control sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.  It was also important to strengthen capacity-building in developing countries.  China called upon the Commission on Population and Development, UNFPA, the Population Division and other agencies, as well as developed countries, to help developing countries enhance their capacity for research and management of urbanization and population migration through policy dialogue, exchange of experience, information sharing and cooperative programmes.

BEKSULTAN TUTKUSHEV ( Kazakhstan) said that, as of 1 January, urban dwellers accounted for at least 52.9 per cent of his country’s population.  From 1991 to 2007, more than 4 million people had migrated internally and the past three years had seen 300,000 migrants per year.  Internal migrants had a low capacity to adapt, and their movements were in response to emergency situations, which put pressure on the labour markets.  In such conditions, internal migrants became high-risk social groups.  Unfortunately, the systems for managing internal migration flows had proven incapable of significantly influencing events.  There was no monitoring or analysis of the situation, and no forecasting or policies in place to improve it.  On the basis of observed trends, especially the anticipated further industrialization, internal migration would increase.  With advances in technology, however, the agricultural sector would see a lower demand for manpower, and unemployment would rise.

To avoid the growth of urban slums, many towns were now developing plans to provide plots of land on which inhabitants could build, he said.  Water pipes, sewage, electricity, schools and health centres were being developed, and in the rural areas, the State sought to improve medical care, build schools and provide clean drinking water.  To reverse unemployment, the labour law was being amended to provide job security and social-sector employment.  The Labour Code now included sections on job training and placement, including professional training for young people and retraining of unemployed people and staff under threat of major private-sector downsizing.  A working group had been set up to improve legislation governing internal migration.  It was studying the laws of other countries and analysing regional flows, as well as the forecasting of future population movements.  Kazakhstan was also developing special redistricting of the economically active population so as to ensure balanced labour markets.

DAVID SATTERTHWAITE, Senior Fellow, International Institute for Environment and Development, delivered today’s keynote address on urbanization and internal migration and their relevance to sustainable development, praising the convenience, vitality and services of cities.  Urbanization was often seen as a problem but it was also strongly associated with economic success.  All the richest nations were highly urbanized, while all the poorest nations were predominantly rural.  Urbanization brought very strong development advantages, for instance in lowering the unit cost of providing piped water, sewers, drains, health care, education and emergency services.  It also had some strong environmental advantages in keeping down energy use, cutting waste, controlling pollution, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Urbanization followed economic growth and in many ways was a reflection of economic success, he said.  Large, successful, rapidly growing cities concentrated a much higher proportion of a nation’s gross domestic product than of its population.  Cities whose population had grown very rapidly owing to an influx of people fleeing wars, civil unrest, famine and disasters were exceptions.  There were also a few examples of nations that had urbanized without economic growth.  Most of those examples were from African nations after gaining political independence.  But urbanization did not simply follow economic growth -- it also served to support it.  New enterprises concentrated in cities, but as national or regional economies grew, the larger cities grew too expensive for many enterprises, which then invested in smaller cities.  That decentralization of urban development was greatly helped if smaller cities were well governed and enjoyed good inter-city transport and communications.  Thus, if national Governments were worried about the rapid growth of their large cities, the best way to reduce it was to support good governance in smaller cities.  Numerous successful examples included Brazilian cities like Porto Alegre and Curitiba, which had drawn new investment away from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

Turning to health issues, he said that, while it was common for half a city’s population to live in slums and illegal settlements, where health conditions were awful, the more urbanized a nation, the higher the life expectancy.  There were also many examples of large cities with some of the highest life expectancies in the world and the lowest infant and child mortality rates.  For example, residents of Tunis, the Tunisian capital in North Africa, had a life expectancy more than 30 years higher than many other African cities.  Perhaps the most important indicator of a good city government was how small the gap was between the life expectancy of rich and poor groups.  In cities with high average life expectancies, most of the low-income population had access to safe water, sanitation and good services.

On other aspects of urbanization, he said that in many cities, including Mumbai, India, amazing partnerships had been developed between Government agencies and local federations of slum- and pavement-dwellers.  There were now community police stations in most Mumbai slums and local police worked with slum residents.  There were also community-managed toilets and washing facilities built and managed by resident committees.

Regarding the role of urbanization in global warming, he described claims that cities were responsible for up to 80 per cent of all greenhouse gases as “nonsense”.  Most large fossil-fuelled power stations and much heavy industry, including cement production and metal smelters, were in rural areas or small urban centres.  Cities might be responsible for a higher proportion of greenhouse gas emissions, taking the consumption perspective, but well-governed cities could have very low emissions per person, relative to their quality of life.  They should be seen as solutions to global warming rather than problems.  The core of sustainable development was combining very good living conditions with an ecologically sustainable draw on the planet’s resources and life-support systems.  “We need the imagination to see the potential of cities, to rescue the much-forgotten concept of the public good and its importance on development and in environmental management.”

Cities needed governments with the bravery to engage with all their urban citizens and their own organizations, not just the wealthier, better-connected ones, he stressed.  Civil servants should have the bravery to see low-income groups and their community organizations living in informal settlements and working in the informal economy as very real partners with the knowledge and capacity to help build and improve cities.  It was necessary to be far more innovative in thinking how to make urban land markets work for the whole city, which would allow low-income households to get decent housing.

Ms. ZLOTNIK, Director of the Population Division, moderated the ensuing dialogue, in which participants asked about the optimal city size, the definition of urbanization, city governance and administration structures, internal migration in relation to age and sex composition, and the impact of that movement on social services.

One speaker, noting the existence of major inequalities in the world, asked about the extent to which the developing world could afford further growth in cities and the impoverishment of rural populations.  Another country representative wanted to know how life expectancy could be measured in slums.  A third delegate commented on the fact that rural development helped to check urbanization and slowed the growth of cities.

Mr. SATTERTHWAITE said it was difficult to provide a definition of “urban” as definitions were often changed for political reasons.  Obviously, urbanization was a concentration of people in non-agrarian employment.  Otherwise, it was sometimes difficult to draw the line between urban and rural populations.  However, urbanization should not be seen as counter-productive to rural development.  For example, some large cities had emerged from successful coffee- and tea-producing towns.  An important aspect was participatory budgeting.  However, the existence of an abstract “optimal city size” was doubtful because optimality was defined by local context.

Citing the growth of Cape Town’s slums due to internal migration, he noted that people moved because of economic opportunities, but while that was good for South Africa’s economy, city authorities had the enormously difficult responsibility of dealing with the high rate of migration as it was difficult for local governments to provide the resources to deal with such rapid growth.

EDUARDO RIOS-NETO ( Brazil) said the right to strive for individual and family socio-economic mobility was an important basic human right.  Nationally, both economic and political constraints associated with economic development and the provision of local services might leave rural-urban migration as one of the few alternative means for locals to achieve socio-economic mobility, thus reinforcing the basic right to internal migration.  Although poverty rates measured in monetary terms tended to be lower in large cities than in smaller urban localities and rural areas, a multidimensional measure of poverty would display the importance of the housing, transportation and other costs associated with residence in large cities.  That point should be considered in the welfare comparisons between rural and urban areas, notwithstanding the positive impact of urbanization on the well-being of the population.

Turning to the intra-urban disparity generally observed between migrants and non-migrants living in large cities, he said that where infrastructure was concerned, migrants were usually under-serviced, for instance, in land titling, electricity, central water, central sewerage, and garbage collection.  The under-provision of health, education and other services was also common.  The corollary to that was urban growth with spatial segregation.  A framework based on rights to infrastructure and social provision of services to migrants, to be matched by those found among non-migrants, tended to regulate urban growth in a positive way.  Most developing countries that had experienced urbanization in the last century had failed to incorporate that dimension, which favoured the growth of informal dwellings and spatial segregation.  The explicit goal of fully servicing migrants in urban sites tended to increase the quality of life in urban areas and spread urban growth to a larger network of cities.

ISMAT JAHAN ( Bangladesh) said rapid urbanization entailed significant economic, social, demographic and environmental consequences.  Poverty was much more rampant in urban than rural areas.  Globally from 1993 to 2002, the total number of poor had declined by 98 million, an achievement attributed entirely to better performance in rural areas.  During that period, rural poverty had decreased by 148 million, while urban poverty had risen by 50 million, mostly due to rural-urban migration.  Also, the prevalence of deadly diseases like AIDS was higher in urban than rural areas.  Globally, approximately 1 billion people were now living in slums and Asia had the highest number with 542 million, followed by Africa with 179 million.  Projections suggested that, in the next 30 years, the global number of slum-dwellers would rise to about 2 billion unless concerted action was taken.

He said the massive task ahead was to reverse the spread of poverty, provide better housing and living conditions, and ensure access to basic social services and employment.  Addressing those challenges was the urgent development priority of the day.  The challenges of urbanization for least developed countries were paramount.  Some 225 million people now lived in urban areas and 580 million in rural areas of the least developed countries.  That figure was projected to increase to 967 million in urban areas and to 775 million in rural areas by 2050.  In 2050, 55 per cent of the total population of the least developed countries would be living in urban areas.  Today nearly 140 million people in those countries, or 18 per cent, lived in poor housing, under conditions of abject poverty, high unemployment or underemployment.  They had limited access to basic services like safe drinking water, sanitation and health care.

The key to sustainable urbanization in developing and least developing countries was an integrated approach that ensured that urban development was not at the expense of rural development, he said.  Urban management and planning ahead was also essential to unleashing the potential of urban growth.  Sustainable urban development must be based on environmentally sound technologies.  The cross-cutting nature of sustainable urbanization and urban poverty reduction issues warranted a coordinated approach involving UN-HABITAT, United Nations funds, programmes and specialized agencies, as well as other relevant stakeholders.  The Commission could play a central role in providing a platform for the exchange of innovative models and successes.  There was an urgent need for reliable and timely data for appropriate policy programming at the national, regional and international levels, he said.  The reports before the Commission did not appropriately address the special concerns of the least developed countries.

SISWANTO AGUS WILOPO, Deputy Chairman, National Planning Coordinating Board of Indonesia, said urbanization was undeniably a positive force for change, yet it raised the question of whether it actually enhanced the achievement of the internationally agreed development targets, including the Millennium Development Goals.  In developing countries, internal migration often created employment imbalances, which affected both rural and urban development.  The rural economy was weakened and produced far below capacity.  Urbanization had also influenced the degree of environmental pollution.  The current session must, therefore, emphasize the need to manage population growth, especially the imbalance between urban and rural populations; increased energy and food prices; and the need to enhance productivity in rural areas, so that the transition from rural to urban communities produced minimal social impacts.

The session should also promote and facilitate efforts to close the gap between the rural and urban sectors by continuing the decentralization process in development, he said.  It was necessary to develop urban-rural linkages and synergies so as to encourage a system whereby the poor could be transformed collectively into a repository of valued skills and resources.  Basic service delivery for the poor and the development of new forms of partnerships to build capacity, channel financing and technologies, including environmentally sound technologies, were also important, as were the sharing of information and experiences.  While national Governments bore the main responsibility for implementing poverty reduction, economic and social change could also take effect through corporate social responsibility and civil society.  The private sector and civil society had shown they were willing partners in helping Governments achieve the Millennium Goals and related targets.  Both were also important in the global response to climate change.

DARLENE WILLIAMS (United States) said there was a positive correlation between per capita income and level of urbanization and, while much debate remained on the complex relationship between urbanization and economic growth, it remained essential for Governments to recognize their role in creating enabling environments and pro-poor, pro-growth policies so that urbanization raised standards and the quality of life for city dwellers.  The international community had expended much effort debating the relative importance of urban and rural development, with each side making claims to primacy.  It was important to address urbanization as an issue affecting both urban and rural areas.  Many local governments were responsible for governing both rural and urban populations and the interplay between both regarding issues like employment, food production and distribution, environmental stewardship, education and health care necessitated a comprehensive rather than a sectoral focus.

The United States did not endorse definitive statements like “all the evidence indicates that people benefit from living in urban areas” as contained in the first report.  Nor did it favour urbanization and rural-urban migration in and of themselves, as another sentence seemed to imply.  Rather it supported working with local institutions to enhance their capacity to address urban and spatial issues, and urban-rural linkages that would improve the lives of both the urban and rural poor.  While the continued urbanization of the world population may be necessary to ensure sustainable development, as stated in the report, continued urbanization without sufficient planning by local, regional and national institutions was not likely to lead to sustainable development, but would more probably exacerbate the issues currently facing cities.

Accordingly, she continued, faster urbanization should be encouraged in all cases, as the first report seemed to suggest.  Neither, however, should urbanization be hindered.  Governments should be prepared and provide options to deal with increased urbanization rather than merely allowing it to occur and then coping as best they could with the results.  Well-planned and managed urban centres would enable a better quality of life for both urban and rural dwellers.  Living conditions and associated health and mortality indicators were, on average, better in urban than rural settings.  Overall, urban conditions were better than rural.  In pockets, however, and especially in slums, urban dwellers endured living conditions that approached, or were even worse than, those of rural dwellers.  The United States encouraged better property-rights systems as tools to mitigate housing and poverty issues in those areas.

The decline of the rural poor, both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the world’s poor would continue for decades, so it was imperative to deal with both urban and rural poor for the foreseeable future, she continued.  The reports before the Commission -- while examining many important issues -- neglected the critical role that the private sector could play as a partner in bringing solutions to scale.  The level of investment required to improve urban economic infrastructure and to respond to the enormous demand for adequate housing was beyond the scope of local authorities and associations.  Engaging the private sector was necessary in order to bring public projects and programmes to scale.  For developing nations, achieving greater urban productivity and mobilizing decent, affordable shelter required a positive, proactive response to urbanization.  The United States would continue to work through public-private partnerships between, as well as with, non-governmental organizations and civil society to foster urban productivity.

Rapid urbanization was an emerging issue of immense importance, which defied simple solutions, she said.  It was an especially difficult issue for most bureaucracies to address because it was not a single issue but an intersection of many jurisdictions and areas of responsibility -- housing, water, sanitation, power, health, employment, pollution, crime, education, politics, transportation, loss of agricultural land, and more.  It was critically important to address the current situation faced by the urban poor in existing slum communities.  Equally critical was the need to consider ways to prevent the formation of additional future slums in the future.  With developing countries adding nearly 2 billion additional urban dwellers over the next 25 years, there was great potential for explosive growth in slum populations.  That would be one of the most significant development issues in the coming decades.

She said the Secretary-General’s third report on the flow of financial resources for implementing the ICPD Action Programme was a useful examination of donor and domestic expenditures on population activities, and the United States was pleased to contribute to the trend of increasing donor assistance.  This year, it would contribute approximately $457 million in bilateral assistance for family planning and reproductive health care, up from $436 million in 2007.  The United States had contributed $18.8 million since 2003 to fight HIV/AIDS, including $6 billion in 2008 alone.  The Government was committed to working in partnership to tackle the complex challenges associated with rapid urban growth in the developing world and countries with economies in transition.

BONIFACE KOYUGI ( Kenya) recalled that the Programme of Action called for the fostering of a more balanced spatial distribution of the population by the integrated promotion of the equitable and ecologically sustainable development of major sending and receiving areas while reducing the role of various factors as they related to migration flows.  Prior to the Action Plan’s adoption, Kenya had adopted explicit policies to influence internal migration and help achieve a more balanced spatial population distribution.  Those measures, which were ongoing, included the implementation of a district focus on rural development strategies, implementation of rural electrification and access to roads, the creation of rural trade and production centres, and the implementation of a balanced rural-urban strategy aimed at shifting the growth of large urban centres to medium- and small-sized urban centres.

Among the main challenges was the concentration of more than half the urban population in just a few towns, he said.  Another major challenge was the socio-economic disparities between urban and rural areas and the perception of opportunity in the urban centres.  The Action Programme also called for the enhanced management of urban centres and improved the security and quality of life for both rural and urban residents.  Several areas of progress included the annual allocation of resources under the local authorities’ transfer fund; improved housing and sanitation conditions, for which efforts were ongoing; and the establishment of welfare groups to address the special needs of urban residents.  Persistent challenges included an urban population growth rate that was more than double that of the rural population, which put pressure on available resources and facilities.

Recalling that the Action Programme also asked States to ensure adequate protection and assistance for internally displaced persons by seeking the root causes of their displacement and facilitating their return for resettlement, he said displacements in Kenya, had been caused by natural disasters and man-made causes.  The Government had prepared a national disaster-management policy based on an assessment of vulnerabilities and risks.  It had also provided for the adequate protection of and basic services for internally displaced persons.  The major remaining challenge was implementing the national disaster-management policy and taking effective conflict prevention and resolution measures.

DIRK JASPERS-FAIJER, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said a recent study conducted by the Commission on the social panorama of Latin America in 2007 had dealt with migration in the region, providing the most recent and complete analysis of the issue.  Relevant information had also been included on the Commission’s website.

It was foreseen that all the material produced by ECLAC would be published as a book this year, he said.  The Commission had also collaborated with various United Nations agencies, including UN-HABITAT and UNFPA.  Some of the studies in which the Commission had participated included State of the World’s Cities 2008/2009 and State of the World’s Population 2007.  The Commission also provided technical advice to countries in the region and participated in organizing relevant workshops.

HOSSEIN GHARIBI ( Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, noted that the Secretary-General’s reports repeatedly emphasized the need to change the stereotypes and misperceptions of policymakers from countries with high urbanization rates.  The reports suggested that anti-migration policies should be replaced with sound urbanization policies that addressed challenges and took advantage of the process for developmental purposes.  While Iran agreed to a certain extent that there were linkages between urbanization and development, there seemed to be a lack of a clear development-based approach in the reports’ conclusions.

Needless to say, developing countries faced tremendous economic and financial challenges inherited from the unjust and imbalanced global economic, financial and trade systems, he said.  While they tried to cope with the current challenges in urban and rural areas, unexpected rural-urban migration flows were an additional burden.  In that light, prescribing policies to exploit the possibilities that cities offered without considering the conditions of developing countries was not much help.  While Iran commended the efforts of population programmes to assist in such areas as policy formulation, data collection and research, the way in which they were reported did not meet its expectations.

The measures undertaken by UNFPA country offices ranged from an interview with a local newspaper to a joint project in health care encompassing fewer than 30 countries and two subregions, he said.  Member States should be given more comprehensive and measurable data in order to get as clear a general picture as possible of the Fund’s activities and their impact on the development of population-related national strategies.  The report should also include more countries from all developing regions.  There were many capacities to be explored and utilized in the promotion of South-South cooperation; those countries shared many of the similarities relating to the theme of this year’s session.  It was also advisable for UNFPA to introduce several inputs to the ongoing efforts towards the preparation of the fourth cooperation framework for South-South cooperation.  Iran encouraged more consultation and interaction with Member States in the overall work of the Population Division and its preparation of reports.

KEIKO OSAKI, Chief, Population and Social Integration Section, Emerging Social Issues Division, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said the region’s urban population was expected to increase markedly in coming decades, from 1.6 billion in 2007 to 3.4 billion in 2050.  The urban populations of China, India and Indonesia, taken together, accounted for some 30 per cent of the world’s urban population.  Many countries in the region had attempted to control rural-urban migration, or redirect migration flows, with little or no effect.  As a result, the region had 11 of the world’s 19 mega-cities.  Cities like Lahore and Karachi in Pakistan, and Dhaka in Bangladesh, were also growing fast.  Poverty remained concentrated in the region’s rural areas, with 65 to 80 per cent of the 641 million people living on less than a dollar a day being rural dwellers.

Although the region had seen a dramatic drop in poverty in recent years, especially in East Asia, only 34 per cent of rural people had access to improved sanitation, she said.  Due to a lack of public health services, child mortality levels remained high in the rural areas of many countries, especially in South Asia.  Employment in the informal sector had been prevalent, and limited access to income and employment opportunities often forced people to live in areas not suitable for habitation.  The latest statistics showed that more than 400 million people, or 35 per cent of the urban population lived in slums.  This year the Commission planned to launch the first “State of Asian Cities Report” at the fourth session of the UN-HABITAT World Urban Forum in November.  It would also undertake, jointly with UN-HABITAT, the “Urban Safety for the Poor in Asia and the Pacific” project, which aimed to enhance the capacity of urban local governments in the region.

BATOOL SHAKOORI, Population and Social Policies Team Leader, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said the urban population in the Arab region was projected to increase to 57.1 per cent in 2010.  To raise awareness of rural-urban migration, ESCWA had dedicated the third issue of its biennial Demographic Profile of the Arab Countries to that issue.  The evidence gathered suggested an exodus of people between the ages of 15 and 64 from rural areas.  That shift in population and the ageing of the rural population might have far-reaching development implications for rural agriculture, economy, environment, social organization and relevant institutions.

The Commission’s work in fostering sustainable urban development and social inclusion had taken root in its efforts to attain the Millennium Goals, he said.  Among the Commission’s other efforts in that regard was a recent expert group meeting on urban governance and the Millennium Goals.  On the advocacy level, ESCWA annually published its country profiles on urbanization and housing policies, which provided an overall assessment of the housing and urban development sector.  The Commission had also recently issued a study on urbanization and the changing character of Arab cities.

However, continuing to ignore rural people in planning and programming efforts would result in serious implications, since it would limit the scope for achieving the ICPD Programme of Action, he cautioned, noting that rural people, especially women and the elderly, were already suffering notable inequities.  In many countries, their burdens had been increased by dramatically reduced social budgets as Governments implemented structural reforms.

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*     The 1st Meeting was covered in Press Release POP/957 of 13 April 2007.

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.