The notion of prosperity – Mohamed Halfani, UN-Habitat
As the world moves into the urban age, the dynamism and intense vitality of cities become even more prominent. .A fresh future is taking shape, with urban areas around the world becoming not just the dominant form of habitat for humankind, but also the engine-rooms of human development as a whole. This ongoing evolution can be seen as yet another assertion, albeit on a larger scale, of the time-honoured role of cities as centres of prosperity. In the 21st as in much earlier centuries, people congregate in cities to realize aspirations and dreams, fulfill needs and turn ideas into realities. Prosperity in this broader, organic sense transcends narrow economic success to encompass a socially broad-based, balanced and resilient type of development that combines tangible and more intangible aspects.
This teaser to the theme of urban prosperity highlights the disjuncture between current developmental dynamism of cities as exhibited in high levels of material generation and exponential growth in innovation coterminous with abysmal poverty, inequality and environmental degradation. A paradigm shift is suggested which calls for encompassing development dimensions which transcend a narrow economistic focus.
Propositions for addressing the issue:
While Cities have served as engines of growth and dynamism, the resulting prosperity has been fractured and un-inclusive;
Increasingly inequality tends to dominate, protests and discontent are rife, the overall urban sustainability is under threat;
There is a need to revisit the notion of prosperity with a view to articulating a more organic, people-centred and integrated construct which all can strive for.
Mohamed Halfani is currently Head of Research at the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat). He was formerly Head of Urban Development Branch at the same institution. For over 20 years he was a scholar based at various universities and research centres in Africa, Canada and the United States. He also served as the Director of Cabinet at the then Organisation for African Unity. His publications are in the areas of urban governance, African administrative systems, as well as knowledge and research networking.