This paper sets out how working towards sustainable urbanization is crucial for the sustaining peace agenda. It builds on the ongoing reforms of the peace, security and development pillars of the United Nations and it illustrates how UN-Habitat’s expertise and experiences add value to the humanitarian development- peace actions of the UN in the region.
Addressing and preventing urban crises in the Arab region is of particular importance and urgency. 2021 finds the Arab region under the crossfire caused by an economic crisis precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and particularly felt in conflict affected countries such as Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The region is home to 405 million people - half of them are 25 or younger - and it has the highest population growth rate in the world. Nearly 60 per cent of people live in urban centres and over a quarter of urban dwellers – about 82 million people - live in slums. Unemployment rates among Arab youth are the highest in the world, turning this large social segment into a source of concern and potential instability.
The region carries the largest burden of displaced populations globally. 50 million people are in need humanitarian assistance, including over 15 million forcibly displaced (UNHCR2019), and displacement has an increasingly urban face. In 2018, 61 per cent of the refugee population lived in urban centres, a trend that is mirrored in the Arab region.
The paper describes the importance of sustainable urbanization in two interrelated areas of impact:
- Urban crisis response and recovery, and
- Sustainable urbanization as an enabler of peace and stability.