World Cities Report 2022
World Cities Report 2022: Envisaging the Future of Cities seeks to provide greater clarity and insights into the future of cities based on existing trends, challenges and opportunities, as well as disruptive conditions, including the valuable lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, and suggest ways that cities can be better prepared to address a wide range of shocks and transition to sustainable urban futures. The Report proposes a state of informed preparedness that provides us with the opportunity to anticipate change, correct the course of action and become more knowledgeable of the different scenarios or possibilities that the future of cities offers.
"Cities have borne the brunt of the pandemic. Urban areas are already home to 55 per cent of the world’s population, and that figure is expected to grow to 68 per cent by 2050. Our rapidly urbanizing world must respond effectively to this pandemic and prepare for future infectious disease outbreaks."
"The novel coronavirus pandemic triggered the worst public health crisis in a century and we are now living through the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. With over 90 per cent of confirmed cases coming from urban areas, cities remain the epicentres of COVID-19."
The COVID-19 pandemic does not signify the end of cities: transition to resilient and sustainable urban futures.
While the COVID-19 pandemic dominated the two years between editions of the World Cities Report and upended many aspects of urban life, this Report comes at a time when world events create ever more dynamic environments for urban actors. Although of the world has lifted the public health restrictions and border closures that made COVID-19 such a dominant aspect of urban life, the virus continues to flare up periodically and some countries still have strict measures in place. Recently, the world has witnessed a sudden global spike in inflation and cost of living, alongside supply chain disruptions, which is severely affecting the recovery of urban economies. New and persistent armed conflicts have altered the geopolitical order and contributed to global economic uncertainty.Read more
1.Cities are here to stay, and the future of humanity is undoubtedly urban, but not exclusively in large metropolitan areas.
2.Urbanization will continue to be a transformative, but uneven process that will require differentiated responses depending on the diversity of the urban context.
3.The worst-case scenario of urban futures will have disastrous consequences for cities; thus, resulting in economic uncertainties, environmental challenges and exacerbate existing vulnerabilities.
4.A business-as-usual approach will result in a pessimistic scenario of urban futures characterized by the systemic discrimination and exclusion of the poor in urban agendas.
5.With concerted policy action, it is possible for cities to avoid either of the high damage or pessimistic scenarios and instead emerge into a more optimistic urban future.
A new harmonized definition, called the Degree of Urbanization, facilitates international comparisons of urbanization. By defining three main classes of human settlements (cities, towns and semi-dense areas, and rural areas), the Degree of Urbanization captures the urban-rural continuum as recommended by research. It provides a pathway to overcoming the fundamental challenge linked to monitoring urban trends and the development agendas that has lingered over the years: the lack of a unified definition of what constitutes “urban” and its precise measurement.
This chapter provides a unique perspective on future trends using Degree of Urbanization and data emanating from this new harmonized approach. Specifically, it provides scenarios that allow us to understand the anticipated demographic and spatial changes across the urban-rural continuum in various regions as well as their drivers.Read more
1.Global city population share doubled from 25 per cent in 1950 to about 50 per cent in 2020; it is projected to slowly increase to 58 per cent over the next 50 years.
2.Between 2020 and 2070, the number of cities in low-income countries will increase by 76 per cent, in high-income and lower-middle-income countries by about 20 per cent, and in upper-middle-income countries by 6 per cent.
3.Over the next five decades, growth in city land area will mostly take place in low-income (141 per cent), lower-middle-income (44 per cent) and high-income countries (34 per cent). Changes in upper-middle-income countries are projected to be relatively small (13 per cent).
4.Small cities cover almost half of city land (about 45 per cent) in low-income countries, a trend that will persist over the coming decades.
Cities generate wealth but also concentrate poverty and inequality. From the overcrowded slums in the developing world to homelessness and pockets of destitution in the developed world, urban poverty and inequality take many forms. We cannot envision a bright future for cities when inequality appears to be on the rise globally and poverty in certain regions. How to tackle poverty and inequality are among the most pressing challenges facing urban areas; and improving income and a wide range of opportunities for all is essential to achieving an optimistic urban future. The global development agenda gives prime of place to the issue, with SDG 1, which calls for a world in which we “end poverty in all its forms everywhere.” If urban poverty is not addressed, then this goal will remain elusive.Read more
1.Urban poverty and inequality are highly complex and multidimensional challenges whose manifestation go beyond lack of income.
2.Without concerted action at all levels, poverty and inequality could become the face of the future of cities.
3.Poverty is on the rise in close to one-third of the countries in Sub-Saharan African, and most countries in the region are off-track in ending poverty by 2030.
4.The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed years of remarkable progress made in the fight against poverty and has resulted in the emergence of newly poor people.
5.The level of urban poverty and inequality, coupled with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are clear indicators that governments must act now to create the conditions that nurture equitable urban futures.
The urban economy is integral to the future of cities. Given the size of the contribution of cities to the national economy, the future of many countries will be determined by the productivity of its urban areas. People first gathered in denser human settlements for the purpose of trading at markets, and this fundamental aspect of urban life has evolved over time. Today’s urban economies are complex systems tied to global trade and capital flows, in which foreign entities can own the property next door and distant events can affect the prices for local goods. Cities must be smarter than ever about how they position their economies for the maximum benefit of all residents while also safeguarding the environment and improving their city’s quality of life.Read more
1.Future shocks that significantly impact urban economies are imminent. However, there are disparities in cities’ resilience to face such shocks, with some more prepared than others.
2.The informal economy is still and will continue to be vibrant economic force in urban areas of developing countries. The sector must therefore be recognized and supported as a legitimate contributor to urban economies through a wide range of inclusive policies and targeted programmes.
3.Well-planned and managed urbanization is a transformative force towards sustainable and inclusive growth in the future of cities.
4.The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed an unprecedented crisis resulting in massive job losses, shrinking local revenues and contraction of urban economic growth. This experience demonstrates the urgency of building resilient urban economies for the future.
5.Cities in developing countries are experiencing rapid urbanization without structural transformation, thus failing to reap productivity gains, which make them highly vulnerable to future shocks.
Climate change and environmental concerns increasingly dominate future scenarios. The increase in extreme weather events and natural disasters like flooding, heatwaves and landslides will impact urban areas the hardest, which makes climate change adaptation a paramount concern. Meanwhile, urban areas are responsible for a majority of the world’s carbon emissions. As such, the transition to net zero greenhouse gas emissions must occur as soon as feasibly possible. Cities can do their part by embracing a wide range of options.Read more
1.Current net zero policies have pitfalls, including an overreliance on underdeveloped technologies that overlook local resources and the lack of integration of local governance strategies in national programmes for action.
2.Climate impacts and other environmental crises interact with drivers of urban inequality, which threatens the futures of cities.
3.Greener futures cannot be secured without just transitions.
4.The world is losing the opportunity to use the post-pandemic context as a catalytic moment to facilitate investment for a transition to net zero carbon emissions.
Cities are complex systems that grow, develop and even shrink based on a variety of forces. Planning is an essential tool for shaping the future of cities, as unplanned human settlements are prone to sprawl, inefficient land use, poor connectivity and a lack of adequate municipal services. Good urban planning is one of the three pillars of sustainable cities, without which cities are unlikely to achieve the optimistic scenario of urban futures.Read more
1.While there was a significant drop in climate emissions during COVID-19 lockdowns, the numbers are rapidly increasing towards pre-COVID levels upon easing of public health restrictions.
2.Current urban planning approaches have achieved limited success in reducing urban inequality and achieving social inclusion, a trend that may persist in the future without appropriate intervention.
3.Indoor and outdoor spaces need redesigning or retrofitting to be more flexible and resilient to shocks, disruptions or pandemics looking into the future.
4.Compact cities are resilient to pandemics and a wide range of other shocks and threats.
5.Cities are strongly linked to their hinterlands; therefore, integrating urban-rural linkages in future urban planning approaches is key for the resilience of cities.
As history attests, the resilience and scalability of cities is undergirded by effective public health. Beyond hospitals, medicines and vaccines, equitable provision of health-promoting infrastructure such as green spaces, improved housing, clean and safe drinking water, and extensive sewer systems to safely dispose of human waste are necessary minimum components for securing public health in urban areas. While COVID-19 led to the first major global pandemic in a century, the future portends more epidemics and pandemics. Public health is now once again at the forefront in envisioning the future of cities.Read more
1.Climate change has overtaken disease as the foremost urban health threat and risks leading to the high damage urban future scenario.
2.The causes of mortality and ill health in cities have shifted significantly in the past 20 years with the rising toll of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in both low-income and higher-income cities.
3.COVID-19 amplified cities' entrenched health inequities with racial/ethnic minorities, women, displaced populations, residents of informal settlements, precarious workers, and other marginalized groups disproportionately affected.
4.Rising levels of depression, anxiety and other mental health impacts have been linked to COVID-19, particularly for essential workers, those with heightened caring duties (especially women), racial/ethnic minorities and other vulnerable groups.
5.In six of the most disruptive conflicts currently waging in the world today, major cities have been active battlegrounds leading to immediate and long-term devastating impacts on urban health and future development.
Whichever future urban challenge cities face, whether it is poverty, health, housing or the environment, urban governance always has a critical enabling role to ensure that the capacities and resources of institutions and people match their responsibilities and desires. Sustainable urban development is not possible without effective multilevel urban governance – including local governments, civil society and national governments. Governments have been severely tested since 2020, which means now is the time to rethink urban governance and put cities on the path to an optimistic future scenario.Read more
1.Through the lens of spatial justice, effective multi-level governance plays a key role in ensuring that global shocks like the pandemic do not disproportionately impact vulnerable groups.
2.The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the digitalization of urban governance, which provides an opportunity to use new data, but also threatens to increase the digital divide.
3.City diplomacy and international city networks provide an emerging opportunity for cities to contribute learning and experience and adapt governance approaches to their own context.
4.Effective decentralization, local fiscal autonomy, adequate local capacity and links between National Urban Policies and cities have not progressed enough.
5.While many cities are engaging in innovative participatory processes, globally, space for civil society is shrinking.
Advances in technology and urban futures are inextricably linked. The future of cities will be knowledge-based, driven largely by innovation and the widespread use of new technologies and digitization of virtually all facets of urban life. Technological innovations define the twenty-first century. Cities are going through a wave of digitalization that is reshaping how urban dwellers live, work, learn and play. Technology holds great promise for improving urban livelihoods, but there are also risks that smart city technology will invade privacy. Cities, meanwhile, are competing for innovation-based businesses in a race that will create both winners and losers in urban futures.Read more
1.Innovation and technology play an increasingly central role in planning for sustainable urban futures.
2.Digitalization and automation are rapidly transforming urban economies.
3.The urgency to decarbonize urban economies is driving the convergence of green and smart technologies.
4.The demand for smart city systems and solutions is estimated to increase annually by 25 per cent, with an overall market value of approximately US$517 billion.
5.Technological advances risk exacerbating existing, and generating new, socioeconomic inequalities.
Any scenario of urban futures outlined in this Report will face unexpected shocks and stresses. Will a given city collapse like a house of cards or withstand whatever unpredictable future comes their way? The answer to that question lies in a city's resilience, a capacity that bookends all of the discussion up to this point. A key message running through this Report is that building economic, social and environmental resilience, including appropriate governance and institutional structures must be at the heart of the future of cities. Cities that are well-planned, managed, and financed have a strong foundation to prepare for such unknown future threats. Moreover, cities that are socially inclusive and work for all their residents are also better positioned to face environmental, public health, economic, social and any other variety of shock or stress, as cities are only as strong as their weakest link.Read more