Saturday, June 17, 2006
The very-real problems of American cities pale in comparison to those of poor countries. This week Vancouver will host a World Urban Forum, organized by the United Nations Urban Settlement Programme. UN-Habitat is also releasing the 2006 State of World's Cities Report. More than half of the world's 6.5 billion people now live in urban areas, and this total in expected to rise to two-thirds by 2020. Nearly a billion people live in city slums, where health criteria such as nutrition and life expectancy are not always better than in poor rural areas. It was an assumption of 20th century policy, of course, that urbanization meant more reliable access to food and health care. This may no longer be the case, just as it was not back in the dark days of early 19th century England.