Ref. :  000011061
Date :  2004-01-09
Language :  English
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Cities Put New Face on Poverty


Rising levels of urban poverty will have major implications for the international aid paradigm.

International aid organizations will be forced to give increased attention to recognizing the problems involved with urban poverty as an increasing proportion of the world's population moves to urban centers.

Robert M. Buckley, a housing advisor with the World Bank's Urban Development Department, said world poverty fighting programs could no longer focus exclusively on rural areas in developing countries.

The continuing wave of people to urban centers in developing countries would have "significant implications for the nature of the development paradigm".

The population of the world's cities is expected to increase by about 2 billion people over the next 25 years and by 2030 about 60 percent of the world's population is expected to reside in urban areas from its current level of about 50 percent.

"Though the majority of the world's poor continue to live in rural areas, poverty is rapidly becoming an urban phenomenon," he said. "Today in many of the Bank's borrowers, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, most of the poor already reside in cities.

"And while in India most poverty remains in the countryside, according to the Government of India's Planning Commission in most of its larger states, the poverty rates in urban areas are for the first time higher than those in rural areas," Buckley said.

By some estimates, more than half the world's poor will be living in cities by 2035.

"In the developing world, many of the poor are already urbanized and the situation will inexorably intensify.''

Besides the change in the location of poverty, international development organizations such as the World Bank were also changing their approaches to addressing poverty. They were increasingly seeking partnerships with non-governmental organizations as they grappled with how to come to terms tackling urban poverty.

In addition to the massive problem of slum dwelling, the development agenda would need to combat issues such as crime and violence - particularly against women - in cities.

This tended to go hand in hand with high levels of urban poverty and was becoming a major problem in the slums of several large cities, he said.

One of the results of the increasing numbers of poor people moving to cities was that slum dwelling was becoming less of a transition process before people entered the formal housing market.

"Many of the 100,000 pavement dwellers in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), for instance, are second generation residents, as is the case in Rio's Favelas," he said.

But he said some innovative projects in India showed that there were solutions to the slum problem.

One project, where the Bank was involved with non-governmental and community based organizations, succeeded in helping 20,000 families move out of a slum and into a formal settlement.

The community of people living in the slum were given a say in the resettlement process.

Buckley said infrastructure projects could provide incentives to governments to work to resettle slum dwellers. There was a cost to having slums near vital infrastructure and part of the benefits of improving infrastructure could be directed towards the slum dwellers to improve their housing situations.

For example road widening projects could be used as a catalyst to resettle some of India's pavement dwellers into formal housing. Some of the benefits of the road widening could be directed towards the slum dwellers in the form of improved housing.




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