Cities need transport because mobility creates opportunities for advancement, both on an individual level and for society as a whole. It is the prerequisite for development and progress, for economic growth and trade – and is thus an important instrument in the fight against poverty. Efficient, environmentally friendly and affordable means of transport also increase individuals' well-being. People who can travel safely and without significant environmental impacts lead more self-sufficient and healthy lives.
Every 20 years, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) organizes a global Conference on Human Settlements. At the end of October, the third Habitat conference will take place in Quito (Ecuador), which will be concluded by the adoption of a New Urban Agenda by the community of states. While the final text of the document is still being negotiated, the main objective of the Agenda is already clear: how to strengthen cities in their central functions with regard to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Against this background the current issue of Development in Brief gives a summary of the ongoing debate and explains the prerequisites that must be put in place in order to better enable cities to address and solve their specific challenges on their own.
For the first time in history, more people live in cities than in rural areas. This development brings both opportunities and risks at the same time. On the one hand, cities are important economic and innovation centres. Around 80 % of gross domestic product is generated in cities already today; they are places of creativity and progress. They create jobs and secure an existence for millions of people around the world.
With members of the population living in such close proximity to one another, social services and basic supply services such as education, health care, water and energy can be provided more efficiently. However, there is a downside. Even today, around one billion people live in slums, cities are filled with seemingly endless traffic jams and the air is unbearably polluted. Cities are responsible for a good 70 % of the final energy consumption and the associated CO2 emissions, and they are particularly affected by the consequences of climate change.