Article of the Month -
Climate Change and Sustainable Cities: Major Challenges
Cities and Urban Settlements in the Coming Decades
Dr. Mohamed EL-SIOUFI, Ph.D., Head, Shelter Branch,
United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-HABITAT
This article in .pdf-format (pdf,
1) This paper has been presented as a keynote
presentation at the XXIV FIG Congress in Sydney 11-16 April 2010 in the
plenary session on The Big Challenges. Mohamed El Sioufi, Ph.D., is head
of the Shelter Branch at the United Nations Human Settlements Programme,
Handouts of this presentation as a .pdf file.
1. RAPID URBANISATION
Urban areas occupy only 2.8% of the earth’s surface yet as of 2008
more than 50% of the world’s population inhabits urban areas. Rapid
urbanization is occurring largely in developing countries where a
massive demographic shift has enormous implications in terms of poverty,
natural resources and the environment.
The ‘State of the World Cities Report’ published by UN-HABITAT in
2008 projects an average growth of 5 million new urban residents per
month in the developing world. In the coming decades, the developing
countries will be responsible for 95% of the world’s urban population
Levels of urbanization are expected to rise, with the least urbanized
regions of Asia and Africa transforming from largely rural societies to
predominantly urban regions during the course of this century. By 2050,
the urban population of the developing world will be 5.3 billion; Asia
alone will host 63% of the world’s urban population, or 3.3 billion
Population growth and economic development cause drastic changes in
land use in many parts of the world and institutional arrangements need
serious reforming to ensure sustainable use of the increasingly scarce
This paper will address the issues of climate change and sustainable
cities through an international perspective and scientific conceptual
framework followed by cities responses to mitigation and adaptation to
climate change. The paper will conclude with priority tools identified
by the Global Land Tool Network that are needed at country and city
level to address climate change challenges.
The ecological interaction of cities and their hinterlands is a
recurring theme. Rapid urbanization and climate change have given it new
impetus and sense of urgency. In 1976, the Habitat conference identified
“urban expansion” as a universal development challenge. At the Rio
Summit in 1992, the concept of “sustainable human settlements” was
introduced. At the Habitat II conference in 1996, the Habitat Agenda
highlighted the need for new approaches to planning and managing rapid
urban growth thus advancing the notion of “sustainable urbanization”.
The world has come a long way on the debate and discourse of these
issues. But the challenges are complex and daunting, and require
continuous engagement and effort at all levels. The climate change
phenomenon is making the issue of sustainable urbanization a matter of
Climate change is now recognized as one of the most pressing global
issues of our planet. It is no coincidence that global climate change
has become a leading international development issue at the same time as
the world has become urbanized. The way we plan, manage, operate and
consume energy in our cities will have a critical role in our quest to
reverse climate change and its impact.
2. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
Recently, the Global land Tool Network (GLTN, UN-HABITAT) undertook a
study on “Land, Environment and Climate Change: Challenges, Responses
and Tools”. The study builds on existing UN-HABITAT work; various
researches undertaken in the areas of land, environmental and climate
change; and through an e-discussion in 2009. It uses the Driving
Force-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DFPSIR) framework as a basic
element of the conceptual framework.
It is important to understand the causes behind environmental
degradation in order to identify suitable responses. The DFPSIR
framework can serve as a simple interdisciplinary starting point. It
should then be broadened to capture essential elements of the
functioning of socio-environmental systems where institutions guide
resource utilization and protect and enhance human welfare. Property
rights are core determinants for how land resources are utilized and
their welfare effects are distributed. Similarly, the degree of market
development for natural resources as inputs in production and as
essential elements of livelihoods and safety nets for current and future
generations determine the need for complementary non-market institutions
and regulations where markets do not work properly.
Figure 1: Driving
Force-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DFPSIR) conceptual framework
There are five components of the DFPSIR framework:
- Driving Forces are underlying in form of population
growth, technology and changes, institutional (political, market,
cultural, social), structures, and changes. Land laws and markets
affect land resources through how they impact on land management.
There are typically nested interactions among these driving forces.
- Pressures from the driving forces have direct impacts on
the environment. These include forest clearing for agricultural
production, city growth on agricultural land, or pollution of land,
water and air from industrial, and other human activities. Pressures
emerge from the incentive structures created by the driving forces.
- The State of the Environment can be captured by assessing
the stock of natural resources, changes in them or environmental
quality indicators like, erosion levels, nutrient stocks, soil
quality, pollution levels, changes in areas or quantities of carbon,
and loss of species or habitats. Global warming due to GHG emissions
causes changes in air and water temperatures, sea level rise and
severity of storms, floods, and droughts.
- Human Impacts of the changes in the environment are
measured through a range of indicators, like poverty status, food
security or other measures of vulnerability, access to land and
resources, tenure security, market access, access to shelter and
other basic human needs, access to safety nets, and the degree of
empowerment or political influence. At aggregate level these are
related to the Millennium Development Goals.
- Responses include responses at local, national and
international levels. They can address the Driving Forces, the
Pressures, the Environment or Human Well-being. The time perspective
may also vary from short- to long-term.
Urban areas also have several of the same types of land-related
environmental problems with soil, water and air pollution as the most
severe urban problems in many developing countries. The severity of
these land-related environmental problems varies greatly across
locations and so does the vulnerability of the people living in the
different locations to the effects of these environmental problems. The
severity of the effects can also be delayed till certain threshold
levels of degradation or accumulation have been passed and may therefore
be ignored or underestimated by current populations while future
generations will be badly affected. This is particularly the case for
global warming where those who have caused the problem are more able to
protect themselves than those who are most severely affected by climate
shocks and sea level rise due to climate change.
3. MAIN ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES RELATED TO LAND
The main environmental challenges related to land identified in the
recent study by GLTN/UN-HABITAT include:
|Unequal land distribution
- Geographical poverty-environment traps.
- Increasing land fragmentation in densely populated
- Unequal land distribution, land degradation and
inefficient land use
- Unsustainable management including increased activity in
land rental markets and short-term strategies on rented
- Threat by elite capture undermining land reforms.
International efforts are important to enhance the
transparency and accountability in situations where the poor
60% of Nairobi’s population lives on 5% of the city’s area
- Tenure insecurity in relation to urban expansion
- Tenure insecurity for poor slum dwellers in developing countries
- Tenure insecurity undermining investment and leading to
environmental mismanagement in urban and rural areas.
- Threats against flexible tenure systems in pastoral and
- Increasing pressures on customary tenure systems that are in
need of revisions.
Only 30% of plots are registered in developing countries and 2-3% of
the land is owned by women in Sub-Saharan Africa. The continuum of land
rights proposed by the GLTN is an important milestone in addressing
tenure security issues.
Figure 2 - Continuum of land tenure rights
- Encroachment of agriculture in particularly vulnerable and
- Deforestation and forest degradation leading to carbon
emissions, loss of biodiversity and mud slides.
- Environmental damage in “frontier” areas for new energy sources
- Sharp increases in demands for land for food and bio-fuel
production displacing the poor.
Seventy-five percent of commercial energy is consumed in urban and
peri-urban areas. In addition, 80% of all waste is generated from our
cities and up to 60% of Greenhouse Gas Emissions which cause global
climate change emanate from cities.
Recent large-scale land deals in Africa and Asia in response to rising
biofuel demand and resulting food price increases is an area where
international organizations can help poor countries and local people in
the negotiations to develop contracts that protect their interests.
Establishing better standards for transparency and accountability and
increased international pressures and support to implement such
standards will be important to reduce levels of corruption and elite
- Increasing threats in coastal areas due to sea water rise and
severe weather risk.
- Increasing threats to human settlements in coastal areas and
- Increased probability of droughts and erratic rainfall due to
There have been recently warnings that the sea level is rising twice
as fast as was forecasted, threatening hundreds of millions of people
living in deltas, low-lying areas and small island states. But the
threat of sea-level rise to cities is only one piece of the puzzle. More
extreme weather patterns such as intense storms are another. Tropical
cyclones and storms, in the past two years alone, have affected some 120
million people around the world, mostly in developing and least
developed countries. Indeed, in some parts of the world, inland flooding
is occurring more often and on a more intense basis.
We are witnessing more frequent flooding and drought in the same
year, causing heavy impact on food security, energy and water supply.
This is practically daily occurrence for many of the world’s less
fortunate people who live in life-threatening slums. For them, the
climate is already out of control and, perhaps equally important, out of
We are witnessing more frequent flooding and drought in the same
year, causing heavy impact on food security, energy and water supply.
This is practically daily occurrence for many of the world’s less
fortunate people who live in life-threatening slums. For them, the
climate is already out of control and, perhaps equally important, out of
The impacts of climate change will be felt strongly in the years to
come. If sea levels rise by just one meter, many major coastal cities
will be under threat: Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles, New
York, Lagos, Alexandria, Egypt, Mumbai, Kolkata, Dhaka, Shanghai,
Osaka-Kobe and Tokyo, just to mention some mega cities that are under
The many smaller coastal cities, especially those in developing
countries and those of small island nations will suffer most due to
their limited adaptation options. More and more people are drawn to the
urban magnet. In many parts of the world, climate refugees from rural
areas that have been hit by drought or flooding aggravate the migration
to cities. Those parts of the population who already suffer from poor
health conditions, unemployment or social exclusion are rendered more
vulnerable to the effects of climate change and tend to migrate to
cities within or outside their countries. The UN predicts that there
will be millions of environmental migrants by 2020, and climate change
is one of the major drivers.
Therefore, there is no doubt that climate change exacerbates existing
social, economic and environmental problems, while bringing on new
challenges. The most affected today, and in future, will be the world’s
urban poor – and chief among them, the estimated 1 billion slum
Our studies have identified important research gaps and key research
questions related to land, environment and climate change challenges,
seeking to explore ways to empower all who are working in these areas to
4. THE ROLE OF CITIES IN MITIGATION
It is crucial to recognize that cities and urban residents are not
just victims of climate change but also as part of the problem. If
cities are part of the problem, that means they must also be part of any
Mitigation measures are urgently required. However, and to date, the
measures envisaged globally and nationally have yet to be accompanied by
concerted measures at the city and local levels. While we fine-tune
carbon trading instruments, we need to take immediate actions to make
our cities more sustainable by revisiting our land-use plans, our
transport modalities, and our building designs. There is a unique
opportunity to bridge our global efforts in emissions control with local
efforts to improve the quality of life and the productivity of our
cities. Our cities are, after all, the driving force of our economies,
and what better measures can be take than to reduce traffic congestion,
improve air and water quality, and reduce our ecological footprint.
In this regard, urban density is a key factor. A recent survey
indicated that in New York City, per capita greenhouse gas emissions are
among the lowest in the United States. This is because less energy is
needed to heat, light, cool and fuel buildings in this compact city
where more than 70 percent of the population commutes by public transit.
The city of Atlanta in the USA and Barcelona Spain, for example, both
have a population of about 2.5 million. Atlanta currently occupies an
area of 4200 sq km whereas Barcelona occupies only 162 sq km. Atlanta
consumes much more energy due to its urban form and higher per capita
Climate change mitigation can be a good business opportunity. Clean,
low-carbon infrastructure investments, retrofitting of buildings, the
renewal of our transport systems are opportunities for ‘green’
investments. According to the estimates of international associations of
local governments, already 2800 cities have committed themselves to
reducing their annual GHG emissions, or meeting other targets for more
sustainable urban development. While most of these cities are in the
Global North, others in the South are taking specific measures taken to
reduce urban emissions include construction of an urban wastewater
methane gas capture project, undertaken in Santa Cruz (Bolivia); energy
efficiency audits of municipal buildings by Cape Town (South Africa);
and development of rapid transport systems and other measures designed
to reduce the use of single occupancy vehicles in a number of cities.
5. THE ROLE OF CITIES IN ADAPTATION
At the same time, there is rising consensus that cities must take
immediate adaptation measures to reduce vulnerability. Here again, we
have yet to recognize the need to plan our cities and settlements to
prevent loss and destruction of lives and properties. The time to act is
now and the place to act is in the cities of the world. Cities not only
have to take preventative measure, they must plan to offset the worst.
In this respect, there is no doubt that local authorities will be the
front line actors in finding local answers to these global challenges.
There is no one-size fit all solutions and each local authority will
have to assess its own risks and vulnerability and plan accordingly.
It is obvious that local authorities, especially secondary cities in
developing countries that are growing the fastest, will be the most
severely tested by these challenges. These cities, despite their rapid
growth, contribute a minimal share to global greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet they are the cities that are most at risk in terms of suffering the
impacts of climate change.
Cities can adapt to the impacts of climate change via effective urban
management. Planning and land use controls can prevent people from
building in zones at risk of flooding and landslides (e.g., restrictions
on building within 50 year floodplains in South Africa). Guidelines and
regulations, such as a decision issued by the Thua Thien Hue provincial
authorities in Vietnam to encourage cyclone-resistant building
practices, can increase resiliency and make economic sense.
However, we also know that many cities in Least Developed Countries
do not have much urban infrastructure assets that can be adapted.
Therefore, adaptation can not be disconnected from the need for local
development. Both adaptation and mitigation strategies in urban areas
require new and improved infrastructure and basic services. This
provides cities in developed and developing countries with unique
opportunities to redress existing deficiencies in housing, urban
infrastructure and services and to create jobs and a new opportunities
to stimulate the urban economy.
The resolve with which the cities stuck to their climate action
despite the current economic crisis was very reassuring. They remain
convinced that climate change action makes economic sense. For example,
increased energy efficiency is not only good for the climate but also
makes sense for a city's budget. As former president Bill Clinton said:
"For every 1 billion US dollars invested in the retrofitting of houses
to increase their energy efficiency, 6000 jobs are created. This is six
times bigger in impact than in average public investments. And what is
more: savings in energy will pay back for this investment in just over 7
6. THE CITIES IN CLIMATE CHANGE INITIATIVE
The technologies are there. The solutions exist. They range from
water harvesting to solar energy, and from affordable mass transit to
bio-fuel production. But turning the huge unmet needs into market demand
requires the right mix of political will and commitment, well-founded
policies and strategies, an enabling business environment and capacity
It is in this context and in response to these challenges that
UN-Habitat has launched the Cities in Climate Change Initiative.
This initiative is supporting the efforts of government agencies and
local authorities in adopting more holistic and participatory approaches
to urban environmental planning and management, and the harnessing of
ecologically sound technologies. The Initiative uses adaptation as a
starting point to engage people, their local authorities and the private
sector in risk abatement action.
This starting point leads to mitigation. Here, the Cities in Climate
Change Initiative argues that the measures required for adaptation and
mitigation are the same, namely better land use planning, better urban
management, more participatory governance focusing on more resilient
housing and smarter infrastructure and basic services.
The Cities in Climate Change Initiative has started off last year in
four pilot countries of Mozambique, Uganda, Philippines and Ecuador. It
has since expanded to cities in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda and
Senegal. We are currently starting assessments in several Asian
countries and we are fundraising to respond to the strong interest from
Small Island Developing States in the Pacific and the Caribbean.
UN-HABITAT provides capacity building support and helps ensure the
sharing and transfer of knowledge and lessons learned from experience.
We have received new mandates by our Governing Council to support cities
in addressing Climate Change more forcefully.
In partnership with the Cities Alliance, the World Bank and the
United Nations Environment Programme, UN-Habitat is refining methods to
support cities to measure their climate footprint and assess their
climate change vulnerability. These metrics should assist cities in
accessing climate related finance.
7. KEY PRIORITIES AND PROMISING LAND TOOLS OF THE GLOBAL LAND TOOL
To focus more on land and climate change issues, UN-HABITAT has
participated in the setting up of a Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) and
assuming the role of technical secretariat for the Network. GLTN
includes an international partnership of key actors on land. Many of you
are already members in this network through your professional
organizations including FIG, UN sister agencies such as FAO. UN-HABITAT
are among other prominent actors including development IFIs such as the
WB; Donors (Sida and Norway); technical agencies (GTZ); INGOs (the
Huairou Commission, SDI, Hajimani); academia (Harvard University,
University of East London); and others. The rich variety of
complementing partners in the network illustrate a maturity and
realization of all of us acknowledging the need to cross our specialized
boundaries in a quest to better define and understand the issues on the
ground as well as to jointly agree on priority gaps to be addressed to
better guide us all in our work.
The GLTN together with our other programmes focus on issues related
to cities and urban areas. Issues identified include land and governance
with FAO; gender valuation with the Huairou Commission and FIG; Social
Tenure Domain Model (STDM) with FIG, ITC and WB; Land Tenure and Natural
Resource Governance in Africa with US-Aid and development partners in
Kenya; Development of Natural Disaster Guidelines on Land - Land issues
with humanitarian partners; and Land, Environment and Climate Change:
Challenges, Responses and Tools- together with a Norwegian Research
GLTN has identified key priority areas where land stakeholders could
add value as well as develop land tools that could be used to enhance
sustainable land management and human well-being. The Global Land Tool
Network (GLTN) has identified key priority and promising land tools:
- Land tenure reform: Land reform requires thorough
analysis of each country’s specific situation and must be widely
agreed upon by various interest groups in the land sector. Taxing of
land values was identified as a crucial instrument to mobilize idle
land and make it available to more efficient and needy users.
However, even though introducing such a tax system seems an optimal
solution, there can be strong political constraints as it is likely
to be opposed by landowners and the elite. The best strategy would
be to look at the range of land relation taxation solutions. In a
broader urban perspective on policies and tools there are many
examples of innovative, pragmatic and cost effective policies to
improve access, land tenure security and property rights for the
urban poor. Information on these is already in the public domain.
- Land rights records and registration: low-cost land
registration and certification
- Land use planning: low-cost, participatory land use
planning and mapping
- Regulation of land markets to enhance sustainable land use:
land market regulations have been and are still common in many
countries. Concerns about environmental consequences may call for
regulation of land rental markets, [for example when] rental
contracts are of short duration. Short-duration contracts can
suppress investment incentives, leading to non-sustainable land
- Land management, administration and information:
accessible to all in a transparent way with focus on climate change
mitigation and adaptation issues.
- Slum rehabilitation and resettlement including provision
of tenure security in urban slums. Forced displacement of slum
dwellers without adequate alternatives, resettlement options or
compensations is the recipe for further social, economic and
environment losses. Displaced urban dwellers tend to resettle on
more marginal and vulnerable sites. Their source of and access to
livelihoods are often severely undermined. Upgrading and
reconstructing degraded urban environments such as slums is crucial
in combination with providing good alternative resettlement areas.
Development of low-cost and incremental approaches is key due to the
budgetary restrictions and the large and growing number of slum
dwellers. More importantly, preventing and containing slum growth,
especially on vulnerable landscapes would provide long-term gains.
- Land law, regulation and enforcement: land laws are
crucial tools for enhancing more sustainable land use. However, land
laws can also be ‘toothless’ unless enforced. Development of
improved land laws needs parallel dissemination of information about
the content of the laws in the land administration system as well as
other parts of national and local administrations that have an
influence on land use (e.g. Ministries and Departments of energy,
forestry, agriculture, transportation, and planning). Furthermore,
the public and land users themselves need to be informed.
Universities and relevant education programs, research institutions,
land user organizations, NGOs, and large private enterprises are all
organizations that should help disseminate such information. In
developing countries with poor information access and low levels of
literacy, it takes years before the contents of new land laws reach
land users, if ever, before new laws are passed. The language of the
laws is hard to understand for people with limited formal education.
The new laws have to be translated into local languages before being
disseminated. Popular formats conveying the essence of the law may
be more suitable for dissemination than direct translations.
- Payment for environmental services: Design of Payment for
Environmental Service (PES) schemes as a way to create markets for
resources that are threatened by degradation and consequently also
for their maintenance and improvement, can become important policy
tools in the future. However, this requires innovative designs and
careful pilot testing before they are scaled up. The poverty of land
users and the poverty reduction effects of PES schemes will be
important design considerations.
- Payment for resource dividends: A progressive land and
resource dividend system, if introduced, may mobilize idle land from
large land and resource owners for more efficient use in countries
with unequal land and resource distribution. However, to succeed it
is crucial to frame such a dividend system in a palatable way to
build sufficient public support for its introduction. GLTN can take
a leading role in piloting and promoting the use and scaling up of
such land tools.
- Participatory public works programs / productive safety nets
and as means to invest in environmental conservation:
rehabilitation and conservation of community facilities (e.g.,
roads, drainage networks, waste disposal systems, etc) can be
undertaken using food for work or cash for work program. These can
not only help healthy and better serviced neighborhoods, but also
create opportunities for gainful employment.
- Collective action for enhancement of environmental services:
[Formal and public sector based] Law, regulations and law
enforcement mechanisms are not enough in most countries. More
important is consolidated and coordinated action for ensuring
quality and standard of urban environmental services. A strong urban
environment monitoring agency is essential. An independent, powerful
and capable urban environment protection force can be established.
- Integrated rural and urban development: rural development
and urban development are closely linked through migration, flow of
resources, economic empowerment, commodities and services. The
problem of expanding slums cannot therefore be seen as exclusively
an urban problem as they are largely filled by immigrants from rural
areas. Slums may be compared to a leaking boat: new migrants flow in
as earlier slum dwellers are rehabilitated or moved elsewhere. The
problem can only be tackled at a broader scale requiring both rural
and urban development.
- Providing tenure security and slum rehabilitation:
Increasing populations in urban areas makes is making it difficult
to provide shelter and security of tenure for urban dwellers,
especially for the poor and other vulnerable groups. Poorly managed
rapid urban population growth in developing countries often leads to
a rapid growth of slums and increasing environmental health
problems. Severe environmental degradation is one of the common
features in developing country cities. Insecure tenure in informal
(often illegal) settlements makes it also unattractive for poor
households to invest in improving their temporary housing
arrangements and adopt sustainable environmental practices.
Conventional titling programs in such urban areas have often failed
to solve many of the basic problems and may have forced poor slum
dwellers to relocate in environmentally risk-prone and hazardous
locations, further exposing them to natural disasters. It appears
that legal pluralism is preferable, combining ownership-based and
rights-based approaches while taking into account the needs of the
poor, their financial constraints and the limited capacity of urban
land administrations. This also implies a continuum of land rights,
including freehold tenure, leasing arrangements, public ownership,
group tenure, and informal tenure arrangements (Payne et al., 2008).
Many alternative approaches to titling are being tested. Examples of
- Provision of temporary occupational licenses, group
ownership by community land trusts, and company or co-operative
ownership and subdivision of land to members in Kenya.
- Simple documentation of informal settlements in Egypt.
- Cooperative housing in South Africa.
- Provision of Certificate of Rights to use and develop state
owned land in Botswana.
- Temporary land rental in Thailand.
- Recognition of illegal settlements in Indonesia.
- Relocation of illegal settlers by providing land titles on
nearby land in Cambodia.
- Provision of registered leaseholds in squatter settlements
- Formal landlord-tenant property contracts in Bolivia (Dey et
- Rescue plans for areas threatened by sea level rise and storm
floods: Particularly vulnerable areas with large poor
populations that are unable to protect themselves against sea level
rise and storm floods need international and national support.
Whether it is most appropriate to invest to protect their current
livelihoods or to organize resettlement in safer locations depend on
the relative costs of the alternative solutions. This will depend on
the expected size of the necessary protective barriers that have to
be built for protection, the distance to available alternative
locations for resettlement, the size of the population, costs of
building suitable resettlements, etc. A long-term plan for gradual
resettlement is preferable to an after-disaster resettlement. The
latter will be more chaotic and will involve severe losses. In
relation to such planned gradual resettlement, there are important
property rights issues to be resolved. The property value of the
properties lost may fall significantly but there is also a risk that
evacuated areas and houses are likely to be occupied by
opportunistic settlers. …. The financial costs will be very high and
clearly beyond what poor affected populations, communities, cities
and countries can afford. Since the cause of the problem is also
global, it is necessary to develop an international system for
funding of such large-scale operations. This is an area where UN
agencies could play an important role. Support will also be needed
for building professional capacity to tackle such large resettlement
schemes. Organizing a network of professional staff from threatened
countries and cities is an important first step.
To meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) goal 7, target 11 to
have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100
million slum dwellers by 2020, is a central concern of UN-HABITAT. This
target must be seen in connection with the factors causing rapid inflow
of new migrants as well as the fact that some of these areas are in
coastal zones that are threatened by sea water rise and weather risk.
Rural development and land reforms in rural areas can contribute to
reduce the inflow of people and therefore be an important part of the
solution. Similarly, rural development can be seen as one of the means
of alleviating poverty and increasing incomes for both rural and urban
people. At the same time it must be an international responsibility,
particularly for the countries that have contributed most to carbon
emissions to provide funds for adequate compensation and alternative
livelihoods for the people that are threatened by sea water rise,
drought or flooding due to climate change. UN agencies can continue to
take a leading role in the planning of strategies to tackle this
The world is at a cross roads; the fight to combat poverty and
climate change is to be won or lost in our cities. Cities, as much as
they embody the challenges also offer the solutions. The hundreds of
communities and cities whom we recognize for their good practices
symbolize this potential. The challenge is that many cities in the
developing world are not endowed with the capacity to harness and
A sustainable city must be a learning city which is continuously
exploring and innovating, sharing and networking. Universities and
knowledge centres have much to contribute to this endeavour.
Universities bring their knowledge and expertise, whilst cities offer
them unique opportunities to link research and education with policy and
practice. Recognizing this potential, UN-HABITAT, has recently launched
the World Urban Campaign to harness and channel knowledge, expertise and
experience in support of sustainable urbanisation.
Finally, the challenges facing cities with regard to climate change
are numerous and daunting, and no entity, public or private,
governmental or non-governmental, academic or practitioner, can face
these challenges alone. All those who are committed to turning ideas
into action are invited to join UN-HABITAT and its partners in the quest
for more sustainable urban development.
Dr. Mohamed El-Sioufi is the Head of the Shelter Branch
in UN-HABITAT. He has 32 years of experience in architecture, housing
and urban planning. His experience bridges professional practice,
academia, research, training and technical advice. He has worked for
UN-HABITAT since 1995 in training and capacity building, policy and
technical cooperation and the development of global norms and
guidelines. His experience in human settlement spans a variety of
specialized fields including capacity building in sustainable urban
development including historic cores, housing policy and strategies,
slum upgrading, climate change mitigation through sustainable building
materials and construction technologies, post disaster rehabilitation,
environmental planning and management.
Dr. Mohamed El-Sioufi
Head, Shelter Branch