Urbanization has been a remarkable phenomenon over the last few decades and it affects millions of people. It entails problems, directly or indirectly, from the rapid growth of population such as the concentration of population and high levels of congestion (persistent problems for poverty and inequality) and that carry additional economic, social and environmental costs.
In particular, 3 million people migrate each week to the urban areas, contributing greatly to the world’s urbanization, according to a study carried out by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
The 54% of the world’s population currently lives in cities, in other words, 3.900 million people, and this amount is expected to increase in the next decades, reaching 6.400 million people by 2050.
All these reports and figures and the need to go a step further, have created the necessity to renew the Millennium Development Goals – that finished in 2015 – and the design of a new and more ambitious agenda. This agenda is materialised in the Sustainable Development Goals that have specific objectives that must be achieved by 2030. To make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable is one (the eleventh) of the 17 global goals of the new Sustainable Development Agenda.
To improve the security and sustainability of the cities implies – according to United Nations- to ensure the access to safe and affordable housing and to improve shanty towns. It also includes investing in public transport, creating Green public areas so that it is inclusive. It implies as well building more socially inclusive cities that are more accessible in favour of the poorest, cities that are equitable and sensitive to gender issues.
Also, having a resilient city implies preparing cities for change, the management of adversity, resistance and taking action to reduce risks.
For that, in this section the goals include increasing the capacity planning and the collaborative, integrated and sustainable management of human settlements.
Education and sustainable urbanization
UNESCO promotes “Education for a Sustainable Urban Development” as a cross-cutting theme in all its sectors. “Learning how to live together sustainably is one of the main challenges for education nowadays. This challenge requires focusing on the creation of a quality educational environment that promotes sustainability, life-long learning opportunities in the cities”.
Thus, United Nations established that pursuing a quality education is a good path to improve people’s lives and sustainable development.
In other words, in order to build sustainable communities and lifestyles, education is the backbone of this and the rest of the goals, as it was stated by Edujesuit, as the challenge of sustainability – that according to UNESCO it is only learning to change – will rule the development agenda until 2030.
Natural disasters and heavy urbanization
Moreover, by 2030 it is intended to reduce significantly the number of deaths and people affected by disasters, include disasters caused by water, and to significantly reduce the economic losses caused by natural disasters.
Pedro Walpole SJ, director of the institute of Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC), in Manila, already stated in an editorial in 2013 that “ even though vulnerable communities can show resilience capacity, the government and society must be compatible with them by a better Access to safe housing and the satisfaction of basic necessities”.
“¿How can we live the confrontation of marginalized communities where there is a lack of basic services and inclusion, strengthened by the imbalances caused by forestry development, mining and the breakwater constructions? Asks father Walpole.
ONU-Habitat will be in charge of organising the next world Summit in October 2016 about housing and sustainable urban development (HABITAT III), whose objective is to adopt a new agenda for a sustainable urban development.
Paula Sendin is Ecojesuit editorial coordinator and project supporter of media projects managed at the Jesuit European Social Centre NGO (JESC).