The tremendous acceleration of urbanization processes over the last few years has resulted in over 50 percent of the world population now living in cities, increasing levels of poverty and insecurity in urban areas. Most of this urban growth is taking place in the developing world, where 2 billion people already live in cities.
People migrate to cities to find new opportunities that they cannot find in rural areas. Given the insufficient provision of housing and of basic services they end up having to cope with deprivation of resources and capabilities necessary to enjoy an adequate standard of living and their civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. It is clear that when provision of basic services is non-existent or prone to frequent and unplanned interruptions, a difference arises between the well-being of individuals who can access such services continuously and those who cannot. Living in areas with the worst urban services, unhealthy environmental conditions, and lack of security exposes people to multiple hazards and increased risks.
Cities and especially “mega cities” (conurbations of more than 20 million inhabitants) are facing huge difficulties in terms of service provision, infrastructure development and citizen coexistence. This situation constitutes a challenge, not only by the way basic services are offered and public spaces and infrastructures are created, but as well due to the way these factors interact with the concept of public security and coexistence.
Urban management requires numerous competencies and local mayors, chairpersons or councilors need extraordinary skills and knowledge to execute their municipal responsibilities. They are required to be professional city managers in order to establish competitive cities and to play an active role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), fighting against poverty and insecurity, among many other challenges. Many city leaders are making efforts to gain knowledge and information to that end but opportunities are often limited.
It is against this background that the Local Development Programme set up its capacity building programme on social development. This programme aims to strengthen the management capacity of local leaders and other local actors by providing them with skills and knowledge on sustainable urbanization issues with particular emphasis on urban planning, urban services (transport, water and sanitation, waste management, energy, health) and security policies. The programme covers the following areas;
- Providing sustainable and innovative techniques and processes for infrastructure development, urban planning and provision of basic services;
- Urban services financing in order to address urban infrastructure shortage (through Public - Private Partnerships);
- Capturing and building on existing knowledge and experience of local actors from various professional and cultural backgrounds;
- Facilitating knowledge sharing and exchange of experiences between cities and regions and,
- Fostering city-to-city cooperation to work in networks on social issues.