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Urbanization affects how development cooperation works. It also affects diplomacy.

On 6 December 2022, the Geneva Cities Hub was invited to speak about “Urbanization and climate change: what challenges for the countries from the Global south?” at an event organized by Helvetas

GCH emphasized that urbanization had not only impacted the way development cooperation works, but also how diplomacy is conducted. Indeed, as cities grow day after day and new cities emerge, they have become important actors on the international stage, addressing global challenges (climate change, massive migration flows, pandemic, etc.) alongside States, international organizations, civil society, academia, and the private sector. Yet, cities remain to be fully included in global governance. And that stands at the heart of the GCH’s mission.

During the event, panellists Jean Granjux from Urbanplan and Lionel Giron from Helvetas recalled important facts and figures to be kept in mind when talking about urbanization: 

  • The Global South accounts for 95% of the increase in the world’s urban population.
  • Cities occupy 3% of the land on earth, but they produce +70% of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The average growth rate in cities in the Global South is around 5-6 %, meaning that the size of a city doubles every 15-20 years.
  • The newly arrived population (mainly from rural areas) is usually poor and unable to immediately contribute to the growth of the city’s income, thereby leading to its impoverishment (revenue per capita)
  • In most cases, the first source of greenhouse gas emissions is urban transportation. Urban sprawling leads to massive emissions. This can be prevented or reduced if investments are made in:
    • creating several “urban centres” within the city;
    • effective means of public transport;
    • implementing the “15 minutes-city” concept;
    • developing “greening plans”, with trees having the capacity to absorb greenhouse gas emissions;
    • Producing food in areas that are close the urban centres.

The discussion shed light on these urbanization trends and on how organizations that had mainly worked in rural areas for decades – like Helvetas – had to integrate these trends into their programmes, so as to rethink their current engagement in cities and contribute to sustainable urban development.

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