( Irna ) - In 2008, for the first time in history of the world, more than half the world's people will be living in towns and cities, according to the State of World Population 2007 report released by the United Nations Population Fund.
Launching the 30th edition of the report on Wednesday in London, whose main theme is urbanization, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid warned that by 2030, urban population is expected to swell to almost 5 billion, nearly 60 per cent of world population.
The report says globally, all future population growth will be in cities, and nearly all in today's developing countries. "Many of these cities already have pressing concerns, including poverty, crime, lack of clean water and sanitation, and sprawling slums. But these problems pale in comparison with those that could be raised by future growth," Obaid said.
Saying that the primary concern in this report is Africa and Asia, Obaid added that within a single generation, the urban population in Africa and Asia is set to double, a press release issued by the UN Information Center (UNIC) said here Wednesday.
"Between 2000 and 2030, Asia's urban population will grow from 1.4 billion to 2.6 billion, Africa's from nearly 300 million to 740 million, and that of Latin America and the Caribbean from nearly 400 million to more than 600 million."
"We have never seen urban growth like this in history in terms of its speed and scale. Yet, the impact of future growth has not captured public imagination and surprisingly little is being done to maximize the potential benefits of this transformation or to reduce its potentially negative consequences," she said adding most cities struggle to meet current needs and they are quite unprepared for future growth.
She termed this year's report a call to action. The vast urban empowerment increases the health and well-being of families and communities, Obaid added.
The State of World Population also dispels a common myth. Contrary to popular belief, most urban growth is the result of natural increase rather than migration. With a few exceptions, including in China and Viet Nam, most cities are growing from within. In response to this, policymakers should shift the emphasis from stemming migration to delivering social services and investing in women, she said.
Investments in education and health, including reproductive health and voluntary family planning, and the empowerment of women are the best ways to address urban population growth. Giving priority to women's expansion in developing countries has global implications and requires a global response. Obaid pointed out that poverty gets concentrated in cities, but they also represent poor people's best hope of escaping it.