Cities have traditionally been places of opportunity, but such opportunities depend on how well the urbanization process is managed. Cities are global centers of culture, innovation, livelihood opportunities, and economic growth. They can address many of the challenges the world currently faces. An inclusive city is one where citizens have access to all spatial, social, and economic necessities and amenities, such as land, housing, infrastructure, services, good jobs, equal rights, and opportunity to accumulate assets and wealth.
In less developed nations, cities are significantly less affordable for residents at medium income levels than in more developed nations. Thus, facing barriers to enjoying the benefits of urban life. The 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development, the urban agenda is a crucial guiding tool in shaping inclusive and resilient urban development.
Dimensions of urban inclusion and its challenges:
Cities are traditionally been places where migrants from rural areas come seeking better jobs. Globally, roughly 80% of internal and 60% of refugees make their homes in cities. Stark spatial disparities have served to exacerbate the socioeconomic exclusion of the urban poor and marginalized in the cities. Spatial inequalities are result of poor planning and zoning regulations in most developing world cities. Lack of access to affordable land and housing combined with weak property rights forces limited-income households to urban peripheries where land is affordable but far from job centers. And the limited infrastructure and social services greatly influence those outer areas.
At the same time, the urban poor living in overcrowded slums and informal settlements are highly susceptible to risks. These areas have a limited number of connecting streets and open green areas. These spaces also lack access to basic services and infrastructure such as water, sanitation, and public health facilities.
Key to achieving spatial inclusion in cities is the availability of affordable land and housing to urban poor and vulnerable groups. Inclusionary zoning policies require developers to provide affordable housing as a condition for approval of market-rate development can counterbalance the effect of gentrification and increasing property values.
Technology dependence is at an all-time high, and connectivity is crucial to creating a society and economy in which all citizens thrive. Expanding technological capabilities can either create opportunities or exacerbate inequalities. Broadband access and affordability pose ongoing barriers to economic opportunity and social well-being. In developing nations, only 35% of the population has broadband access. Also, access means nothing if the service is unaffordable.
Currently, many public-private partnerships are setting up access points to bring reliable wireless connectivity to underserved communities. However, a complete range of stakeholders must develop solutions to deliver cost-effective broadband networking.
Developing inclusive infrastructure enhances positive outcomes in social inclusivity and that ensures no individual or community is left behind. Infrastructure development can fall short of inclusiveness if institutions, policies, and processes do not cater to reflect needs of the public.
Infrastructure performance should be monitored not only in technical terms but should be measured in terms of its aggregate benefits to all users.
Public participation at every stage of the project lifecycle to ensure the inclusion of each community and stakeholder is a key process in inclusive infrastructure.
Cities are full of intricate social networks that connect people together and provide primary resources. These networks provide structure for human interaction. Strengthening a city’s social infrastructure is a key strategy for enhancing its resilience. City’s that lack social infrastructure limit the interaction, exchanges, and development of their people.
The planning, creation, and maintenance of social infrastructure expresses a society’s value and offers chances to give everyone equal access to community life while also giving special consideration to those who are excluded.
Equity moves beyond the notion of equality. The world is transforming faster than regulating these transformations and thus must prioritize the prevention of social exclusiveness.
Cities play a crucial role in empowering financial inclusion and act as a catalyst for economic growth. It is observed that inequality rises with the size of the cities. The largest cities have the highest inequalities. The United Nations estimates that 2 billion people, or more than 61% of the world’s employed population, make their living in the informal sector. There are still 1.7 billion people globally which do not have a bank account after much economic progress.
Transitioning to a formal economy is critical to ensure the protection of workers’ rights and decent working conditions.
When handled effectively urbanization has the potential to create opportunities for a better life. Building channels of communication, social capital, and promoting trust by creating mechanisms for communities to collaborate in the design and building of urban services.
Also, reimagining local governments as platforms for city-wide problem-solving, to galvanize the collective energy is the need of the hour.
This article is based on the report: Accelerating Urban Inclusion for a Just Recovery | World Economic Forum (weforum.org)