Urban Sustainability

Manila, like most megacities in the global south, shows 
contrasting realities between affluent neighborhoods and informal settlements

For the first time in human history there are more people living in cities than in rural sites. This reality is an irreversible trend with numerous environmental and humanitarian concerns. As the world is increasingly becoming urban more situations of poverty and marginalization are visible across cities, especially in developing countries. The Manila program attempt to use research and university-community partnerships to address and reduce urban poverty. The works of Adamson University university and the Vincentian Center for Social Responsibility are doing are a concrete long term solution to urban poverty. They do this by investing on community capacity building and we at DePaul are proud to be able to contribute to this process.

In 2005, an estimated total of 1 billion people were living in slums worldwide – about a third of the world’s total urban population. By 2030 this figure is predicted to grow by another billion. Amongst the population of the Top 16 cities (left), a staggering proportion live in slums: between 40% and 50% in Jakarta (Indonesia), and a third in mega-metropolises like Dhaka (Bangladesh), Kolkata (Calcutta, India) and São Paulo (Brazil). Asia has 60% of the world’s slum-dwellers, Africa 20% and Latin America 14%. (New Internationalist,
Urban Explosion: the facts)

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 2008 is the year in which “the world reaches an invisible but momentous milestone: For the first time in history, more than half its human population, 3.3 billion people, will be living in urban areas.”[1] As the trends of urban population growth continue, it is expected that by 2030, the number of people living in cities will swell to almost 5 billion. Many of the new urbanites will be poor. This will be particularly visible in Asia and African cities were the urban population will double between 2000 and 2030. That is, the accumulated urban growth of these two regions during the whole span of history will duplicate in a single generation. By 2030, the towns and cities of the developing world will compose 81 per cent of urban humanity.[2]

According to the United Nations Slum Dwellers Taskforce, one in six people living in urban areas worldwide is already a slum dweller – and that number will double in the next 30 years.[3] Unless global policy and action changes course, 1.5 billion urban residents worldwide will become slum dwellers by the year 2020. Most of these individuals will live in developing regions and lack a political voice, decent housing, sanitation, access to water, schools, health care, and a safe and dependable way of getting to work.

Watch this video with Prof. Hans Rosling explaining trends on urbanization. In four minutes he gives a short overview over the urban challenges, showing the last 40 years of development in urbanization and economic growth in relation to slums.

Useful Readings: 


UN-HABITAT: International Forum on Urban Poverty (IFUP)

Bottom of the Pyramid Approaches for Urban Sustainability - UN ... 

State of World Population 2007: Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth 

Task Force on Improving the Lives of Slum Dwellers: A Home in the City

A home in the city - UN Millennium Project 


[1] UNFPA, State of the World Population 2007: Unleashing the Potential for Urban Growth. http://www.unfpa.org/swp/ (December 2007).

[2] Ibid.

[3] UN Millennium Project, Taskforce on Improving the Lives of Slums Dwellers 2005. Available full text at http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/documents/Slumdwellers-complete.pdf