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Migration and Urbanization

Urbanization and Relocation
Policy Developments since the ICPD
International Migration
Policy Response

During the past ten years, migration has increased, both within and between countries, and the phenomenon has grown in political importance.

Recognizing that orderly migration can have positive consequences on both sending and receiving countries, the ICPD Programme of Action (Chapters IX and X) called for a comprehensive approach to managing migration. It emphasized both the rights and well-being of migrants and the need for international support to assist affected countries and promote more interstate cooperation around the issue.


In order to achieve a balanced spatial distribution of production employment and population, countries should adopt sustainable regional development strategies and strategies for the encouragement of urban consolidation, the growth of small or medium-sized urban centres and the sustainable development of rural areas, including the adoption of labour-intensive projects, training for non-farming jobs for youth and effective transport and communication systems. To create an enabling context for local development, including the provision of services, governments should consider decentralizing their administrative systems.

—from ICPD Programme of Action, para. 9.4

Urbanization and Relocation

By 2007, for the first time in human history, more than half the people in the world will be living in cities, the result of a continuing movement of people that has led to a tremendous growth of urban areas in developing countries in the past decade. Helping countries respond to this population shift was a key priority for the ICPD.

The Programme of Action devoted an entire chapter to the spatial distribution of the population and internal population movements. It recognized that people move within countries in response to the inequitable distribution of resources, services and opportunities. Push factors—particularly rural poverty—and pull factors—the attraction of more economically dynamic urban areas and new land tenure prospects in rural frontiers—contribute to these population movements.

As can be the case for international migration, a significant proportion of internal migration is temporary, for example, with labour migrants returning to their farms during busy seasons.

Like earlier population conferences, the ICPD sought to promote integrated and sustainable development policies to address imbalances within countries and between population growth and economic growth. Action recommendations aimed to improve infrastructure and services for poor, indigenous groups and other underserved rural populations.

Another focus was managing population growth and developing infrastructure in large urban areas. These are urgent challenges for development and for improving the lives of the poor, many of whom live in slums and peri-urban settlements with limited access to health care and other services.(1)

The ICPD recognized the economic dynamism of large urban settlements, but also acknowledged the growing importance of medium-sized cities and of migration between cities.(2)

Today, more policy attention is being given to the economic diversity within cities and neighbourhoods, where rich and poor often live in close proximity.(3)

Millennium Development Goal 7, Ensure environmental sustainability, has as a target, “By 2020, achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.”

The latest estimates and projections indicate a majority of the global population will be urban by 2007.(4) The number of urban dwellers will rise from 3 billion in 2003 (48 per cent of the total population) to 5 billion in 2030 (60 per cent). Most of this urban growth will be due to natural fertility rather than migration. The rural population will decline slightly in the same period, from 3.3 to 3.2 billion.

The urban population is projected to grow by 1.8 per cent per year between 2000 and 2030, almost twice as fast as global population growth. Lessdeveloped regions will grow by 2.3 per cent and are expected to be majority urban by 2017. By 2030 all regions of the world will have urban majorities (Africa will reach 54 per cent urban; Asia, 55 per cent). Almost all of the world’s total population growth in this period will be in urban areas of developing countries.

HIV/AIDS has added a new element of uncertainty to these projections.(5) Overall, infection rates have tended to be higher in urban areas. In heavily affected areas, higher urban death rates and lower fertility rates might slow the pace of urbanization or even result in a decline in urban population.

Today there are 20 cities of more than 10 million people (15 in developing countries), containing 4 per cent of the global population; by 2015 there will be 22 such mega-cities (16 in developing countries), with 5 per cent of the global population.

Cities with fewer than 1 million persons will add 400 million people by 2015, and more than 90 per cent of this growth will be in cities of fewer than 500,000. This will require vast improvements in local infrastructure and in the capacity to manage public services, particularly as decision-making is increasingly being decentralized to local municipalities and districts.

Greater attention will have to be given as well to the needs of the urban poor, whose access to health and other services is far worse than that of richer city dwellers and often not much better than rural conditions. Unmet need for family planning among the urban poor in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, for example, is nearly as great as for rural populations (in South-east Asia it is greater). The urban poor are similarly disadvantaged with regard to skilled birth attendance and knowledge about avoiding HIV/AIDS.

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