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Excerpt courtesy of: Anderson Literary Management, Inc. 13 November 2006. “The Megacity,” copyright 2006 © by George Packer.
The New Yorker
The State of World Population 1996: Changing Places: Population, Development and the Urban Future
, p. 1. New York: UNFPA.
This crossover date is based on the latest UN estimate. Unless otherwise mentioned, all data referring to the analyses of urbanization trends provided in this Report are based on: United Nations. 2006.
World Urbanization Prospects: The 2005 Revision
. New York: Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations.
United Nations. 1995.
Population and Development, vol. 1: Programme of Action adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development: Cairo: 5-13 September 1994, Section 9.1. New York: Department of Economic and Social Information and Policy Analysis, United Nations.
UN Millennium Project. 2005.
A Home in the City
. Task Force on Improving the Lives of Slum Dwellers. London and Sterling, Virginia: Earthscan.
The characteristics and limitations of the United Nations database have been amply discussed in the literature. See, for instance: Montgomery, M. R., et al., Panel on Urban Dynamics, National Research Council (eds.). 2003.
Cities Transformed: Demographic Change and Its Implications in the Developing World
, pp. 128-153. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press; and Satterthwaite, D. 2005.
The Scale of Urban Change Worldwide 1950-2000 and Its Underpinnings
. Human Settlements Discussion Paper. No. Urban01. London: International Institute for Environment and Development.
Satterthwaite, D. 2006.
Outside the Large Cities: The Demographic Importance of Small Urban Centres and Large Villages in Africa, Asia and Latin America
, p. 1. Human Settlements Discussion Paper. No. Urban03. London: International Institute for Environment and Development.
Cohen, B. 2006. “Urbanization in Developing Countries: Current Trends, Future Projections, and Key Challenges for Sustainability.”
Technology in Society
The trends discussed herein are based on the official United Nations estimates and projections. (See: United Nations 2006.) It is important to emphasize that these projections are not predictions. The broad trends presented in this section are based on solid evidence, but their actual levels may vary. Many factors can change the trajectory of urban growth over time. Reviews of projections from recent decades show that they have tended to overstate urban growth, especially in larger cities. Most policymakers would welcome a reduction in the rate of future urban growth. The mechanics of such a potential decline are discussed in Chapter 6.
“In most cases, high growth rates are an indicator of success rather than failure and most of the world’s largest cities are located in countries with the world’s largest economies.” — Cohen 2006, p. 69.
On the other hand, even a modest rate of growth in a large city can mean a large absolute increase in population. That is, a 2 per cent annual increase in the population of Mumbai will mean a much larger increment of urbanites than a 10 per cent annual increase in a smaller city.
“We cannot recall a case in which a small city was the focus of an editorial lamenting rapid urban growth or the lack of public services. Nevertheless, the combined size of such cities makes them very significant presences in developing countries.” — Montgomery, M. R., et al., Panel on Urban Dynamics, National Research Council (eds.) 2003, p. 15.
UNCHS (Habitat). 2000.
Women and Urban Governance
, p. 3. Policy Dialogue Series. No. 1. Nairobi: UNCHS (Habitat).
“Globalization has allowed individual cities to break away from the fate of their national economies. Increasingly success or failure depends on the ability of municipal governments to capitalize on the assets of the local environment and to provide the modern infrastructure, enabling environment, and low-wage, flexible workforce demanded by modern businesses.” — Cohen, B. 2004. “Urban Growth in Developing Countries: A Review of Current Trends and a Caution Regarding Existing Forecasts,” p. 37.
The diseconomies of agglomeration, population density, environmental pollution, labour problems and the economic extension of the dominant centre can reduce the advantages of large cities. Advances in telecommunications, transportation and production technologies from globalization can favour de-concentration away from central cities. Industries that require a large workforce can decline, thereby eroding a main economic reason for concentration, that is, to minimize the costs of transport, knowledge, training and information.
Gender Equality: Striving for Justice in an Unequal World
, p. 193. Geneva: UNRISD.
This section is based on: Rodriguez, J., and G. Martine. 2006. “Urbanization in Latin America: Experiences and Lessons Learned.” Draft paper prepared for this Report.
This section is based on: ESCWA Social Development Division. 2007. “Urbanization in the Western Asia Region.” Draft paper prepared for this Report.
Ibid. Some countries, such as Egypt, Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic, for example, are beginning to take positive steps in aiding informal settlements.
This discussion is based on: White, M. J., B. U. Mberu, and M. Collinson. 2006. “African Migration and Urbanization: Recent Trends and Implications.” Draft paper prepared for this Report.
White, M. J., and D. P. Lindstrom. 2005. “Internal Migration.” Ch. 11 in:
Handbook of Population
, edited by D. Poston and M. Micklin. 2006. Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research Series. New York: Springer.
This discussion is drawn in large part from: Chandrasekhar, S. 2006. “Urban Growth Patterns and Its Implications for Future Economic, Social, Demographic and Environmental Scenarios in India.” Draft paper prepared for this Report.
Government of India. n.d. National Rural Employment Guarantee Act: 2005. New Delhi: Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India. Website:
17 January 2006.
This section is based on: Bai, X. 2006. “Urban Transition in China: Trends, Consequences, and Policy Implications.” Draft paper prepared for this Report.
Chen, N., P. Valente, and H. Zlotnik. 1998. “What Do We Know about Recent Trends in Urbanization?” Pp. 59-88 in:
Migration, Urbanization, and Development: New Directions and Issues
, edited by R. E. Bilsborrow. 1998. New York: UNFPA.
Sivaramakrishnan, K. C., Amitabh Kundu, and B. N. Singh. 2005.
Handbook of Urbanization in India: An Analysis of Trends and Processes
, Table 3.4. New Delhi and New York: Oxford University Press.
Rodriguez and Martine 2006.
In China, uncommonly strong bureaucratic controls over fertility have kept natural increase at low levels over several decades. Meanwhile, similarly strong restrictions on rural-urban migration kept urbanization levels low until the late 1970s. Loosening of migration restraints have resulted in massive movements to cities in the face of continued low rates of natural increase.
Few governments have made direct reference to this connection between urban growth and natural increase and to the need for greater attention to reproductive health. Policymakers generally allude only to unwanted rural-urban migration.
Notes (Chapter 2)
The Promise of Urban Growth
People In Cities: Hope Countering Desolation
Rethinking Policy on Urban Poverty
The Social and Sustainable Use of Space
Urbanization and Sustainability in the 21st Century
A Vision for a Sustainable Urban Future: Policy, Information and Governance