RIO DE JANEIRO, March 22, 2010 – World Bank Managing Director Juan Jose Daboub today called on governments worldwide to “put the urban poor on the map” by investing more to bridge the gap in access to basic infrastructure, social services and jobs in cities of the developing world.
“The power of a city comes from its ability to bring people together, along with their ideas, their energy, and their determination to succeed,” Daboub said.
Specifically, Daboub called for improvements to the management, financing, and governance of cities. He also highlighted the importance of infrastructure improvements and reforms that will enhance investment climate and stimulate private sector led job creation and growth. While urging governments to eliminate regressive policies and regulations on land and housing markets, Daboub recognized the need for due regard to climate related actions as part of an effort to ensure a safe and sustainable urban environment.
Daboub was speaking at World Urban Forum 5, the world’s largest gathering of leaders of cities, including mayors, representatives of national governments, and urban experts who meet every two years to share ideas, and promote global cooperation to fight poverty in cities.
“It is no longer good enough for national leaders to repeat how important cities are to the economic health of a country,” Daboub said. “They have to work more effectively with city officials to determine, implement, and credibly measure the best policies so that all citizens can share in the benefits of urbanization … and those policies have to be properly financed.”
Referring to last December’s climate change conference in Copenhagen, where a summit of big-city mayors agreed to launch a Task Force of Mayors to address the needs of the urban poor and the vulnerabilities they face, Daboub said:“We welcome the initiative of the mayors as it fosters South-South collaboration and learning among local government officials to take stock of emerging issues, identify best practices, and propose new investment opportunities.”
Some 70 million people are added to the world’s urban population every year, with almost all of this growth occurring in developing countries. Already, one billion people in developing-country cities live in slums, with limited or no access to quality schools, health and social services, or affordable decent housing.
Daboub’s remarks reflected key elements of a five-point Urban Strategy recently adopted by the World Bank, which is being implemented through financing programs, dissemination of new knowledge drawn from research and practice, new analytical tools, and capacity-building for urban development officials.
“The task is not an easy one, but the dynamism of the cities and the ambitions of their inhabitants are driving innovation and economic opportunities. Solutions to these problems are coming from joint efforts of the urban leaders, private sector, civil society and affected communities themselves,” Daboub said. “By sharing their experience, working together and creating opportunities for people to reach their full potential, we can build better cities and better lives for all.”
Daboub is leading a delegation of World Bank experts at World Urban Forum 5, many of whom will make presentations and lead discussions on city financing, “green” growth, crime and violence, water and sanitation, slum upgrading, and urban infrastructure development. About 10,000 people are expected at the week-long conference.