The World Bank put forth its Urban and Local Government Strategy at a critical time. For the first time in history more than half the world’s people live in cities. Over 90 percent of urban growth is occurring in the developing world, adding an estimated 70 million new residents to urban areas each year. During the next two decades, the urban population of the world’s two poorest regions—South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa—is expected to double.
The strategy also inaugurated the Decade of the City, a decade that will be remembered for recognizing cities at the core of growth and human development. Never before has there been so much interest in cities: city associations, citywide programs, city university and private sector partnerships. In developing countries, cities often provide the first opportunity for elected officials to meet their constituents, governments to collect taxes, taxpayers to demand efficient services, investors to start new businesses. This is where collective voices are heard and accountability matters.
Successful cities change their ways, improve their finances, attract private investors, and take care of the poor. The Urban and Local Government Strategy helps governments at all levels make cities more equitable, efficient, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. The strategy draws on two principles. First, that density, agglomeration, and proximity are fundamental to human advancement, economic productivity, and social equity. Second, that cities need to be well managed and sustainable.