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UN calls for urgent response to Asia-Pacific’s transformation

Staff writer |
The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) launched a report "The State of Asian and Pacific Cities 2015".

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The report was launched at the Sixth Asian Pacific Urban Forum (APUF-6) taking place in Jakarta, Indonesia.

According to the report, in 2018 the region will mark a historic transition as more than half of its population is expected to then be living in urban agglomerations.

The region’s urbanization involves unprecedented shifts in population. By 2040 a further one billion people will be added to the region’s cities. It is expected that by 2050 the urban population in Asia and the Pacific will reach 3.2 billion.

Asia and the Pacific is now home to 17 megacities - exceeding 10 million inhabitants each – a figure that will rise to 22 by 2030. In spite of the rising significance of megacities however, the vast majority of the region’s urban population still live in its rapidly transforming small and medium-sized cities, which deserve much greater attention and resources.

The economic dynamism of the region’s urban areas has spurred a phenomenal rise in the size of middle classes, but growing inequalities should be of concern: the urban poor remain on the margins of recent growth, youth unemployment remains high, and too many of those living in cities are disadvantaged with respect to their rights.

As urban living costs rise, it is becoming more difficult for the poor to access adequate housing and services. Widening disparities threaten to undermine social cohesion, and affordability is at a crisis point in many of the region’s larger cities.

The report further highlighted the immense environmental challenges facing the region’s cities. An increasing number of cities face liveability crises, evidenced by deteriorating air standards and water pollution.

The region’s cities are also highly vulnerable to natural disasters and the impacts of climate change, with half of the region’s urban population currently living in coastal cities threatened by sea-level rise. Poor and disadvantaged communities are most at risk.

The report also made the point that informed decision-making will require an "urban data revolution," underpinned by accurate, relevant and real-time data.

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