The urban population of the Arab States, which already quadrupled between 1970 and 2010, will more than double to 438.6 million by 2050, warns UN-Habitat's new report, The State of Arab Cities 2012: Challenges of Urban Transition.
The report was launched at a well-attended meeting held in Kuwait this week to discuss the challenges facing the region in terms of urban planning, housing and service provision. The on-going conference featured a ministerial, international and regional organisation roundtable and open sessions on the Challenges of Municipal Management, Affordable Housing and Urban Regeneration and Youth and Urban Economies.
During the opening ceremony the Kuwaiti Minister for Electricity and Water and State Minister for Municipalities Mr. Abdul Aziz Al-Ibrahim read a statement from His Royal Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Prince of Kuwait. He recognised the importance of cities as centres of human technology and imagination and expressed his appreciation of the conference.
Also speaking at the opening, Dr Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat said, "The 20th Century city has some problems that we need to address and the cities of the 21st Century will most likely look very different. We must plan our cities for social integration, compactness and economic efficiency; both in terms of more efficient energy consumption and maintenance costs...In addition, our cities should also be a tool for providing employment."
One of the most pressing issues facing the region is that of youth employment. With more than half of the population of the region under the age of 24, providing employment and affordable housing for the future generations is at the heart of development plans. It is estimated that 51 million new jobs will need to be created by 2050 to absorb the youth in the labour force. The events of the recent Arab Spring highlighted the urgency that this phenomenon is now taking.
His attendance at the Kuwait conference was part of Dr Clos' first official mission to the country as Executive Director, during which he also travelled to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain where he met with key officials in the areas of urban and municipal planning.