UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, this week joined German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, the Bundesnachrichtendienst President Ernst Uhrlau, and its Vice-President Arndt Freiherr Freytag von Loringhoven, to discuss the role of the city as a catalyst for stability and sustainability in the emerging global order.
The conference was held to discuss the challenges of governance within the context of a rapidly urbanizing and globalizing world, and the complex social, economic and political trends that have come to follow it. Mrs. Tibaijuka paid tribute to the to the Bundesnachrichtendienst for drawing attention to what she called an urgent need for better understanding of the many forces at play that can influence better governance.
“Today, cities are increasingly assuming a leadership role amid the phenomenon of globalization. With the liberalization of the world’s economy, human, technological and financial resources are concentrating in cities,” she said. “Hong Kong, London, New York and Tokyo have become global centres of financial services followed closely by Frankfurt, Sao Paolo, Shanghai and Singapore. Cities such as Dubai have capitalized on their physical location to become global transportation hubs. Yet other cities such as Bangalore, Seattle and Silicon Valley have emerged as key players in information technology.”
In a wide ranging speech, Mrs. Tibaijuka told the symposium that cities are now driving national economies in the industrialized countries.
“For example, in the United States, cities outpace states and even nations in economic output. If treated as nations, US metropolitan areas in 2000 would comprise 47 of the world’s largest economies. The combined gross economic output of the top ten metropolitan areas in the U.S. in 2000 was USD 2.43 trillion. This is an amount greater than the combined economic output of 31 states in the USA. If the 5 largest metropolitan areas in the USA (New York, Los Angles, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia) were treated as a single country, it would rank as the fourth largest economy in the world.”
Citing the latest research, Mrs. Tibaijuka said that in developing countries, cities had also increased in size and economic importance. Many cities in developing countries generate a large share of national income. For example, Mexico City, with 14% of Mexico’s population, accounts for 34% of its GNP. Sao Paulo, with just over 10% of Brazil’s population produces 40% of its GDP. Shanghai, with just 1.2% of China’s population, generates over 12% of China’s GNP. Bangkok has only 10% of Thailand’s total population but contributes nearly 40% to its GDP. Cities in Africa contribute 60% to the continent’s GDP, yet only about 34% of the continent’s people live in cities. Johannesburg and Cape Town, respectively, account for 15% and 14% of South Africa’s GDP. But if one includes Johannesburg and East Rand as one entity, then the region contributes nearly 23% of South Africa’s GDP, Mrs. Tibaijuka said.
Mrs. Tibaijuka warned, however, that rapid and chaotic urbanisation was being accompanied by increasing inequalities which pose enormous challenges to human security and safety.
“My organisation, UN-HABITAT, has been raising a red flag for several years on the rapid and chaotic aspects of urbanisation and of the plight of the one billion urban dwellers all over the world who eke out an existence in slums deprived of the most basic amenities such as water, sanitation, security of tenure, durable housing and sufficient living space,” she said.