An inter-regional conference on urban-rural linkages opened in Nairobi on Friday with Kenya’s Vice-President, Mr. Moody Awori, and UN-HABITAT Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka calling for mutually inclusive development plans for towns and rural areas.
The Inter-Regional Conference on Urban-Rural Development Linkages is part of the lead-up to World Habitat Day on Monday 4 October 2004, for which the theme this year is Cities – engines of rural development.
Both Mr. Awori and Mrs. Tibaijuka told the conference that concentrating on the development cities at the expense of rural areas could have negative effects on any country’s growth.
Mr. Awori, who opened the meeting, said it was a pity that in developing countries, planners still perceived development of urban and rural areas as discrete and mutually exclusive competing development spheres. He noted that the planners were yet to fully appreciate the economic, social and environmental inter-dependence between the two areas in the constant movements back and forth of people, goods and services.
“If all policy makers and development planners could fully appreciate and functionally internalize this inter-dependence between the two areas, development should no longer be cast in discrete rural and urban contexts, but rather be contextualized in balanced and integrated territorial development terms. What this calls for, is a more holistic regional approach to development,” Mr. Awori said.
Mrs. Tibaijuka said that the concentration of investment had turned cities into places of opportunity and economic growth making them the dreams of millions of people from the countryside. Yet, the fact that a majority of people still live in rural areas from where they supply cities with food and the fact that the two areas were inextricably linked, called for a development approach promoting more mutually beneficial development outcomes.
She said the world had become increasingly urbanized in recent decades. Asia, which is home to more than 60 percent of humanity, was rapidly urbanizing with 36 per cent of Asians living in towns and cities. That figure was projected to rise to 60 per cent by the year 2030. Africa is the fastest urbanising continent in the world. By the year 2030, she said, half of its population will be living and working in towns and cities.
“UN-HABITAT is of the view that development problems of cities cannot be effectively addressed by only concentrating efforts within the cities themselves because part of the problems are generated from outside the cities, that is from rural areas. In other words, development planning for the cities must take a broader regional perspective and take account of what is happening in rural areas,” she said.
The Executive Director said UN-HABITAT had striven over the years to promote the adoption and implementation of a more integrated rural-urban linkages development approach. Towards that end, she said, the agency had in cooperation with UNDP launched and implemented the Rural-Urban Partnership Programme in Nepal, and the Poverty Alleviation through Rural-Urban Linkages in Indonesia.
Both programmes were particularly designed to promote better urban-rural linkages, she said. Not only did they address the physical and spatial aspects of development, but they also encompassed the economic, political, social and environmental aspects.
Development and improvement of transport infrastructure links between cities and rural areas was a potent tool for transmitting development impacts from the urban areas, she said. “Another potent tool for bridging the urban-rural development gap is stimulating and supporting the development of small and medium-sized towns intervening between the major cities and rural areas,” Mrs. Tibaijuka said.
Addressing a press conference later, Mrs. Tibaijuka challenged journalists to explore the connection between falling commodity prices and the influx of people to the cities. She said that poor commodity prices forced many to abandon their farms to seek better living in urban areas, giving rise to the problem of slums.
The Managing Director of the Common Fund for Commodities, Mr. Ali Mchumo, said subsidies offered by developed countries made it difficult for commodities from the developing world to get access to markets abroad.