Investing in cities today is the key for a resilient future

By 2050, cities will be home to an additional 2.5 billion people, with two out of every threekatowice2 people living in urban areas.  The mounting impacts of climate change, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, and conflict and fleeing populations, hit cities the hardest and requires them to become resilient to shock waves of change. Cities are also uniquely vulnerable to climate shocks and natural disasters. At the same time, investing in cities can deliver major impact for green, resilient, and inclusive growth.

This week will see the eleventh session of the World Urban Forum (WUF11) in Katowice, Poland, the premier conference on urban development, where many of the discussions will focus on how to harness the potential of cities for a safer, more prosperous planet.

By 2050, 2 in 3 people will live in cities


City and climate investment solutions

This year’s conference, “Transforming our Cities for a Better Urban Future,” gives us the opportunity to address how we can support cities to be catalysts of positive change, especially regarding climate. The recent IPCC report shows how climate change is affecting communities around the world. For cities, the challenges are specific: about 90% of urban expansion is taking place in developing countries, much of it near hazard-prone areas, in informal and unplanned settlements , with clear implications for resilience building in the face of mounting climate impacts. As they grow, their exposure to climate and disaster risk also increases, and they risk being locked in inefficient and unsustainable development pathways. Cities also generate 70 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The earlier we invest in a city’s resilience and sustainability, the more cost and time-effective that investment will be. Faced with multiple crises in recent years, the World Bank and our partners have been working towards scaling up climate mitigation and adaptation in cities through the creation of several programs. For instance, we are supporting over 70 cities in 30 countries, through the City Finance Gap Fund, a global partnership that aims to assist cities in developing countries turn their climate ambitions into projects ready to be financed and implemented. We are also helping cities to plan for and mitigate adverse impacts of disasters in over 180 cities, through the City Resilience Program.

Building back stronger by improving urban resilience

WUF 11 is a particularly symbolic venue, physically close to the ongoing war in Ukraine with over 3.5 million people having fled to Poland since February 2022. It is vital, therefore that discussions at the meeting also examine the acute effects of conflicts on cities across the human, economic, and cultural dimensions, as well as reinforce the importance of building back stronger by improving urban resilience. 

Conflicts destroy urban agglomerations, disrupting critical urban systems and services such as housing, transportation, and health, as well as cultural assets which serve as foundations for people’s collective memory and social connections. The impact of conflicts also spills over to neighboring countries and cities, which bring profound changes to the host communities’ social and economic dynamics.  As host cities strive to absorb and cope with the large displacement, it may result in overstretching the existing urban infrastructure and service delivery, especially in food, energy, health, and finance services and systems, and exacerbate the vulnerability of already marginalized people.

As the international communities stand together to support Ukraine, it is vital to take a culturally-informed, people-centered, placed-based integrated approach by investing in both place and people, mainstreaming inclusion and into the planning, reconstruction and recovery efforts, while focusing on improving the overall urban resilience of the affected cities. One example is our work in Somalia, which focuses on enhancing the physical and social integration of marginalized groups, especially women, youth, and Internally Displaced People, into the urban fabric of Mogadishu by mainstreaming inclusion into the overall planning and ensuring equitable access to public infrastructure and services.

Cities have long been drivers of economic growth and opportunity.  And as someone who has worked on climate and development for many years, I know that they also have major potential to address the climate crisis and boost good development. Doing so will require ambition, innovation and collaboration. But this systemic transformation is possible and with it, safer and more sustainable cities for all.

Related links

For the World Bank’s participation in the WUF, click here.

Is this the golden age of innovation? dataprivacy-image_hero8

It has been said that we now find ourselves in the “Golden Age of Innovation.” While it is undeniably true that we live in a time when the pace of technological change is faster than ever before, from available new digital technologies to the data that fuels them the picture is not always as rosy as some would have it.

Unsurprisingly, the Digital Age of Accelerated Innovation brings with it both opportunities and challenges and nowhere more so than when it comes to data.  On the one hand, data has the potential to solve some of our most pressing societal challenges, from the pandemic to poverty to climate change. But that data can only be effectively leveraged if individuals and organizations trust those bodies that are responsible for handling it, rather than suspect that their privacy and wellbeing might be compromised without their knowledge or consent. This is where the challenges lie.

Where do we stand on trust?

Many organizations, including the World Economic Forum, note that “declining trust, prompted by unease at the way some organizations are using digital technology, could undermine the societal benefits of digitalization.” No one can deny that new innovative technologies have brought a commensurate wave of data breaches, tech industry scandals, a rise in cyberattacks, and a general lack of transparency regarding personal data use.  Whether the facts support it or not, a general sense of wariness accompanies every new request for personal data.

Organizations have a role to play to build and maintain trust in how they handle data.   Indeed, there is a pressing need to establish comprehensive practices for the development, design, and deployment of emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence.  Without measured and responsible guardrails, heedless and irresponsible personal data collection threatens to run rampant. This project starts at home by setting high levels of Privacy and Information Governance. New privacy regimes are surfacing weekly across the globe to safeguard the protection of personal information, which is good news. However, trust is not a simple box-ticking exercise. This requires organizations to instill a culture of privacy and to invest in education and awareness at all levels.   This translates into ethical commitments for a responsible data innovation system that safeguards and enhances privacy principles  – where people know and control what is being done with their data, how it is being used and shared, and how they are benefiting from these activities. Trust is an umbrella that, in data privacy terms, encompasses awareness, transparency, control, and security among others. Ultimately, this allows organizations to turn a heavy compliance obligation into a strategic imperative and business opportunity.

What’s next?

We are still at the start of our journey to re-establish trust in the digital era. Everyone – governments, industry, civil society, and academia – has a role to play in the collective effort needed to bring about real change. Therefore, the World Bank is so pleased to be working alongside Mastercard on a knowledge and thought leadership partnership to strengthen trust across the global digital economy.

Please view the replay of our Fireside Chat with Tami Dokken, Chief Data Privacy Officer, World Bank and Caroline Louveaux, Chief Privacy Officer, Mastercard which took place on June 21, 2022.