Urbanization in developing countries: What implications for poverty and the environment ?

19/03/2012 > 19/09/2012 - Paris

Over the past decades, a trend of urbanization unprecedented in scale and pace has been facing developing countries. This urban development remains mostly unforeseen and hardly planned by urban decision-makers who, despite increased levels of responsibility, do not benefit of sufficient financial and human resources.

The great challenges facing cities are multidimensional: the general improvement of urban communities’ living conditions depends on their access to essential services (access to water, to sanitation and waste management, to electricity) that is itself closely linked with economic, social and environmental stakes.

As urban areas in developing countries are set to double in size by 2030, how can we plan for sustainable urban futures?


"Three types of exclusion are facing informal neighbourhoods: Land exclusion, social exclusion and urban exclusion, each one reinforcing the two others. The very first objective of improvement projects is to stop the vicious circle to launch a virtuous circle of development. Given that not everything can be achieved all at once, prioritizing needs is a crucial step. But one thing is for sure: informal settlements need to be legally integrated and equipped, which necessitates their prior recognition.”

Guillaume Josse, Urban Planner, Groupe Huit Director  

"In Ouagadougou, the municipal government decided to take matters into their own hands. It has been leading with the AFD (French Development Agency) a large project to improve living conditions in “spontaneous” neighbourhoods. This means firstly to connect these areas to the water network and to proceed to relocations because we all wish to provide every urban dweller with an official documentation that serves as a proof of address. In order for Burkina Faso urban communities to enter this dynamic of change, a national commission for decentralization was established”

Simon Compaoré, Mayor of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso


"A mass strengthening of international solidarity schemes – alas impeded by the global economic and financial situation – is necessary given the scale of challenges ahead in cities of the global South. Efforts must also focus on transparency and efficiency of the assistance. The rise of emerging countries on the international cooperation stage raises a number of questions and doubts. Likewise, it matters that development aid and NGOs do not focus their efforts solely on capital cities, but also on secondary cities where demographic growth is as high – if not higher. Success must be highlighted and examples of solidarity on the field publicly acknowledged. All of these facts need to be shared and vulgarized, this is also the role of the media.


Charles Josselin, Former Minister of Cooperation, President of the Côtes d’Armor General Council


"UN-Habitat supports a systematization of urban planning. In Africa, land rights are very diverse and entail much more than property rights. For instance, many countries adopt and recognize as official documentation resident permits, utility bills, all these “minor documents” that open rights to the city, hence rights to life. These solutions might be intermediate, at least they allow communities to finally consider their future as urban citizens." 

Alioune Badiane, UN-Habitat Project Office Director


"Historically conceived as places of defence and exchanges, cities settled in very strategic areas: by the rivers, in coastal areas, in valleys… actually in risk areas. As a compounding factor, poor communities have largely colonized the most dangerous areas in and around these cities.”

François Grünewald, , Groupe URD Chief Executive and Scientific Director


Alioune Badiane, UN-Habitat Project Office Director

François Grunewald, URD Group Scientific Director and Chief Executive

Charles Josselin, Former Minister of Cooperation, President of the Côtes d’Armor General Council, (Re)sources Member

Guillaume Josse, Geographer and Urban planner, Groupe Huit Chief executive

Simon Compaoré, Mayor of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso


Bernard de La Villardière, Journalist (M6), Producer (Ligne de Front), (Re)sources Member


  • Bernard de la Villardière
  • Charles Josselin
  • Simon Compaoré
  • Alioune Badiane
  • François Grünewald
  • Guillaume Josse

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Urbanization in developing countries: What implications for poverty and the environment ?