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The world is undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history. In 2008, for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population will be living in towns and cities. By 2030 this number will swell to almost 5 billion, with urban growth concentrated in Africa and Asia. While mega-cities have captured much public attention, most of the new growth will occur in smaller towns and cities, which have fewer resources to respond to the magnitude of the change. In principle, cities offer more favourable setting for the resolution of social and environmental problems than rural areas. Cities generate jobs and income. With good governance they can deliver education, health care and other services more efficiently than less densely settled areas simply because of their advantages of scale and proximity.

Cities also present opportunities for social mobilization and women’s empowerment. And the density of urban life can relieve pressure on natural habitats and areas of biodiversity. The challenge for the next few decades is learning how to exploit the possibilities urbanization offers. The future of humanity depends on it.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNPF)