UN-HABITAT Report on the State of Arab Cities Focuses on Urban Transition

May 2012: The UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) has released the 2012 edition of its regional report the State of Arab Cities on the theme “Challenges of Urban Transition.” The report notes that, although urban slums are decreasing and urban innovations are being introduced, the region still faces major challenges, including high youth unemployment rates and climate change.

The report argues that climate change can increase the competition over scarce resources, decrease food security, increase poverty and social instability, and accelerate environmental migration and militarization over natural resources. It estimates that climate change will increase water scarcity and the frequency of droughts, such as that in the Horn of Africa, reduce agricultural productivity by 10 to 40%, and potentially induce further rural to urban migration. The report further highlights that the impact of climate change will increase the likelihood of conflicts over water and oil rights.

The report describes that the Maghreb countries are putting in place a network of concentrated solar and wind power plants throughout the sub-region, which could expand into the Mashreq and Gulf countries. This network could increase investment and economic development opportunities to counter balance the negative impacts of climate change and urbanization.

The report notes that climate change adaptation will require better water conservation, better allocation of water use rights, reduction of fossil fuel use, and investments in renewable energy. It stresses that countries that depend on rain-fed agriculture are more vulnerable to climate change and that, on average, most countries are net importers of food and food security is a key challenge. The report further underlines that agriculture is the most vulnerable sector to climate change and that it is responsible for 85% of water consumption. It identifies Comoros, Somalia and Yemen as some of the most vulnerable countries in the world.

The report emphasizes that climate change adaptation will require adequate management of water resources, improved water conservation, a review of water use rights, a reduction of fossil fuel energy reliance, investments in renewable energy and the strengthening of international cooperation for water resource sharing. [Publication: State of Arab Cities 2012: Challenges of Urban Transition]