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UN Publications Highlight Role of Equity, Other Measures in City Prosperity and Disaster Resilience

28 September 2012: The UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) released its report on the “State of the World's Cities 2012/2013: The Prosperity of Cities” in tandem with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction's report on “Making Cities Resilient 2012.”  The State of the World Cities report recommends reducing risk and building resilience in cities to ensure future prosperity and evaluates progress using a City Prosperity Index (CPI) developed by UN-HABITAT. The report notes a need for a more robust notion of development that includes dimensions such as equity, environmental sustainability, infrastructure, productivity and quality of life. UN-HABITAT used these five dimensions to track city progress though the CPI and its corresponding conceptual matrix, the Wheel of Prosperity. The CPI aims to enable decision-makers to design clear policy interventions and to identify opportunities for prosperity.

The CPI results illustrate that cities with solid prosperity range across nations with different stages of economic development and human development index ratings. The report includes figures illustrating cities and their overall and individual dimension scores. Although emerging economies such as Brazil or China are predicted to move towards the path of prosperity, the report cautions that they must address environmental degradation and tackle inequalities to achieve prosperity rather than relying on high economic growth and strong infrastructure.

Joan Clos, Executive Director, UN-HABITAT, said “The cities of the future should be ones that are capable of integrating the tangible and more intangible aspects of prosperity…and becoming the engine rooms of growth and development.”

According to the report, cities can be creative, flexible platforms to address economic, environmental, financial, political and social crises at regional and global levels. The report argues that a focus on financial prosperity has led to environmental damage, growing inequalities, distortions in the form and functionality of cities and unsustainable financial systems. Cities can play a positive role in responding to such crises, according to the report, including by: boosting production in local economies, increasing employment and income generation; and forging partnerships and local social pacts that can strengthen national governments.

The UNISDR report "Making Cities Resilient 2012 -- My city is getting ready! A global snapshot of how local governments reduce disaster risk" complements UN-HABITAT's findings. Margareta Wahlström, Head, UNISDR, said that several elements used by UN-HABITAT to assess city prosperity, such as equity and good governance, also bolster disaster resilience. "The findings from our own studies on cities show that low socio-economic development need not necessarily limit all resilience-building activities, especially when the central government and multilateral agencies work together to ensure the right people come together to take action," said Wahlström said.

UN-HABITAT had previously released an advance copy of the report at the Sixth World Urban Forum (WUF6). [Publication: State of the World's Cities 2012/2013: The Prosperity of Cities] [UN-HABITAT Document on State of the World Cities Report] [UNISDR Press Release]