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Cities To Boom In Africa And Asia

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by Mark Maathuis
UPI Correspondent
Washington DC (UPI) Jul 03, 2007
The urban populations in Africa and Asia will at least double over the next 30 years to 1.7 billion, adding more people than the Chinese and U.S. populations combined. According to a recent U.N. study, urban populations are growing at more than 1.2 million people a week. In 2008, for the first time in history, city residents outnumber rural population, the report's principal author George Martine said at a press conference in Washington last Wednesday.

"The way cities expand and organize themselves, both in developed and developing countries will be critical for humanity." The State of World Population 2007 report was issued by the U.N. Population Fund.

The concentration of people can help sustainability, lower fertility and make basic social services cheaper, the report stated. Recent estimates, using satellite imagery, show that all urban sites cover 2.8 percent of the earth, according to the report, "This means that about 3.3 billion people occupy an area less than half the size of Australia."

Cities can address global environmental issues at a local stage, Worldwatch Institute's President Christopher Flavin said at the press conference, but "governance is the key issue."

Strong local leadership can require sustainable buildings and transportation, he said. He named Mayor Michael Bloomberg's recent decision that all 13,000 New York City taxis must operate on hybrid engines by 2012 as an example. Worldwatch Institute is a Washington-based research organization focusing on energy, resources and environmental issues.

Planning ahead to deal with resources and waste is vital, Martine said. "Cities concentrate environmental problems," he said, "but surprisingly, they are also the best hope for sustainability."

Fertility declines in East and Southeast Asia, Latin America and more slowly in Africa, the report said, but most urban growth is still caused by natural increase -- more births than deaths -- rather than migration.

The United States must provide more financial support for healthcare and family planning services, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., said at the press conference, because "in 2030, approximately 60 percent of all city residents will be under the age of 18."

Sexual behavior education is essential for their protection against HIV/AIDS, she said. The PEPFAR program played a key role in HIV treatment and prevention in the cities of sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, she said, but other health issues should also be addressed. PEPFAR -- the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief--committed $15 billion to fight HIV/AIDS in 2003; last month, President Bush proposed to double that amount for the next five years.

One billion people live in slums, Maloney said, and "half of them are women and girls. They are the poorest of the poor." They are at risk for kidnapping and sex trafficking, apart from the usual slum dangers, such as crime, fire and diseases, she said, "But cities also offer poor women many possibilities that they do not have in rural areas."

Cities must recognize poor people's rights, Martine said, because people continue to move to the slums. "Dreams, as well as hard realities, are driving urban growth," he said.

The study found that the overall rate of urban growth has consistently declined in most parts of the world; cities grow because of the absolute size of the increments. Also, many of the world's largest cities have more people moving out than in -- such as Mumbai, formerly Bombay, India (population 11,914,398 in 2001); Sao Paulo, Brazil (11,016,703, in 2006); Shanghai (10,996,500 in 2003) and Moscow (10,101,500 in 2001). Today, few are close to the size that people predicted for them in the 1970s.

Among today's 20 mega-cities -- 10 million inhabitants or more -- only six grew at rates consistently above 3 percent a year over the last 30 years. The others grew moderate or low.

Mega-cities account for 4 percent of the world's population and 9 percent of all urban inhabitants. This number is unlikely to expand in the near future, according to the report. Fifty-two percent of the urban population lives in settlements of less than 500,000 people.

Source: United Press International

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EU To Relaunch Ties With Africa Amid Rising Chinese Influence
Brussels (AFP) Jun 29, 2007
The European Union aims to set up a strategic partnership with Africa to meet the continent's most important needs and match growing Chinese influence there, officials said Thursday. "We are looking for new, high-level relations. We want it to be a strategic partnership," Portugal's State Secretary for European Affairs, Manuel Lobo Antunes, told reporters.

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