Helvetas considers growing cities in developing countries both as opportunities and challenges. We therefore increasingly focus on our existing engagement in urban areas and continue to foster linkages between rural and urban areas.
Currently, over half the world’s population lives in cities. This is expected to grow to more than two-thirds by 2050. Most of this growth will occur in developing countries. Helvetas realizes that these dynamics represent both opportunities and challenges. Rural areas, small and medium urban centres and larger urban cities are closely interlinked through flows of people, their skills and knowledge as well as the flow of materials for processing and consumption and services. While there is a flow of funds in the form of remittances from urban to rural areas, there is a reverse flow of ecosystem services.
Rapidly growing small and medium urban centers face considerable challenges in terms of service provision such as water supply and waste management. They face growing environmental pollution and emissions of greenhouse gases. Risks of both natural and social disasters tend to increase due to high exposure and concentration of people and assets. Small and medium urban centers, which are the fastest growing urban category, are marginalized in terms of funds, political power and influence and have a higher concentration of poverty. At the same time, the development of small to medium urban centers also represents opportunities to generate jobs and income. The on-going fiscal and administrative decentralization processes provide opportunities for better management and governance of such urban spaces. There is also an increasing demand from partners to engage in the smaller urban spaces.
All these factors have convinced Helvetas that the linkages between urban and rural areas, the flow of people, services and resources and the economic potential of urban areas can be a powerful force for development that needs specific attention through all its working areas.
Helvetas explores how best to consider urbanization to reduce poverty and inequality and support the achievement of sustainable development in both rural and urban areas. This entails:
New pilot initiatives and projects already engaged in urban areas and working on themes such as vocational education, water and sanitation as well as waste management will serve as basis for learning. Partnerships will be sought with centers of excellence in Switzerland as well as abroad and project activities with a clear focus on urban centers are envisaged.
Our multilingual advisory team offers wide-ranging thematic expertise and has in-depth experience in navigating complex processes. Our work builds on over 60 years of experience in more than 30 countries.
Helvetas develops and guides projects. To be sustainable, they must be locally embedded. We support our partners in effectively organizing projects and processes and assist local authorities to better assume their responsibilities.
For development practitioners and anyone interested in our projects and approaches.