"Cities are where people fufill their dreams"

Thoraya Ahmed Obaid says we shouldn’t worry about villagers migrating to overcrowded cities.

Marco Visscher | September 2007 issue
Is it wise to discourage villagers from moving to crowded cities? No, says Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the UN Population Fund: New people must be seen as assets for urban areas, not burdens.
Big cities, especially in the developing world, are teeming with problems. How can they be good for people?
Thoraya Ahmed Obaid: “The fact that there’s so much misery, degradation, poverty and crime in the cities of the developing world is exactly why we should be handling urbanization differently. Better policies start with acknowledging that many more people will be moving from villages to cities in the coming years.”
Wouldn’t it be better to improve life in rural areas by curbing urbanizatioan?
“I’m not saying we should stop our efforts to improve the prosperity in rural areas. But migration to the cities has been happening regardless of what occurs in rural areas—and it will continue to happen. People see the city as the place where they can fulfill their dreams. They see the city as the center of economic activity, and they’re right. Historically, cities have always been the driving force for growth and progress, so people want to go there. And when they find a job, they will earn more and will send money back to their families in the countryside.”
But people end up in horrifying slums!
“So that’s what we need to change. Urban planners should never look only at the current population when making policies; they should calculate on more migrants coming, and therefore make more designated land available for housing, with basic water, electricity and sanitation facilities and opportunities for work. If we can improve our cities, they can stimulate economic growth even further. As a side effect, it will certainly slow down population growth, since people in cities tend to have lower fertility. In an urban economy, women need and want less children.”
 

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"Cities are where people fufill their dreams"

Thoraya Ahmed Obaid says we shouldn’t worry about villagers migrating to overcrowded cities.

Marco Visscher | September 2007 issue
Is it wise to discourage villagers from moving to crowded cities? No, says Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the UN Population Fund: New people must be seen as assets for urban areas, not burdens.
Big cities, especially in the developing world, are teeming with problems. How can they be good for people?
Thoraya Ahmed Obaid: “The fact that there’s so much misery, degradation, poverty and crime in the cities of the developing world is exactly why we should be handling urbanization differently. Better policies start with acknowledging that many more people will be moving from villages to cities in the coming years.”
Wouldn’t it be better to improve life in rural areas by curbing urbanizatioan?
“I’m not saying we should stop our efforts to improve the prosperity in rural areas. But migration to the cities has been happening regardless of what occurs in rural areas—and it will continue to happen. People see the city as the place where they can fulfill their dreams. They see the city as the center of economic activity, and they’re right. Historically, cities have always been the driving force for growth and progress, so people want to go there. And when they find a job, they will earn more and will send money back to their families in the countryside.”
But people end up in horrifying slums!
“So that’s what we need to change. Urban planners should never look only at the current population when making policies; they should calculate on more migrants coming, and therefore make more designated land available for housing, with basic water, electricity and sanitation facilities and opportunities for work. If we can improve our cities, they can stimulate economic growth even further. As a side effect, it will certainly slow down population growth, since people in cities tend to have lower fertility. In an urban economy, women need and want less children.”
 

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