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Urbanisation Concepts and Trends

UPDATED VERSION published by IIED, August 2014
(to include more recently released statistics on urban and rural population prospects)

There is an emerging consensus that urbanisation is critically important to international development, but considerable confusion over what urbanisation actually is, whether it is accelerating or slowing, whether it should be encouraged or discouraged, and more generally what the responses should be. This Working Paper reviews some key conceptual issues and summarises urbanisation trends. It ends with a brief review of urbanisation and sustainable development, concluding that while urbanisation brings serious challenges, attempts to inhibit urbanization through exclusionary policies are likely to be economically, socially and environmentally damaging. Moreover, with the right support urbanisation can become an important element of sustainable development.

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Urbanisation is a defining trend of our time. It has major implications for global development goals – economic, social and environmental. IIED has been working with partners around the world, and particularly in Pakistan and the BRICS, to identify key urbanisation issues and develop and promote approaches that can tap the potential benefits of urbanisation while avoiding its exclusionary and environmentally destructive tendencies.

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Urbanisation and emerging population issues