State of the World's Cities 2008/9

Harmonious Cities

Posted: 30 November 2008

Author: UN-HABITAT. Earthscan 2008. £24.95 paperback

The 21st century is the Century of the City. Half of humanity now lives in cities, and within the next two decades, 60 per cent of the world's people will reside in urban areas. How can city planners and policymakers harmonize the various interests, diversity and inherent contradictions within cities? What ingredients are needed to create harmony between the physical, social, environmental and cultural aspects of a city and the human beings that inhabit it?

State of the World Cities cover
State of the World Cities cover
This report adopts the concept of Harmonious Cities as a theoretical framework in order to understand today's urban world, and also as an operational tool to confront the most important challenges facing urban areas and their development processes. It recognizes that tolerance, diversity, social justice and good governance, all of which are inter-related, are as important to sustainable urban development as physical planning.

It addresses national concerns by searching for solutions at the city level. For that purpose, it focuses on three key areas: spatial or regional harmony, which examines the main drivers of urban growth in the developing world and explores the spatial nuances of economic and social policies; social harmony, which presents and analyses new data on urban inequalities worldwide and describes the types of shelter deprivations experienced by slum dwellers in developing world regions; and environmental harmony, which examines the role of cities in the climate change debate, and the impact of global warming on the most vulnerable cities.

The report also assesses the various intangible assets within cities that contribute to harmony, such as cultural heritage, sense of place and memory and the complex set of social and symbolic relationships that give cities meaning. It argues that these intangible assets represent the soul of the city and are as important for harmonious urban development as tangible assets.