high-rise buildings and informal settlements in Dhaka
Cover Flagship Report 2016
Flagship Report

Humanity on the move: Unlocking the transformative power of cities

Cover Flagship Report 2016

The momentum of urbanization and its impacts are so massive that we must face up to this trend.


What kind of homes should people live in? Where can they settle? How close may their neighbours encroach on them? These questions are as old as our civilization, but in the 21st century they are being asked in a new way. Because this century is characterized by a contradiction dynamic that eclipses much of our previous experience of social change: rapidly growing populations in many developing countries versus shrinking populations in some industrialized countries; the enrichment of tiny elites versus the ongoing economic marginalization of the majority; guarded luxury real estate surrounded by squalid, poor neighbourhoods in many megacities; improved access to basic supplies and services for billions of Earth dwellers, while at the same time their long-term life-support systems are being destroyed by resource looting, climate change and environmental pollution. The present report outlines the special challenges and opportunities faced in this century by cities from the perspective of the necessary transformation towards sustainability. One characteristic feature of the debate on the search for solutions is the enormous diversity of instruments and solution pathways. Consequently, there can be no blueprint for sustainable urban development.

Car-oriented urban development; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Prinzessinnengarten in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin: raised beds made of bakery boxes.
Photo: Naotake Murayama. License: CC BY 2.0. Title: Naotake Murayama „The Black Diamond,“ Royal Danish Library - schmidt hammer lassen. Link: flickr.com. Disclaimer see imprint.
Photo: Naotake Murayama. License: CC BY 2.0. Title: Superkilen park, Nørrebro, Copenhagen - Superflex with Bjarke Ingels Group and Topotek1. Link: flickr.com. Disclaimer see imprint.
Inner-city disparities in Mumbai in a confined space: slum settlement in front of high-rise buildings

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Humanity on the move: Unlocking the transformative power of cities

Voices to this Report

Humanity on the move: Unlocking the transformative power of cities, is a notable breath of fresh air at a time when shallow platitudes seem the order of the day. It is bold, meticulously crafted through argument (as opposed to assertion) and evidence, and rooted in a highly original conceptual framework that is both global in scope and differentiated. The report asserts the centrality of cultural and institutional change and does not shy away from being specific and programmatic at a moment when it seems that political discourses are increasingly disconnected from our highly fractious, unsustainable, violent and intolerant times. I recommend it as compulsory reading in the strongest possible terms.

Professor Edgar Pieterse -
Director – African Centre for Cities (University of Cape Town) & Chairperson of the Cities Alliance Think Tank.