More than half of the world’s population now live in urban areas. By 2050, that figure will have risen to 6.5 billion people – two-thirds of all humanity. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without significantly transforming the way we build and manage our urban spaces.

In 1990, there were ten mega-cities with 10 million inhabitants or more. In 2014, there are 28 mega-cities, home to a total 453 million people. The rapid growth of cities in the developing world, coupled with increasing rural to urban migration, has led to this boom in mega-cities.

The Arab region is rapidly urbanizing with the urbanization rate growing at an average rate of 2.5 percent per year (2015 estimates). Today, more than half of the Arab population (57 percent) lives in urban areas with great variance across the region (99 and 98 percent in Qatar and in Kuwait, respectively; to 58 and 44 percent in Morocco and Egypt, respectively; down to 3 and 28 percent in Sudan and Comoros, respectively). Around 28 percent of all urban residents in the region are living in slums or informal settlements and in the least developed countries of the region, almost two thirds of urban residents live in slums.

Extreme poverty is often concentrated in urban spaces, and national and city governments struggle to accommodate the rising population in these areas. Making cities safe and sustainable means ensuring access to safe and affordable housing, and upgrading slum settlements. It also involves investment in public transport, creating green public spaces, and improving urban planning and management in a way that is both participatory and inclusive.

Lebanon has a rich urban cultural heritage, with a number of the world’s oldest cities. The country has, however, witnessed large demographic changes, including a high level of conflict-induced urbanisation and waves of external and internal displacements. Such increasingly complex urban contexts can make it more difficult to maintain social coherence and ensure inclusion.