Today, with more than half of the planet’s population living in urban environments, humanity is at a historic and critical juncture: the unprecedented concentration of populations and resources in cities and towns have opened doors to a host of both new possibilities and challenges for development.
Cities have historically served as fertile grounds for human innovation and advancement, thanks to the infrastructure, resources, outlets, and opportunities in place that encourage research, creativity, or entrepreneurship.
At the same time, unfortunately, cities have also been known to give rise to a number of problems: pollution, unmanaged population growth, excessive waste generation, and unsustainable energy consumption, for example. When poorly managed, cities become incubators of conflict and human suffering, generating poverty, environmental deterioration, exclusion, and negligence of human rights, among others.
The approaching urban millennium could make poverty, inequality and environmental degradation more manageable, or it could make them exponentially worse… a sense of urgency has to permeate efforts to address the challenges and opportunities presented by the urban transition.
UNFPA State of World Population 2007
Urbanization: The process of transition from a rural to a more urban society. Statistically, urbanization reflects an increasing proportion of the population living in settlements defined as urban, primarily through net rural to urban migration. The level of urbanization is the percentage of the total population living in towns and cities while the rate of urbanization is the rate at which it grows.
UNFPA State of World Population 2007
It is precisely for this potential of cities—to benefit and harm humanity’s quest for a better and healthy future—that effectively dealing with urbanization today represents a priority in the global public agenda. As such, urban development has been the object of numerous international conferences and movements in recent years.
At the dawn of a new millennium and faced with an entirely different set of challenges and opportunities than that from our “pre-urbanized” era, the way we manage our cities will make all the difference in not only our present ability to prosper and make choices freely but that of our future generations.
One of the most pressing questions of our time then is this: How can we act upon the enormous potential of cities for development, while meeting the challenges posed by them? EXPO Shanghai 2010 aims to respond to this question during its 6 months in 2010, drawing on the experiences of more than 200 participating states, international organizations, NGOs, and corporations, and share their vision with the 70 million expected visitors.
Milestones in Human Settlements Policies Since 1976: Key Dates
Source: UN-HABITAT State of the World’s Cities Report 2006/7
The World United: A Global Challenge, Local Solutions
Within this framework, EXPO Shanghai will carry on the international movement towards better understanding the policy options currently available to meet the challenges of urbanization. The goal is to build a common vision shared by all—policymakers and ordinary citizens alike— for the cities of tomorrow and how we can best manage them.
Bringing together key players from all sectors and all corners of the globe committed to the amelioration of quality of life in cities, the Expo site of 5.28 square kilometres will be a showcase of best practices that participants have to offer on this worldwide challenge of urbanization—a challenge common to all but experienced in different ways in different parts of the world.
A global challenge requiring local solutions. This is the premise of EXPO Shanghai 2010.
“City of Harmony,” the City of Tomorrow
“Our cities must be places where human beings lead fulfilling lives in dignity, good health, safety, happiness and hope.”
(UN-HABITAT Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements, 1996)
With these words of the UN-HABITAT Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements of 1996 as a point of departure, EXPO Shanghai will advocate the concept of the “City of Harmony” as the city we must strive to create in this new century.
“Harmony” - a universal and timeless ideal that transcends culture, it is rooted in ancient wisdom and is a concept that is today widely agreed as critically important to remedy the ills of modern urban society.
EXPO Shanghai 2010 will break down the ideal of harmony into three spheres: between human beings and nature; between man and man; and between spiritual and material realms.
Through the medium of a World Exhibition, one of the most spectacular and powerful expressions of human solidarity, EXPO Shanghai 2010 will invite the world for a preview of the city of tomorrow, “City of Harmony.”
The Vision of “City of Harmony”: Five Perspectives
But what does it take to create a city of harmony? As you will see in the following columns below, EXPO Shanghai will approach this question from five different perspectives: culture, economy, science and technology, communities, and rural-urban interactions.