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Global Development Institute

Urban Futures

Urban futures

The challenge:

Global urbanisation in the 21st century presents a range of challenges:

  • The geography of many cities is characterised by inequality, segregation and fragmentation, with concentrations of poverty and wealth existing in close proximity to one another.
  • Accessing affordable, decent, secure shelter is increasingly difficult as urban land and housing become targets for speculative activities. In the global South, an estimated 3 billion people will be living in informal settlements by 2050. Meanwhile in the global North, austerity policies are exacerbating homelessness and housing insecurity.
  • Infrastructure and service delivery systems in many cities in developing countries are incomplete. There is an urgent need to develop accessible, sustainable and affordable energy, water and sanitation systems.   
  • Decent employment is a challenge for city dwellers in the context of changing patterns of work and continuing casualization within labour markets. Many rely on informal employment in order to make a living and lack the basic protections and benefits associated with formal sector work.
  • Many urban residents live in smaller towns with close connections to rural livelihoods. There is a need to understand changing patterns of migration and the flow of goods and services between urban, peri-urban and rural areas.
  • Climate change is already having a profound impact on cities, and in most cases its impacts disproportionately impact low-income residents. Urban processes will increasingly be influenced by climate change, and cities must simultaneously seek to mitigate climate change while adapting to its most immediate impacts.

How we are addressing it:

The Urban Futures group seek to understand and address these challenges through engaged research and practice. Research themes include:

  • Addressing urban inequalities and making cities more inclusive
  • Exploring innovative solutions to the global housing crisis
  • Enabling city dwellers to make a decent living
  • Widening access to public and green space, infrastructure and public transport for all city dwellers
  • Co-producing knowledge with urban communities and social movements

Research Projects

Our teaching agenda:

People and publications:

News and insights: