In 2008, for the first time, the world’s urban population exceeded its rural population. According to theUnited Nations estimates, urbanization will grow from about 50 percent of the world’s population today to about 60 percent by 2030. More importantly, urbanization – and its accompanying pressures – will not be evenly distributed. As illustrated in Figure 1, the urban population as the percentage of the total population has grown around the world over the last three decades; however, the urban population as a percentage of total population has risen more quickly in Latin America & the Caribbean the Middle East & North Africa, and East Asia and the Pacific.
More than 90 percent of projected urban growth will continue to occur in developing nations, fueled by increasing population and rural to urban migration.
Researchers note that, traditionally, the largest drivers of urbanization are primarily natural disasters (and increasingly ecological degradation). War and conflict have also caused populations to flee into urban areas. Climate change and the increasing desertification of once-arable lands have also fueled rural to urban movements in recent years, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Certainly, urbanization may be the result of conflict. But it is also the case that urbanization may be associated with poor security conditions in countries. The (rapid) movement of people from rural areas to more urban (or even peri-urban) cities may exacerbate underlying ethnic and religious tensions, place pressures on weak infrastructure that is already being pushed beyond capacity, increase distributional pressures, and demand governance and better planning from governments too weak to sustain themselves.
Continue reading at GT2030.com.
The National Intelligence Council (NIC) recently launched a new blog in advance of Global Trends 2030, which will be published after the presidential election this fall. The NIC releases a new edition of Global Trends after every presidential election in part to inform the incoming administration about important trends that will shape the global security environment in the decade ahead. The new blog features experts’ commentary on a range of global trends that are expected to shape the future security environment, such as the rise of major non-western economies and the competition over natural resources, trends that readers are likely to read about in the new edition this fall.
This week’s discussion is focused on the dynamics of urbanization. And today’s entries are focused in particular on urbanization’s national security implications, with commentary from David Kilcullen and Kori Schake. I also had an opportunity to weigh in with a post on urbanization and climate change. In it, I argue that national security practitioners must view urbanization and climate change as two interlinked phenomena. Below is an excerpt of that post.
Urbanization and climate change may be the two most important trends to shape global development in the decades ahead. On the one hand, urban cities have the potential to serve as engines of change, driving economic growth in some of the world’s least developed countries and pulling more people out of poverty than at any other time in history. On the other hand, climate change could undercut all of this by exacerbating resource scarcity and putting vulnerable communities at risk from sea level rise and more frequent and intense storms.
Today, roughly 80 percent of economic growth comes for urban centers. Much of this comes from what experts refer to as the “urban advantage:” cities typically concentrate the full spectrum of economic opportunities that are not readily available in rural areas. This includes everything from social services such as education and healthcare, more reliable access to water, sanitation services and electricity, to industries and transportation hubs that are lynchpins for commercial development.
Simply put, countries have more opportunities for economic growth as they urbanize. According to a 2010 study from United Nations Human Settlements Program, “The prosperity of nations is intimately linked to the prosperity of their cities. No country has ever achieved sustained economic growth or rapid social development without urbanizing (countries with the highest per capita income tend to be more urbanized, while low-income countries are the least urbanized).” Of course, how much a country benefits from urbanization depends on policies developed at the local level. Indeed, urban politics can make or break the benefits of urbanization if local policymakers fail to adopt policies that break down socioeconomic, cultural, ethnic and religious barriers.
Continue reading at GT2030.com.
Sometime on Monday the world population grew to 7 billion people, according to the United Nations. “Seven billion population is a challenge, and at the same time, an opportunity, depending upon how the international community prepares for that challenge,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a news conference in New York on Monday.
It is interesting to reflect on what a world with 7 billion people means against the backdrop of global climate change. Yesterday, the Associated Press reported on the findings of a draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that cautioned that weather extremes could become worse as the world warms, making disasters like the 2010 Russian heat wave and the ongoing drought in Texas and the American Southwest more the norm than the extreme.
Yet, “global warming isn’t the sole villain in future climate disasters, the climate report says,” according to the Associated Press. “An even bigger problem will be the number of people – especially the poor – who live in harm’s way.”
It is clear that the world is shrinking. But in addition to a growing population, more and more people – especially in developing states – are moving from rural to coastal areas in order to take advantage of burgeoning cities and faster economic growth taking place along the world’s coastline. However, these people are in harm’s way. Indeed, this migration toward the littoral regions is forcing people to live in more dense communities in vulnerable areas that may be more susceptible to severe storms and sea level rise, the kinds of challenges likely to manifest from global climate change.
Christine recently spoke with Jennifer Sciubba, a professor at Rhodes College and author of The Future Faces of War: Population and National Security. Here’s what the two discussed:
Christine Parthemore (CP): In the book, you point out that countries such as Tunisia and Egypt had a 50/50 chance of becoming a liberal democracy before 2020, based on historical demographic and political correlations. If you were a betting scholar, what country or countries would be next in line?
Jennifer Sciubba (JS): The work by Richard Cincotta establishes a correlation between proportion of young adults in a population and chance of democracy, pointing out that once the population of young adults as a proportion of all adults reaches 40 percent or less, the country has about a 50/50 shot at becoming a democracy. But, the work still doesn’t tell us enough about the mechanisms through which these variables are linked. Based purely on age structure, we would look to the five former Soviet Republics in Central Asia to democratize next. But a few states across the recent arc of revolution have seen instability and calls for greater representation even though they are still years away from this benchmark. For example, Egypt’s age structure is still young—48% of the adult population is ages 15-29. One explanation that doesn’t undermine Cincotta’s thesis is that though these states are all experiencing instability, it is far too soon to term these democratic revolutions. It will be years before these states have consolidated liberal democracies, and perhaps that won’t happen until they reach the benchmark. But there is another explanation that interests me. I’m working on some research with a student here at Rhodes to look at the emergence of a political generation across the region—the youth are all experiencing similar exclusion in the political, social, and economic realms that are unique to their position in life and this may matter more than the age structure itself. It is notable, however, that the wave of revolution began in a country on the cusp of the “half-a-chance benchmark.”
Yesterday, the Wilson Center held a book launch for The Future Faces of War: Population and National Security with author Jennifer Dabbs Sciubba. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Forces Kathleen Hicks joined the conversation as a discussant and Geoff Dabelko, director of the Environmental Change and Security Program at the Wilson Center, moderated it.
The overarching theme of the day was that demographics alone don’t determine the fate of nations, but they do play a role in nearly every aspect of state policy. As Professor Sciubba put it, “Demography is neither a force for good or bad; it depends on the government’s ability to handle it.” The purpose of Sciubba’s book was to introduce a framework to help understand the broad indeterminate nature of demographics, and how policy issues should consider demographic trends. Indeed, her presentation yesterday followed this format.
Sciubba laid out three characteristics that demographics may portend for a state: they can be an indicator of challenges or opportunities; a multiplier of conflict or progress; or a resource for power and prosperity. She used a variety of global issues to demonstrate how these worked. One particularly notable one was the “youth bulge” – that is, where the largest demographic of a society lies between the ages of 15-29. According to Sciubba, the presence of a youth bulge in several Middle East and North African states is viewed both as an indicator and a multiplier of the challenges linked with the recent unrest in the region. For example, that 43 percent of Tunisia’s adult population is between the ages of 15-29 was an indication of the challenges the government needed to address, such as curtailing unemployment. When the government failed to address these challenges, the large youth population had a multiplying effect on the instability associated with corrupt governance and economic mismanagement.
The Department of Defense released the 2011 National Military Strategy (NMS) this morning. For those not familiar, the strategy is largely intended to outline how the U.S. military – and the military leadership – will accomplish the objectives the Department of Defense laid out in the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and advance U.S. interests articulated in the National Security Strategy (NSS). Like the QDR and the NSS, there are some relevant natural security items that are worth mentioning. On first glance, here are some excerpts from the NMS that I found particularly interesting:
Demographics and Natural Resources
I thought it was great that the new strategy gives particular attention to demographics and how those trends could have implications from the strategic environment. And the strategy goes one step farther by brining natural resources and climate change into the mix and shedding light on the possible challenges that could be looming in the future:
Population growth and urbanization in the Middle East, Africa, and South Central Asia will contribute to increased water scarcity and may present governance challenges. The uncertain impact of global climate change combined with increased population centers in or near coastal environments may challenge the ability of weak or developing states to respond to natural disasters. (P. 2)