Asian Urbanization Global Priority, ADB Vice President Tells Manila Conference – February 5, 2007

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MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Asian urbanization is a global problem that should be at the forefront of donors’ agendas, an ADB Vice-President told the opening of a conference today.

Speaking at the conference on Investing in Asia’s Urban Future, Vice-President Ursula Schaefer-Preuss said given that serious and growing problems have overwhelmed urban managers, the response cannot simply be business-as-usual.

“We need to develop new modes for engagement in this sector, reflecting new roles and types of clients,” she said. “Today’s responses must address the factors key to a sustainable future: economic, environmental and social.”

In the next 20 years, another 1.1 billion people will live in Asia’s already congested cities, she pointed out. “Without effective urban management, this growth will only exacerbate the existing problems of pollution, lack of potable water, slums and traffic congestion, among others,” said the Vice-President, responsible for ADB’s knowledge management and sustainable development operations.

The conference, partnered by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), will identify the priorities to be tackled in the face of the massive demographic and social changes taking place on Asia’s urban landscape.

In her address to the conference opening, Karin Kortmann, ADB Governor for Germany and German Vice Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, said that to make the complex process of urbanization sustainable and viable, action needs to be taken at all levels of society.

“Urban development is a shared task – nations, country groupings and multilateral organizations must take action, as well as civil society, the private sector, and municipalities,” she said.

“The Asian Development Bank and German development cooperation pursue similar integrated urban development strategies. Our goal is to bring about lasting improvements in the living conditions of the urban poor, to limit the negative environmental consequences of urban growth, and to make use of cities’ potential for national development.”

Giving the keynote address at the conference, M. Ramachandran, Secretary of the Ministry of Urban Development of India, made the point that Asia faces urban challenges that are unprecedented in history.

“Globalization and decentralization are exerting pressures on cities whose implications are just getting to be understood,” he said.

“They are creating demands of very large proportions in the spheres of investments, institutions, and capacity building. Most Asian economies suffer from infrastructure deficits which have to be met not in a long-run perspective, but over the next 5-10 years or so.”

Taking part in the conference are about 170 participants from national and local governments, civil society, private sector, academia, international organizations, and established networks.

At the conclusion tomorrow, representatives of the German Government and ADB, together with other interested parties, are expected to set out how they intend to collaborate to address the social and environmental challenges of Asia’s urban development.

See the event site at: Investing in Asia’s Urban Future

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