DESA’s World’s Cities Data Finds Cities “Highly Exposed” to Disasters
UN Photo/Kibae Park/Sipa Press
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The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs released a data booklet titled, ‘The World’s Cities in 2018,’ which notes that the world’s cities are growing in both size and number.

According to the publication’s findings, 679 of 1,146 cities inhabited by more than half a million people are vulnerable to cyclones, floods, droughts, earthquakes, landslides or volcanic eruptions.

Only one high-income territory in the past 20 years ranks in the top ten for economic losses as a percentage of GDP.

30 October 2018: The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) released a data booklet titled, ‘The World’s Cities in 2018.’ The publication finds that nearly three in five cities with populations greater than 500,000 people are at high risk of a natural disaster.

According to the publication’s findings, 679 of 1,146 cities inhabited by more than half a million people are vulnerable to cyclones, floods, droughts, earthquakes, landslides or volcanic eruptions. Combined, these cities are home to 1.4 billion people – a third of the world’s population. The booklet draws on projections from DESA’s ‘World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision’ report, and notes the importance of understanding urbanization trends as being key to implementing SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities).

The data booklet offers a definition for the term “city,” distinguishing between administrative boundaries, those delineated by “contiguous urban areas,” and broader metropolitan areas that feature a degree of economic and social interconnectivity. The means of defining a city, it stresses, affects the assessment of its population, with metropolitan areas being home to significantly larger numbers of people than the “city proper” as defined by an administrative boundary.

Nine of the ten cities projected to become megacities by 2030 are located in developing countries.

The publication notes that the world’s cities are growing in both size and number, with most megacities – defined as having more than 10 million inhabitants – being located in the global South. Nine of the ten cities projected to become megacities by 2030 are located in developing countries.

In a news release, lead author of the publication Danan Gu, DESA, emphasizes the importance of cities, noting that urban areas produce approximately three quarters of the world’s economic output. The study, he highlights, aims to better understand cities’ vulnerability, in order to both protect human life and limit economic and infrastructural damages from natural disasters. Key to doing so, he adds, is ensuring preparedness, good governance and resilient infrastructure.

However, these features are more commonly found in cities within high-income countries. Thus, with most of the world’s fastest growing cities being in Asia and Africa, the study reveals a gap, and a need to ensure that cities in developing regions are resilient to natural disasters. DESA’s press release points to a recent report by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) which finds that only one high-income territory in the past 20 years ranks in the top ten for economic losses as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP).

The booklet was launched ahead of World Cities Day, which was recognized on 31 October and focused on the theme ‘Building Sustainable and Resilient Cities.’ [Publication: The World’s Cities in 2018] [DESA News Release]

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