Cities are perhaps one of humanity's most complex creations, never
finished, never definitive. They are like a journey that never
ends. Their evolution is determined by their ascent into greatness
or their descent into decline. They are the past, the present and
the future. Cities contain both order and chaos. In them reside
beauty and ugliness, virtue and vice. They can bring out the best
or the worst in humankind. They are the physical manifestation of
history and culture and incubators of innovation, industry,
technology, entrepreneurship and creativity. Cities are the
materialization of humanity's noblest ideas, ambitions and
aspirations but when not planned or governed properly, can be the
repository of society's ills. Cities drive national economies by
creating wealth, enhancing social development and providing
employment but they can also be the breeding grounds for poverty,
exclusion and environmental degradation. The 21st Century is the
Century of the City. Half of humanity now lives in cities, and
within the next two decades, 60 per cent of the world's people will
reside in urban areas. How can city planners and policymakers
harmonize the various interests, diversity and inherent
contradictions within cities? What ingredients are needed to create
harmony between the physical, social, environmental and cultural
aspects of a city and the human beings that inhabit it? This report
adopts the concept of Harmonious Cities as a theoretical framework
in order to understand today's urban world, and also as an
operational tool to confront the most important challenges facing
urban areas and their development processes. It recognizes that
tolerance, diversity, social justice and good governance, all of
which are inter-related, are as important to sustainable urban
development as physical planning. It addresses national concerns by
searching for solutions at the city level. For that purpose, it
focuses on three key areas: spatial or regional harmony, which
examines the main drivers of urban growth in the developing world
and explores the spatial nuances of economic and social policies;
social harmony, which presents and analyzes new data on urban
inequalities worldwide and describes the types of shelter
deprivations experienced by slum dwellers in developing world
regions; and environmental harmony, which examines the role of
cities in the climate change debate, and the impact of global
warming on the most vulnerable cities. The report also assesses the
various intangible assets within cities that contribute to harmony,
such as cultural heritage, sense of place and memory and the
complex set of social and symbolic relationships that give cities
meaning. It argues that these intangible assets represent the soul
of the city and are as important for harmonious urban development
as tangible assets. Harmony within cities, argues the report, is
both a journey and a destination. Published with UN-HABITAT
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