World Cities Day 2017: RCMRD Using Earth observation for urban and spatial planning

BOY 6921As the world marks World Cities Day today, Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza Director General, Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) spoke on the general theme of World Cities Day - Better City, Better Life. He also touched on the theme Innovative Governance, Open Cities selected by the UN this year.

Dr. Nkurunziza said “sustainable urban planning and management demand innovative concepts and techniques to obtain up-to-date and area-wide information on the characteristics and development of the urban system.”

He added that the increasing availability of Earth Observation (EO) technologies has provided new opportunities for a wide range of urban applications, such as mapping and monitoring of the urban environment, socio-economic estimations, and characterization of urban climate, analysis of regional and global impacts and urban security and emergency preparedness.

However, Dr. Nkurunziza noted that a gap exists between the research-focused results offered by the urban EO community and the application of these data and products by urban planners and decision makers.

In emerging markets, urbanization is even more important as a key driver of development and growth. Shifting underemployed rural people to more productive employment in urban areas is fundamental to lifting productivity overall, which in turn constitutes a sustainable platform for future investment and growth. Getting urbanization right, however, has been a major challenge for emerging markets everywhere.

At a time when RCMRD member States have grand visions for its cities, even while they struggle to meet the basic needs of its inhabitants, the “New Urban Agenda” offers a normative framework for guiding member States urban future.

In addition to the New Urban Agenda, World Cities Day 2017 is observed under Sustainable Development Goal 11 (SDG): Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The goal notes that today, more than half the world’s population lives in cities. By 2030, it is projected that 6 in 10 people will be urban dwellers. Despite numerous planning challenges, cities offer more efficient economies of scale on many levels, including the provision of goods, services and transportation. With sound, risk-informed planning and management, cities can become incubators for innovation and growth and drivers of sustainable development.

He said the aspirations of SDG 11 will have been realized and, if not fully manifested in the shape and nature of cities, at least that the pace of urban growth and the rate of urbanization will be surpassed by investment in infrastructure for adequate service delivery and by economic growth strategies that will enable greater, more equitable prosperity and lessen inequality.

“The challenges associated with urbanization demand a proactive approach to urban planning, which considers future demographic and environmental aspects while responding to current priorities. Such an approach demands, in turn, a sound understanding of urban development processes, locally, nationally and internationally.”

RCMRD, the Director General said, is supporting member States by embracing technological advances and innovations and tapping into the pool of the youth population by providing skills and training to youth in member States through the RCMRD’s Information Technology Training Centre (ITTC) that offers certificate, diploma and short professional courses.