USAID Announces Urban Area Development Policy

By 2030, urban centers will be home to an additional 1.4 billion people, primarily in developing countries.
By 2030, urban centers will be home to an additional 1.4 billion people, primarily in developing countries. (USAID)

By Kathryn McConnell | Staff Writer
05 November 2013

Washington — With world populations increasingly moving from rural to urban areas, the U.S. Agency for International Development has developed guidance to help its staff and local governments expand their capacity to effectively respond to cities’ demands for basic services.

The guidance, or policy, was developed with comments solicited on the Internet and through social media, the first time a draft policy had been released for comment in this manner. It joins other USAID policies that specifically address gender equity, climate change, violent extremism, democracy, human rights and governance, USAID said.

By 2030, urban centers will be home to an additional 1.4 billion people, primarily in developing countries. Already, 1 billion people live in urban slums without access to basic services like water, electricity, affordable housing or health care. Inadequate infrastructure and overcrowding of classrooms pose significant challenges to quality education. And congestion and inadequate roads result in the deaths of large numbers of urban dwellers each year from traffic incidents, USAID states in the policy report Sustainable Service Delivery in an Increasingly Urbanized World, released October 31 at the Atlantic Council. The launch event, in Washington, focused on the impact of urbanization on global development.

Further, urban poor are at risk for hunger, disease, crime and disaster, and they often lack a voice in local government, USAID says.

“Because cities are the engines of economic growth, accounting for 70 percent of global gross domestic product, we need to ensure that safe, sustainable cities improve the livelihoods of those who dwell within them and those who depend on the economic activity they generate,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah emphasized at the beginning of the policy report.

“USAID field programs need to plan for the challenges that come along with rapid urbanization so we can more effectively help these communities reach their economic potential and alleviate poverty,” said Mark Feierstein, USAID associate administrator.

The policy outlines the need to promote financial viability, country ownership of development plans and continuous monitoring of service delivery. It promotes the delivery of services that benefit low-income people and states that women, youth and people with disabilities should receive particular attention because they are disproportionately affected by gaps in urban service delivery.

The new policy fosters market orientation and public-private partnerships in service delivery and says that USAID technical assistance can help governments improve local investment climates and leverage financing.

It encourages USAID field offices to continue to adjust their programs to increase local self-reliance through support of local revenue collection.

“Improving the connectivity between rural, urban and peri-urban areas can lead to greater economic and social opportunities in all regions,” USAID states. “Rural poverty rates tend to fall in countries with higher rates of urbanization,” it said.