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Sustainable Urbanisation: A Call to Action across the Commonwealth

27 July 2020

Ahead of next month’s Commonwealth Engineers Council and UNESCO webinar on Infrastructure-led Community Resilience, Professor Paul Jowitt explores the challenge of sustainable urbanisation across the Commonwealth.

Sustainable Urbanisation: A Call to Action across the Commonwealth
The cityscape of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Sustainable urbanisation is a major challenge for us all, and particularly in the Commonwealth, which is projected to account for nearly 50% of the increase in the world’s urban population to 2050.

That’s over 1 billion more urban dwellers in the next 30 years, the majority of whom will be in Asia and Africa.

A sense of the overall reach of the Commonwealth can be gauged from the following:

  • Its 53 member countries (and 18 dependencies) span the globe, include both advanced economies and developing countries
  • It is multicultural and multi-ethnic, spanning all five continents - Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Americas, Europe, and the Pacific
  • Its members represent 2.4 billion people, almost a third of the world’s population. The members comprise countries large and small – from India (1.4bn) to Nauru (10,000)
  • The Commonwealth’s strength lies in its shared values and diversity. Thirty-one of its members are small states, usually with a population of well under 1.5 million, and 24 members are small island developing states (SIDs), many at risk from sea level rise
  • Half of the top 20 global emerging cities are in the Commonwealth: New Delhi, Mumbai, Nairobi, Kuala Lumpur, Bangalore, Johannesburg, Kolkata, Cape Town, Chennai and Dhaka
  • Many small and developing Commonwealth countries are among those with the lowest ecological footprints worldwide

The Built Environment Professions in the Commonwealth (engineers, architects, planners, and surveyors) have just released the results of the first joint survey of the professions ever to have been undertaken. The key findings of the survey reveal that:

  • There is a critical lack of capacity in a number of Commonwealth countries, many of which are urbanising rapidly and are among the most vulnerable
  • There is a corresponding lack of educational and institutional capacity to grow the profession quickly enough in a number of Commonwealth countries
  • There is a perceived weakness in built environment policy across many Commonwealth countries in terms of standards, implementation and enforcement

Hon ICE Fellow HRH The Prince of Wales launched the survey results in June and announced a programme of webinars based on the findings, which will extend through to August.

Over the coming weeks and months, the Commonwealth Sustainable Cities Initiative will be holding a series of open access webinars and CPD events as part of a Call to Action on sustainable urbanisation across the Commonwealth to help plan for climate change and rapid urbanisation.

The Commonwealth Engineers Council represents engineering institutions from across the Commonwealth and has a permanent seat on the Executive Council of the World Federation of Engineers (WFEO).

See our Sustainability Route Map

  • Prof. Paul W. Jowitt CBE FICE, President, Commonwealth Engineers Council (CEC) & Past President 2009-2010, ICE