CEU Hosts 2012 Global Development Network (GDN) Conference "The Challenges of Urbanization"
Global Development Network (GDN) connects researchers and institutions that deal with the processes of development and improvement. With headquarters in New Delhi, GDN came into existence as part of the World Bank, later to become an independent entity. On June 16-18, its 13th Annual Global Development Conference took place in Budapest, in partnership with CEU. About 350 participants attended this large-scale event, including influential researchers, corporate leaders and policymakers from transitional and developing countries, plus representatives from the international donor community. Titled “Urbanization and Development: Delving Deeper into the Nexus,” the conference was hosted by the Department of Economics.
Since 2007, and for the first time in human history, more than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. According to various projections, by 2030 this number will increase to almost 60 percent, and to about 80 percent by 2050. With urban areas becoming the source of livelihoods for a majority around the globe, a huge toll on resources is undertaken. Planning of urban areas, and their impact on the environment become extremely important issues of consideration. Development, in other words, becomes synonymous with urbanization.
The future of the world will surely be urban, which is likely to be a good thing. Per capita incomes are five times higher and infant mortality rates are two thirds lower in those nations that are more than 50 percent urbanized relative to those countries that are less than fifty percent urbanized. While this correlation does not imply causality, it is almost impossible to imagine the world’s poorer countries becoming rich countries unless they too become largely urbanized. Urban concentration has historically enabled the flows of knowledge, the division of labor, the movement of goods and the combination of labor and capital that help transform poor places into prosperous ones.
However, urbanization also creates enormous challenges, such as contagious disease, congestion and crime, that often seem to be far beyond the capacities of many governments. Cities throughout the world struggle with providing decent living space, clean water, and other amenities for their rapidly growing number of residents. These urban problems do not just harm the current residents of the cities, they also stop others from coming to cities and enjoying the economic benefits that can come from agglomeration. Making cities more livable is not just about quality of life, it is also about economic development.
Against this background, the conference focused on the overall important nexus between urbanization and development by adopting a holistic and interdisciplinary approach, moving beyond approaches focusing only on the economic aspects of the urbanization process.
The opening ceremony of the conference took place in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, where Janos Hovari, deputy state secretary for global affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spoke on behalf of the Hungarian government. “As our fast-paced world brings with it several challenges, GDN provides an excellent platform for discussing these and also how to handle them,” Hovari said. The deputy state secretary also announced that Hungary wished to join the GDN network and that negotiations to this effect have already started.
CEU President and Rector John Shattuck also addressed the conference participants at the opening ceremony saying that CEU and GDN were both committed to research and training for development and democracy that can address the many interrelated challenges facing the world today. Professor Gabor Kezdi, head of CEU’s Department of Economics and member of the conference program and local organizing committee, highlighted that “relevant research in economics must tackle important questions, provide new insights and produce credible evidence. That is how research can have global impact and improve local policies.” According to Dr. George Mavrotas, GDN chief economist and conference director “the overall nexus between urbanization and development is expected to dominate the research and policy agenda for many years. The GDN Conference is envisaged to move the frontiers of knowledge to new directions in this absolutely vital area for the future of the developing world (and beyond).”
The keynote speaker for the three-day gathering was Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology and co-chair of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University, Saskia Sassen, a sociologist ranked number 43 on Foreign Policy magazine’s 2011 list of Top 100 Global Thinkers. She is widely known for her analyses on globalization and human migration and she has authored eight books including the much acclaimed The Global City.
For conference materials including the detailed program and interviews with Shattuck and Sassen visit www.gdn.int. For more on the opening ceremony see http://gdnetblog.org/tag/central-european-university/.
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