UN COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
UN Commission on Sustainable Development Yale Model United Nations Korea May 17 - 19, 2013
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Table of Contents History of the Committee 3 Topic I: Urban Sustainable Development History 5 Changes in the Conflict 7 Current Situation 9 Questions to Consider 19 Topic II: Global Energy Crisis History 20 Current Situation 23 Questions to Consider 28 Suggestions for Further Research
Glossary 30 Role of the Committee 32 Structure of the Committee 33 Notes 34
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History of the Committee
In order to understand the underpinnings of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) and its related sustainability organizations, we should take a step back to a 1972 study conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In short, this study analyzed various models of human consumption and population growth in order to project the fate of the global economy in the year 2030. Now, exactly forty years later, we are able to compare actual data that indicates a trend corresponding to the one predicted in 1972. The trend predicted six things, all of which are relevant to the purposes of this committee. The first was increasing global population The next five were factors of increasing consumption and population growth: industrial output, services per capita, food per capita, pollution, and remaining non-renewable resources. Unfortunately for the people of 2030, the trend predicted that industrial output, services per capita, and food per capita would reach a peak between the years 2000 and 2030, followed by a sharp decline in the latter year. On top of this, pollution was predicted to increase steadily through the year 2030
and then to plateau around the same year. Why would pollution stop increasing? The answer is in the most daunting part of the 1972 prediction, which holds that the global economy will fail in 2030 causing massive population decrease and shortly thereafter a sharp decrease in food production, industrial output, service availability, as well as pollution. This MIT prediction is only one of many factors that led to the formation of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Earth Summit, which was held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. At this conference, a non-binding international action plan called Agenda 21 was drafted. Agenda 21 contained a series of provisions for addressing economic and environmental challenges that would affect the 21st century, as well as proposed methods for implementing the documentâ€™s recommendations. These recommendations, which suggested ways to improve health, population sustainability, atmospheric and forest protection, biodiversity conservation, and pollution control, were then further revised to address UN Commission on Sustainable Development 3
new global developments through a series of further conferences held in Rio de Janeiro. The last and most relevant of these conferences was renamed the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), or Rio+20, and was held in 2012. The results of this conference were multifold, and include strengthening the UN Environmental Programme and establishing a new forum for sustainable development, promoting corporate sustainability reporting measures, expanding the definition of national economic success beyond GDP, stressing the need to incorporate science into policymaking, and launching a process to determine actionable sustainable development goals.
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Topic I: Urban Sustainable Development Topic History In 2008, the world experienced a milestone. For the first time in human history, at least half of the human population was living in urban areas. The conditions in which these urban dwellers live are factors of how the world’s cities are organized, how they manage resources, and how they plan for the future. Decisions and actions are needed to launch these urban centers into a more sustainable pattern of operating, in accordance with the values and objectives outlined in Agenda 21 and, more recently, in the document produced by the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), “The Future We Want.” Urban Population Increases Western urbanization in the 19th and 20th centuries was inextricably linked to the massive trend towards industrialization. In 1800, only 3% of the world lived in urban areas. By 1900, that number rose to 14%, and 12 urban areas worldwide had populations
exceeding 1 million. This growth, while significant at the time, was not a massive restructuring of global urban/rural demographics; city growth remained slow despite the influx of migrant industrial workers. This was because access to healthcare and social services in cities remained elusive and death rates remained high. Despite relatively slow growth, conditions in urban areas during these times, particularly among rapidly industrializing Western cities, were deplorable. Infrastructure could not keep up with new demand. Housing was shoddy, sanitation mechanisms were nearly nonexistent, and families were crowded into small spaces. Health continued to decline, as urban areas became breeding grounds for disease. While industry exploited resources and the economy soared, city life continued to deteriorate. As decades passed, urbanization steadily increased. By 1950, 30% of the world’s population lived in urban areas, and an astounding 83 urban areas had populations exceeding 1 million. While urbanization was associated with industrialization before the turn of the 20th century, a new wave of migrations within countries to their cities gradually grew. While it’s true that developed nations tend to have higher
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MUN Korea urban populations than less developed ones (74% and 44%, respectively), data from the past 50 years indicate that growth has been incredibly rapid in developing countries. Urban areas in developing countries can offer inhabitants access to better jobs and healthcare. That, coupled with relatively high birth rates in these countries, has led to a dramatic natural increase—a phrase meaning that the number of births exceeds number of deaths, and in-migration exceeds out-migration— in urban area populations. Cities have always been centers of many of the world’s environmental problems – not just in terms of population growth, but also because of the resource depletion, waste generation, and pollution growing and densely populated cities often cause. Despite the unprecedented rates of population growth in cities (especially in cities of developing countries), sustainable urban policy has not been a global priority. When the world’s biggest or fastest growing cities are left alone and unguided by important sustainability concerns, there is great risk that they will not be able to handle the ongoing influx of inhabitants. Problems with housing, sanitation, energy consumption, overcrowding, and other challenges have escalated in the past 50 years.
Unsustainable Urban Expansion and Slums in Developing Regions One negative facet of urbanization that has emerged intensely in recently history is the growth of slums. A United Nations Expert Group defines a slum as “an area that combines to various extents the following characteristics: • Inadequate access to safe water • Inadequate access to sanitation and other infrastructure • Poor structural quality of housing • Overcrowding • Insecure residential status
Slums arose because of a number of factors within cities (including poverty, inequality, insecure tenure, etc.), but one of the most interesting and pertinent factors has been rapid rural-to-urban migration that’s helped to cause the massive increase in urban populations. As global employment in agricultural
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sector has declined by 20 to 30 percent in the past 60 years, many people from the countryside have migrated to cities and this group has historically made up the population of the urban poor. This trend has been pointedly seen in Africa, Latin America, and Asia in particular. Because city planning and management systems have been unable to cope with the population growth, slums arose and continue to be home to a substantial number of people in developing countries. Within urban India between 1981 and 2001, for example, there was a 45% increase in the number of people living in slums. And in 2001, it was estimated that 61% of urban households in Africa were living in slums. The same is true for 40% of urban households in Asia and 32% in Latin America. Other important negative facets include increased energy resource consumption and waste generation.
There are slight differences in the way urbanization and slum development took place in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In Africa, a vast majority of inhabitants south of the Sahara (95%) lived in rural areas in 1900, engaged in farming, hunting and gathering, cattle nomadism, and fishing. By 1950, almost 15% were urban. This number increased to 37.5% by 2000. More recently, rural people were either pushed out of rural areas or pulled in to urban ones â€“ pushed out by factors like poverty, religious or political strife, food insecurity, and lack of infrastructure or services, or pulled in by economic or educational opportunities in addition to water, electricity, education, etc. In short, amenities of urban life have contributed to the rural-to-urban shift in Africa. Notable characteristics of African urbanization include the lack of significant industrial expansion, and the spatial expansion outward of urban areas and consequent
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conversion of agricultural lands for residential or industrial uses. Asian urbanization has a slightly different story. While urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa has been generally rapid, the overall increase in urbanization in India, for example, has not been particularly dramatic. The trends, however, point to a notable distribution; inhabitants are disproportionately crowded into enormous cities. Slums sprung up all around India due to overpopulation or overcrowding, coupled with the extreme levels of poverty. The slum of Dharavi in Mumbai is the largest slum in Asia, and it largely arose because of the flow of people from rural areas to the city, drawn in by the ports that Portuguese and British colonizers established. Housing prices remained high, so many of Mumbai’s poorest instead built cheap, makeshift houses. In 1950, slums were small and remained clustered around areas of work, but by 1980, almost 50% of Mumbai’s residents lived in slums. A prime example of urbanization in Latin America is the Brazilian favela. Favela describes a shantytown located oftentimes within urban areas. Settlements called bairros africanos first appeared in the late 1700s
and served as a place former slaves lived. In the 1800s, a huge influx of veterans of the Canudos Campaign arrived in Rio de Janeiro with no place to live. These veterans and their families erected the original favela consequently (“favela” is a skin-irritating tree endemic to the area of the Canudos Campaign). More recently in the 1940s, industrialization driven by Getulio Vargas pulled immense numbers of inhabitants into the city. The most recent rural exodus occurred in the 1970s, when a construction boom in the richer parts of Rio de Janeiro attracted workers from poorer states. This kind of explosive growth of favelas prompted removal campaigns, but despite these efforts, the poor population continued to grow at a rapid pace. In 1969, there were approximately 300 favelas in Rio de Janeiro, and that number has doubled in the last 50 years. According to census data, the overall growth rate of Rio de Janeiro dropped by 8 percent, while the favela population increased by 41%. The Foundation of Sustainability The concept of sustainability as it is discussed today emerged in the 1970s and 1980s through various United
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Nations programs and conferences. The UN Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment was the first large-scale international meeting in which the impact of human activities on the environment was discussed. The conference brought both the industrialized and developing nations together to specify the rights of the human family to a healthy and productive environment. The idea that human vitality goes hand in hand with environmental sustainability was explored and promoted by the Union for the Conservation of Natural Resources, which published the World Conservation Strategy in 1980. In 1984, the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) was made an independent body by the UN General Assembly, and was asked to create a “global agenda for change.” In its 1987 report entitled “Our Common Future,” The WCED emphasized the relationship between economics and the environment. It affirmed that “the environment does not exist as a sphere separate from human actions, ambitions, and needs, and therefore it should not be considered in isolation from human concerns.
The environment is where we all live; and development is what we all do in attempting to improve our lot within that abode. The two are inseparable.”
Current Situation In 2008, more than half of the world’s population, 3.3 billion people, lived in urban areas. According to a United Nations Population Fund report, by 2030, that number is expected to swell to almost 5 billion. Many, if not most, of the new urban dwellers will be poor, and the decisions made now in preparation for this growth will account for much of the future of humanity itself. The next few decades will bring an unprecedented scale of urban growth in the developing world, particularly in Africa and Asia where urban population will double by 2030. Towns and cities in the developing world will take up approximately 80% of urban humanity. Regional Overviews: Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia-Pacific Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the least urbanized regions of the world, but it has an urban population that matches North America’s. Despite the urban population growth rate’s decline in
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recently years due to slow economic growth, the region is projected to maintain a rate of urban population growth higher than that of any other region of the world for several decades. Several characteristics set the region’s urbanization and migration patterns apart, including low population density (sprawling urban areas), predominance of smaller cities as opposed to mega-cities, and links to HIV/AIDS. While rural-to-urban migrants oftentimes seek cities to escape environmental resource problems (drought, famine, etc.) or political or social strife, urban impoverishment remains an immense problem facing the region. Most rural-to-urban migrants are poor. The Asia-Pacific region has a large gap between the richest and poorest economies. Three fifths of the world’s population lives there; half of the world’s urban population resides in Asian cities. While India’s urban areas are home to less than 30% of the country’s total population, that number is expected to rise to 40.7% by 2030. That would constitute 590 million people residing in India’s cities within 20 years. Natural increase is
important factor in India’s urban population growth. China’s growth contrasts with that of India’s in that rural-to-urban migration, as opposed to natural increase, accounts for much of it. It is estimated that around 245 million people will migrate from rural to urban areas in China by 2025. China is a giant manufacturing economy, and nearly all of China’s factories are situated in or around urban areas. Half of China’s population (some 870 million people) is expected to live in cities in less than a decade. Because cities are mainly concentrated around coastal areas, the effects of global warming and rising sea levels pose a problem. In 2005, 77% of Latin America’s population was defined as urban. This urban transition occurred despite various policies designed to limit urban growth, and while it brought about positive results for development, the formation of slums and lack of services for the poor continues to be a problem.
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Slums: Urban Impoverishment, Human Settlements, and Other Urban Challenges The basic facts of slum life have remained the same for centuries. Poverty and homelessness have been a part of the picture of cities perhaps ever since humanity’s first urban scenes. What separates today’s slum dwellers from those of the past is not merely conditions of living but rather the scale of impoverishment. Slums today represent an unprecedented concentration of poverty. Slum dwellers constitute one out of every three urbanites – that’s one billion people and a sixth of the world’s population as a whole.
A Chinese announcement regarding the One Child Policy
Out of the one billion slum dwellers of the world, a vast majority (about 90%) lives in the developing world. South Asia is home to more than any other country, followed by Eastern Asia,
sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. China and India have 37% of the world’s slums. Over 70% of the urban population in sub-Saharan Africa lives in slum conditions, a number that has doubled in the last 15 years. These poor city dwellers live in conditions defined by characteristics such as shoddy and overcrowded housing, insecure land tenure, and lack of infrastructure and public services such as sanitation, waste management, proper drainage, and good quality roads. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, reports have indicated that it is not uncommon for over 250 slum households to share three toilets and one shower. Water is a scarce resource. Health and livelihood risks are pointedly high in these areas due to both the environmental hazards as well as their susceptibility to crime. These characteristics generally define the slums of Africa, the favelas of Brazil, and the slums of India to varying degrees. Kibera: Kenya Kibera is the second largest urban slum in Africa. It is located around Nairobi, Kenya, 3 miles from the city center. In 2009, the Kenya Population and Housing Census reported the population of Kibera as 170,070. Mike Davis, a wellknown expert on urban slums, reports
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that Kibera has a population of 800,000. The International Housing Coalition has cited 500,000. UN-Habitat has released several estimates ranging from 350,000 to 1 million people. Residents of Kibera have little or no access to basic essentials, such as clean water, waste disposal services, electricity, and infrastructure. Kibera is consequently home to illnesses and deaths associated with poor nutrition and unsanitary conditions. Waste disposal systems consist of channels dug into the dirt, which become clogged Â with human waste matter and other refuse. Dharavi: India Dharavi is one of the largest slums in the world and is located in Mumbai, India. It is spread over just 0.67 square miles, yet it is home to a population that has been estimated as anywhere between 600,000 to over 1 million people. Like other slums, Dharavi provides cheap housing in a city known for high rents. The slum is characterized by narrow lanes, open sewers, and cramped housing. Most housing units and over 90% of commercial units in the slum are illegal, which creates a scarcity of toilet facilities. Residents use a local river
(Mahim Creek) for urination and defecation, paving the way for the spread of illnesses.
Rocinha: Brazil Rocinha is widely considered to be one of Rio de Janeiroâ€™s largest and most densely populated urban slums. A population of anywhere between 100,000 to 200,000 people inhabit a tiny area of 0.8 square miles. Situated on a rugged and steep hill, Rocinha is home to residents living in abject or near abject poverty. Residents reside in houses constructed out of scrap materials such as wood, corrugated irons and metals. These temporary housing structures are often times many stories high and have very little access to basic amenities such as sewage and waste disposal. Conditions in Rocinha are not nearly as poor as those in Kibera or Dharavi.
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It does, however, illustrate the need for better housing policies and poverty reduction efforts in Rio de Janeiro. With the current growth rate, Rocinha could easily fall into a vicious trap of unsustainable expansion. A Focus on Human Settlements The aforementioned features and examples of slums in developing countries reinforce the importance of an official policy that integrates local solutions to local problems with overall urban development. A particular challenge is the provision of infrastructural services. There must be established basic standards of habitability. Work must be done to ensure that inhabitants be granted some sort of land tenure so that they can invest in their own living situations. Innovative housing finance mechanisms could be helpful, and assistance services in finding housing or constructing more sustainable housing could give slum dwellers a better sense of livelihood. Urban Organization: Environmental Issues of Cities; Density as Productive Potential The expansion of cities has historically been associated with the destruction of good agricultural land, as cities are
oftentimes located in the most fertile areas. And it is undeniable that urban growth is taking over massive amounts of land. The space taken up by growing cities is increasing at a quicker rate than the urban human population. Some reports project that areas of cities of 100,000 people or more is to increase by a staggering 175% by 2030. Conventionally, such urban sprawl has been associated with environmental degradation, loss of natural lands, and pillaging of ecosystems. On the other hand, high concentrations of people living in small areas could prove to be a boon for sustainability. Activities such as mining, farming, forestry, grazing, erosion or salinization accounts for a much greater loss of natural and potentially productive lands than urban growth. Urban activities, then, have the productive potential to sustain a great number of people while encroaching on a considerably smaller proportion of natural land. Urban density and its potential prompt policy-makers to devise ways to take advantage of it and look to the future of not just cities but the worldâ€™s environment as a whole. It is important to note that current trends point to sprawling
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cities as opposed to centralized and compact ones. Advances in transportation and the expansion of suburban and peri-urban areas have created expansive cities with low population densities. From an environmental and sustainability point of view, sprawl is generally regarded as a detriment. Compact cities are often seen as more sustainable, requiring less transportation and energy, and reducing pollution and water consumption.
Slums in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Peri-urbanization refers to the process of urban growth in the transitional zones between rural and urban areas. These peri-urban zones most often suffer from urban growth consequences such as pollution, poverty, and degradation of natural resources. These areas are home to a variety of activities, including farming, husbandry,
industrial expansion, and residential suburbanization. They often provide more urban areas with basic functions such as a supply of food, energy, water, and building materials. When such activities are conducted in residential areas, health hazards can be created. Because peri-urbanization is an important stimulus of urban growth in developing countries, careful planning and regulation is necessary. The question of whether or not compact cities are better or worse than sprawling urban areas is up for debate. The question of whether or not urban expansion must be regulated more efficiently and more environmentally is not and should not be up for debate. An important environmental issue today is climate change. Since sustainable development has to do with “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” climate change and the effects of global warming cannot be ignored when discussing sustainable urbanization. The Stern Report on the economics of climate change asserts that it will “affect the basic elements of life for people around the world – access to water, food production, health and the environment.
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Hundreds of millions of people could suffer hunger, water shortages and coastal flooding as the world warms.” The poorest people in the poorest countries will be most susceptible to these threats as low-income people are being pushed into locations that are prone to natural disasters and forced to live in non-permanent, structurally unsound buildings. Potential Solutions The challenge to create sustainable urban environment requires engaging on a social, economic, political, cultural and environmental level, and must take into account not only contemporary demand for sustainable urban environments but also future demand generated by growing urban populations. However, the potential for technological change, especially in the evolution of sustainable, decentralized energy grids should also be considered, though not taken as an inevitability. Stronger Property Right Systems One of the strategies for encouraging mores sustainable use of slums comes from famed Peruvian developmental economist Hernando De Soto. He argues that the reason that despite the prodigious amounts of interest and
money that have been invested in the development of slums and the raising of people out of poverty, the reason that these initiatives typically fail is that individuals ultimately do not have secure property rights and claims to their property, in particular land, which significantly handicaps their ability to access capital, which they need to be able to take to transform their ingenuity and hard work into prosperity.
Weighing the factors in sustainable urban development
Transit Oriented Development One strategy is to expand the role of transit systems as the backbone of urban planning. This approach, known as “Transit Oriented Development”, which aims to encourage the use of public transportation followed by either biking or walking instead of car use, which has incredible benefits
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for the environment and is potentially more scalable to the needs of the city. Not only is this system more effective and sustainable, it also has serious political and cultural undertones. As Mayor Peñalosa of Bogota described “A bicycle lane is a powerful symbol of equality. It shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important to one in a $30,000 car”.
The TransMilenio Bus System in Bogota. Picture by Javier Guillot.
Case Study: The TransMilenio Bus System in Bogota This system is widely considered “the gold standard” of public transit interventions and urban renewal strategies, especially for cities in the developing world., and has been adapted for deployment in cities as diverse as Delhi, Johannesburg and Mexico City. The city essentially created an immense network of dedicated lanes for busses
coupled with an incredibly comprehensive network of stations and terminals, which manage to provide rail-quality transit while reducing significantly the city’s levels of air pollution and traffic congestion. Slum Upgrading vs. Replacement One of the major debates taking place in sustainable urban development is that about how best to improve the quality of housing in slums, in which two different strategies compete for the attention and use of urban planners. On the one hand, policy-makers can choose to treat slums as obstacles in the way of alternative housing, in which case they would choose to raze or bulldoze slum housing and build alternative housing either on that land or in other parts of the city. On the other hand, they can choose to treat the slums as infrastructural opportunities rather than as challenges, and to look for ways of regulating, structuring, and improving existing sites rather than eliminating them entirely. There are certain benefits associated with encouraging slum upgrading. Firstly, residents how a safe and green place it live without being displaced. They can continue to enjoy whatever personal investments they have already made to their properties.
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The experience of El Mezquital in Guatemala shows that infant mortality rates fell by 90 percent and crime by 43 percent. Regularization of land tenure results in significant private investment in these communities - US$7 private investment for $1 of public funds. This has also been the experience of slum-dwellers in Pune, who resist having their dwellings—which often have multiple uses, for example as stores, workshops and houses—be eliminated in expectation of being relocated into flats, since these can’t serve these multiple functions in the same way and which may be built to accommodate wealthy real estate developers instead of the citizens. Energy and Oil Supply Another important environmental issue is the oil supply. Oil has helped urbanization take place but as sprawl and peri-urbanization takes hold, the energy source is becoming more and more limited in supply. Cities and consequently the global economy as a whole depend so heavily on the ability to move people and goods quickly and efficiently. Alternatives forms of fuel could help launch cities into a more sustainable future. Additionally, fossil fuel burning is a great contributor to
global warming. Cities disproportionately produce as much as 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The urban ecological footprint is huge in all countries, developing or developed. Transportation needs, construction projects, industrial pollution, deforestation, and land use changes all contribute to this footprint. The Future of Sustainable Cities: A Vision Cities harbor incredible potential for sustainable development, poverty reduction, and economic productivity. Advantages of urban areas include:
• Economic Growth Potential: As competition is globalized, cities are better at providing jobs and income for a greater number of people • Public services: Cities are better positioned to provide services to a greater number of people due to higher population densities. Services include health care, education, infrastructure, etc. • Reducing environmental degradation: Higher population densities could potentially prevent a significant amount of the destruction of natural lands
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often associated with sprawl. • Women’s rights: Cities are oftentimes generators of social change. Facilitating the exercise of women’s reproductive rights could curb population growth as a whole. Since natural in crease of population within cities often accounts more for urban growth than migration, a decline in fertility among city women could help curb that growth. Given these advantages, it is important for policy makers to discard anti-urban initiatives and embrace the possibilities. Highly efficient, concentrated cities with a sustainable growth rate and forward-looking policies could point to a future of high sustainable development and poverty reduction. Considering the fact that most of the urbanites in developing countries are poor, poverty and sustainability go hand-in-hand in addressing development in general. Urbanization is inevitable and can be important for development. Instead of blaming urban areas for overcrowding and environmental problems, policy makers must design ways to help cities grow sustainably. They must pay attention to the rapid
increases in slum growth, waste generation, energy consumption, water scarcity, and the lack of infrastructure, and find ways to fix those problems, rather than dissolve urban areas entirely. Cities must be designed and developed to maximize real gains from their potential for positive economic, environmental, and social improvement, while minimizing the negative consequences of rapid development. Compact cities with well designed infrastructure and service delivery systems, with a commitment to energy efficiency, are needed. The new “green” economy creates an immense opportunity for the world as a whole to advance and proceed securely and sustainably into the future. With careful attention to environmental concerns, poverty reduction efforts, city planning and infrastructure design, cities can be centers of change, innovation, high living standards, economic production, and sustainable living. The decisions made and actions taken today could create a vibrant future or a devastating set of irreversible consequences.
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Questions to Consider Keep in mind these questions: • How must urban sustainable development be approached considering the different ways in which urbanization took place and is proceeding in different regions of the world? Urbanization in developed countries of North America or Europe, for example, is very different from urbanization in developing regions such as Latin America or Africa. • How must problems associated with unsustainable urban development be prioritized? Is infrastructure development more important than green energy research? Should slums be eliminated before parks should be planned? • How must economic development intermingle with sustainable development? Urban centers are also centers of economic productivity and in the political sphere, environmentalism and economic interests often stand at odds with each other. • Who should provide the funding necessary in both developing and developed urban centers to further sustainable development efforts? Should the money come from taxpayers in individual countries or should supranational bodies provide a portion? Whose responsibility is sustainable development in the end? • How important is population control in relation to sustainable urban development? Should rural-to-urban migration be limited? Should government have a hand in family planning in developing countries? What does women’s education and rights have to do with this?
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Topic II: Global Energy Crisis Topic History Since the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, energy production from non-renewable sources such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas has continued to increase as global population and with it global demand have
increased exponentially. What was the root cause of the rise of our dependence on non-renewable energy sources? To understand this, we must take a look at how energy dependence has changed the world today. Fossil fuels and electricity allowed farm productivity to increase in the earlier part of the 20th century. Mechanized industrial production also increased, globalizing trade and culture and
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attracting former agricultural populations to megacities and conurbations. According to the University of Utah, energy consumption in cities is about 33% greater than energy consumption in rural areas. This means that larger urban populations correspond to upward-trending consumption of and, more importantly, reliance upon fossil fuels. In order to further break down the history of energy consumption and fossil fuel dependence over the course of the last century, it is helpful to look at two major issues. The first of these is the MIT prediction that the global economy will collapse in 2030 according to current energy consumption and commercial output trends. The second is the high dependence on fossil fuels in the latter part of the 20th century and the well-established lifestyles that go along with it. Let’s begin by looking at the former. Potential Global Economic Collapse The world’s economy continues to become more globalized and consequently more prone to failure as a result of one nation’s faltering. To put this more clearly, if the Middle East were to suddenly become unavailable to oil export for political, military, or
other reasons, many economies across the globe would falter as a result of decreased industrial output and inadequate domestic fossil fuel reserves. But why would the MIT study predict an entire global economic collapse specifically in 2030? In Figure 1, it is clear that five things are not only related to, but also dependent upon non-renewable resources. These are food per capita, services per capita, industrial output per capita, pollution, and population. Now, it is clear that economic growth requires increased energy production, and so as the latter five results of a booming economy increase, so do available fossil fuel reserves decrease. Unfortunately for today’s generation, the MIT prediction has been fairly well correlated to actual data since 1972 (the year of the study’s publication). This does not bode well for the effects of resource depletion on the global economy. As shown in Figure 1, all five of the aforementioned factors will reach a peak point and then steadily decrease; this means that the global economy will produce less food, fewer services, less industrial output, and the global population will begin to decline. Clearly none of these things are
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good for the global economy. And even though these predicted outcomes assume a continuation of current trends in global nonrenewable resource consumption, the data that has been collected between 1972 and today have shown a fairly clear correlation between the predicted and actual trends. Fossil Fuel Dependence The second piece to understanding the history of the global energy crisis is the first world’s dependence on quickly depleting oil reserves. Taking a step back, the first tangible event that indicated that dependence was the oil crisis in 1973. Although exclusively an American crisis, it was a time during which many researchers have concluded that ‘peak oil’ had been reached. Peak oil refers to the maximum domestic oil production in a given country. In the case of the USA, our maximum oil production was in 1973; since that time, the USA has seen a steady decrease in domestic production, with the exception of the recent fracking boom. However, this boom has only increased production of reserves that are being constantly depleted and, by nature, are nonrenewable. This means that although society may have the illusion of a reliable future in fossil
fuels, recent production booms can be deceptive in that regard. Despite this shortage, many countries have taken to importing oil from other nations to account for the deficit in oil supply and to feed an increasingly large oil demand. Furthermore, as governments have come to understand the gravity of falling oil supplies, Agenda 21 (see ‘Committee History’) has become a major part of this committee’s efforts to reduce dependency on fossil fuel energy. Although Agenda 21 makes various provisions to reduce energy consumption via nonrenewable resources, it is a non-binding and voluntary agreement. Consequently, since the early 1990s, there has been a marked effort amongst nations to adhere to the doctrines enumerated in the Agenda 21. That being said, the particular proposals enumerated in the original Agenda specify guidelines for decreasing pollution and for implementing resource conservation techniques. These are obviously not specific enough to tackle the massive issue of peak oil in many countries or to address the issue of booming oil demand in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) nations. People in the BRICS are enjoying an improving quality of life and, as a result, have been noted to have steadily rising energy consumption rates. UN Commission on Sustainable Development 22
The demand for fossil fuels has never been higher, but the supply has been declining very rapidly for a number of decades in most cases. It seems as though the only alternative is to create energy via other means, specifically through investment in renewable energy venues such as wind, solar, and geothermal power. These are much more difficult and expensive to maintain and develop and will take a higher level of commitment from world’s nations. To conclude this very brief history, it is important to keep in mind that these daunting projections are only assuming that we do not change course and that our consumption of fossil fuels stays constant – it is up to this committee to address the current state of things and to assess a plan that will bring the world’s energy supply to a sufficient and – more importantly – a sustainable level.
Current Situation This committee will assume the same timeframe as the actual UNCSD, which was held in late June 2012. In order to adequately cover the topic of global energy crisis, we will divide this topic into a number of subsections:
• Implementation of Agenda 21 • Oil Companies • Renewable Resource Develop ment There have been many conferences and consequently many agreements made regarding the energy crisis. That being said, this committee’s job is to assess the progress and efficacy of those agreements (such as Agenda 21) and then to focus on their implementation. Furthermore, it is important to consider the development of new policies that could reshape the renewable energy movement in order to better address the impending energy crisis. UNCSD is symbolic in many ways. It comes to fruition on the twentieth anniversary of the original Earth Summit (or UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Why these specific years? Primarily because of issues related to the subtopics listed above. Although Agenda 21 has addressed (or been revised to address) most of the pertinent environmental issues of our time, many obstacles have stood in the way of implementing these policies worldwide. Additionally, oil companies have in some cases denied that fossil fuel
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consumption is environmentally detrimental. This not only creates difficulties in the struggle to increase renewable energy development, but also perpetuates a cycle of oil dependence in many nations across the globe. Finally, renewable resources have been difficult to develop and incentivize in certain countries. In other countries, such as in Germany, energy from renewable resources has proved very successful. It is important to assess its success in countries such as Germany, so that their model can be extended to other nations as appropriate. Implementation of Agenda 21 Agenda 21 was one of the resulting documents after the Earth Summit, or UNCED, in 1992. Since its inception as a voluntary, nonbinding document, there has been some controversy about the degree of its efficacy. The text and purpose of the Agenda has been revised a number of times, each successive revision entitled Rio+5, Rio+10, and in the today’s committee’s case, Rio+20. Rio+5 was held five years after the original conference and was by far the most controversial of the set. The conference originally compared itself to the original Rio conference as a
“five year review of Earth Summit progress”. However, many dubbed the conference “Rio minus five” because of the amount of discord seen between poorer nations, who did not have the funds to finance a massive environmental effort, and the richer nations, who did. Additionally, there was disagreement regarding pollution control in developed nations, particularly in Europe and the United States. In some peoples’ opinions, the conference was a measured success in honesty for the delegates involved. Nations were finally cognizant of the limits of their promises and the extent of their commitments to the Agenda 21 provisions. During the next Rio conference, Rio+10, more progress was made than at Rio+5, but it was partially stalled by the absence of an American delegation. The tangible outcome of this conference was the Johannesburg Declaration, which emphasized multilateralism as the key approach in environmental reform. Clearly, not much progress has been made simply because Agenda 21 is not able to enforce regulations within sovereign states. This means that, as emphasized in Rio+10, the best
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mode of action currently available to the international community is multilateralism. Consequently, Rio+20 is under intense pressure from the international community to come to a more tangible conclusion that would have a lasting effect on how the world addresses the energy crisis as well as other environmental issues. Companies that produce Fossil Fuels Oil companies can safely be named the source of fossil fuel production and importation. However, many oil companies continue to deny that global warming exists. In some cases, the companies will say that even if it does exist, the company can engineer around it and continue to use fossil fuels. For example, Exxon Mobil’s CEO, Rex Tillerson, said in a briefing in June 2012 that “we will be able to adapt”, in reference to the direction that his company will take in the context of global warming.
oilrig at sunset near the Qatari-Saudi Arabian Border. An (AP)
shift to renewable energy sources remains to be seen. Either way, oil companies currently spend large amounts of money lobbying politicians to protect their markets. In the 2006 American election cycle alone, oil companies collectively spent $19 million on political campaigns and between 2003 and 2006, they spent about $58.3 million on state-level campaigns. They are core elements of what has been termed the “energy lobby”, a group of energy companies such as Exxon, Shell, and Conoco who influence governmental figures in ways that benefits their respective corporations. Unfortunately for the movement against oil dependence, this means that incentives to move towards renewable energy in the USA are very low. On the other hand, countries such as Germany are powered by energy that is 70% renewable. This drastic contrast illustrates one of the key issues that absolutely must be addressed by this committee: a lack of multilateral cooperation between nations. So how do oil companies fit into the picture? Many companies have begun to shift their resources towards renewable energy, such as Shell’s movement to produce ethanol fuel from corn and bamboo. This has
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at times become a distraction from the fact that much of their business still stems from fossil fuel extraction. One option is to incentivize new companies to compete with the oil industry; this option has proven difficult because of the immense lobbying power of oil companies, as well as cultural resistance to change. Typically, energy users will prefer a more reliable and well-established means of obtaining energy (in this case, oil). This means that massive incentives are necessary to even begin thinking of a world in which most energy is renewable rather than fossil fuel related. Renewable Resource Development The term “renewable resources” alludes to a variety of forms of energy production. The most common of these include ethanol production, geothermal production, wind farming, and solar production. There are two actions that can be taken to promote renewable resource development. The first is increasing funding for renewable energy industries. However, many of the world’s government subsidies go to oil lobbying and so it is difficult to begin lobbying for renewable energy industries. This brings us to the second
means of action: phasing out the number of oil subsidies given out in each signatory nation on Agenda 21. Predictions have indicated that the UNCSD will put this as a top priority item during the conference, but oil companies maintain a fairly strong sway over many political entities worldwide.
A 7-acre field of solar panels outside of Denver International Airport (AP)
In addition to financial incentives, scientific advancement and investment is required for any country to develop a renewable energy industry. This means that developing nations have a much more difficult time in obtaining funds to incentivize renewable industries than developed nations such as the USA, Germany, Japan, et cetera. For this reason, programs that promote sustainable development need to focus on solutions that can be
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practically implemented with regard to developing nations. This means that a policy in a developing nation should deal with ending oil subsidies and allocating newly available funds to energy development, rather than tackling renewable energy funding immediately. However, the question still remains â€“ how will countries shift away from oil dependence towards a healthier dependence on renewable resources? This will clearly require some heavy incentives, but it is up to this committee to determine exactly how this should be done. International Debate The main issue in the global conversation about the impending energy crisis is naturally how best countries should limit their exposure to the crisis. A number of strategies exist, among them reduction of demand either through voluntary decreases, increased awareness, or mandatory efficiency increases, as well as investment and support for the kinds of technologies that it is suggested will lead us out of this crisis, among them renewables like solar, tidal, and fission. This, however, is not just a technocratic, apolitical decision, because it also involves attacking the interests of nations that might have immense
reserves of the kind of energy that we might consider tax-worthy, and because certain types of renewable energies only are truly useful for certain nations or regions. Finally, how the costs associated with any of these strategies will be distributed, in particular those associated with taxation and mandatory decreases in consumption, takes place against an increasingly dramatic historical backdrop which references colonialism, global inequality, Western ignorance and a number of factors. Conclusion There is no doubt that the world must change something in the way it deals with energy production. It is also clear that different countries must deal with these issues in unison, rather than in disjunction â€“ the committee must also evaluate past actions and how effective implementation of Agenda 21 policies were in past years. The world is not ready to face a global economic decline due to running out of fossil fuels; it is, however, able to turn things around given the appropriate solutions that will be debated in this committee.
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Questions to Consider Keep in mind these questions: • How will developing countries be able to live up to Agenda 21 standards if they prove to be too costly? Will developed countries be willing to aid developing countries financially? • How much of a role will oil companies play in the energy industry in the future? Is change feasible, given their political influence and power? Should they be challenged directly, or brought to bring their own energies towards the challenge of finding renewable energy resources through incentives and persuasion? • In what timeframe will new energy policies be carried out? How will current economic considerations be balanced against future environmental ones? • In the event of a global economic failure, how will the world continue to fund Agenda 21 policies? • How will the policies that are drafted in committee be more effective than past policies? What are the challenges facing the successful implementation of this committee’s policies?
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Suggestions for Further Research De Soto, Hernando. The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else. Basic Books 2003. Davis, Mike. Planet of Slums. Verso Books 2007. Nikoforuk, Andrew. The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude. Greystone Books, 2012. The Economist. A Survey of the Future of Energy. London, 2008.
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Glossary • Slum - A unplanned form of human development characterized by high population density and low access to clean water and other essential services, among other elements. • Transit-Oriented Development - An urban strategy which promotes public transport, bicycling and walking as the main ways in which the majority of the population access their workplace. • Slum Upgrading - An urban strategy which attempts to develop the slums, increase ownership (both legally and emotionally) and which views them as opportunities instead of challenges. • Renewable Energy - Energy that is not dependent on fuels of which there is a finite amount on the planet. • Fossil Fuels - Sources of energy that include natural gas and oil, which are the product of geological processes over millennia, are not renewable and are emit greenhouse gasses when consumed. • Biofuels - Energy generated from the biological carbon fixation. • Hydroelectric - Energy generated from the movement of the world’s rivers. • Geothermal - Energy generated by the heat from the planet’s core, widely used in nations like New Zealand and Iceland to satisfy their energy needs. • Tidal - Energy generated from the movement of the tides.
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• Fission - Energy generated from the splitting of the atom, widely used in nations like France and Japan to satisfy their energy needs. • Fusion - Energy generated from the fusing of two hydrogen atoms, which is still totally hypothetical at this point, but might be a fruitful line of research. • Subsidies - The provision of financial support by the government for the sale or production of a certain kind of good. This can, in the context of discussions about energy, involve paying either consumers or producers a certain amount of money for the purchase of every energy-efficient vehicle. • Energy Resilience - the ability to adjust to interruptions in the supply of energy both including disruptions arising from the interruption of foreign supply as well as from domestic infrastructural weaknesses.
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Role of the Committee This committee is intended as a voluntary forum for environmental discussion taking place after the Rio+20 conference. Although the terms of its resolutions are not binding, the member states that have committed to the UNCSD have demonstrated their commitment to the policies initiated by Agenda 21 and the reforms instituted thereafter, and are therefore under considerable pressure, both domestic and foreign, to operate under the conditions they have committed to at this conference. Furthermore, the committee has the power to create policies and request voluntary contributions from nations that will benefit the environment globally, but it does not have the power to enforce these policies within any sovereign entity. This means that the policies drafted by the committee will be effective only at the discretion of each sovereign country, taking into account the power of public pressure. In this context, it is the delegation’s obligation to demonstrate the represented nation’s voluntary commitment, based on the commitment of that particular nation’s leadership. The aim is to balance the nation’s own interests and the demands of other nations and the public for action and commitment. All voting powers are the same as in Security Council scenarios and all other points of order are the same as well.
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Structure of the Committee Debate will follow the standard rules of parliamentary procedure â€“ the Speakerâ€™s List, moderated and unmoderated caucuses, and suspensions of the rules will be entertained as appropriate. There will be no revisions to parliamentary procedure except that veto power is neutralized in the voluntary setting of UNCSD. However, the director may at times take the liberty of intervening in debate to provide running feedback on the quality of the work being done, and with suggestions for investigation and correction. Position Papers Position papers should be turned in latest the evening before the first committee session in order to be eligible for awards. They can be sent via email to Fil Lekkas (Filippos.email@example.com) by latest a week before the first committee if the delegates would like feedback. Formatting should be as follows: 1 single-spaced page, 1-inch margin, 12 point font and should outline the three following elements: The first paragraph of your position paper should describe what you feel are the most pressing and pertinent aspects of the issue and a justification of why the aspects you described in the previous paragraph are so important to your country. The second paragraph should be used to describe the what you nation will be arguing and what unique aspects of your nation relate to the issue at hand. Finally, your third and last paragraph should contain your ideas for possible solutions that you believe should be included in a resolution. Delegates should be sure to include their name, school and country in the position paper. Committee membership will follow the discretion of the dais team as well as the Yale Model United Nations Secretariat.
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Notes Rio+20 UNCSD Press Release, accesed at http://www.un.org/en/sustainablefuture/pdf/rio20%20concludes_press%20 release.pdf United Nations Population Fund, LINKING POPULATION, POVERTY AND DEVELOPMENT . Accessed at http://www.unfpa.org/pds/urbanization.htm Rio+20, The Future We Want, accessed at http://www.uncsd2012.org/content/documents/727The%20Future%20 We%20Want%2019%20June%201230pm.pdf Population Reference Bureau, Human Population: Urbanization, http://www.prb.org/Educators/TeachersGuides/HumanPopulation/Urbanization.aspx (Aug 17 2012). The Open Door Web Site, Urban Conditions, http://www.saburchill.com/history/chapters/IR/039a.html (Aug 17 2012). http://www.prb.org/Educators/TeachersGuides/HumanPopulation/Urbanization.aspx. What are slums and why do they exist?, UN-Habitat: Twenty First Session of the Governing Council, http://www.unhabitat.org/downloads/docs/4625_51419_GC%2021%20What%20are%20slums.pdf (Aug 17 2012). S. Chandrasekhar, Growth of Slums, Availability of Infrastructure and Demographic Outcomes in Slums: Evidence from India, http://www.iussp.org/Activities/wgc-urb/chandrasekhar.pdf (Aug 17 2012). Bertelsmann Stiftung: Future Challenges, The New City: Slums – The Problem of Sustainable Urban Population and Infrastructure Development in Africa’s Cities, http://futurechallenges.org/local/the-new-city-slums-the-problem-of-sustainable-urban-population-growth-and-infrastructure-development-in-africas-cities/ (Aug 18 2012). Kwasi Nsiah-Gyabaah, Urbanization Processes – Environmental and Health effects in Africa, http://www.populationenvironmentresearch.org/papers/Nsiah-Gyaabah_contribution.pdf (Aug 18 2012). Sustainable Development: Learnings and Perspectives from India – Sustainable Urbanization, Ministry of Environment and Forests: Government of India, http://envfor.nic.in/divisions/ic/wssd/doc4/consul_book_ch7.pdf (Aug 18 2012). Macalester College, Favelas, http://www.macalester.edu/courses/geog61/chad/thefavel.htm (Aug 17 2012). Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica, Subnormal Agglomerates, http://www.ibge.gov.br/english/presidencia/ noticias/noticia_impressao.php?id_noticia=2057=1 (Aug 17 2012). Rio+20: United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, The History of Sustainable Development in the United Nations, http://www.uncsd2012.org/history.html (Aug 30 2012). Celia W. Dugger, “U.N. Predicts Urban Population Explosion,” New York Times, Jun. 28, 2007 (http://www.nytimes. com/2007/06/28/world/28population.html). White, M. J., B. U. Mberu, and M. Collinson. 2006. “African Migration and Urbanization: Recent Trends and Implications.” White, M. J., and D. P. Lindstrom. 2005. “Internal Migration.” Ch. 11 in: Handbook of Population, edited by D. Poston and M. Micklin. 2006. Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research Series. New York: Springer. S. Chandrasekhar, Growth of Slums, http://www.iussp.org/Activities/wgc-urb/chandrasekhar.pdf. X. Bai, “Urban Transition in China: Trends, Consequences, and Policy Implications,” 2006. J. Rodriguez, and G. Martine, “Urbanization in Latin America: Experiences and Lessons Learned,” 2006. http://www.unhabitat.org/downloads/docs/4625_51419_GC%2021%20What%20are%20slums.pdf. (Aug 17 2012). http://www.unhabitat.org/downloads/docs/4625_51419_GC%2021%20What%20are%20slums.pdf (Aug 17 2012) African Population and Health Research Center, Inc. Population and Health Dynamics in Nairobi’s Informal Settlements, 2002. Participating countries – Sanitation, UN-Habitat, http://www.unhabitat.org/content.asp?typeid=19&catid=548&cid=4962 (Aug 31 2012)
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Muchiri Karanja, “Myth shattered: Kibera numbers fail to add up,” Sunday Nation, Sept. 3 2010 (http://www.nation. co.ke/News/Kibera%20numbers%20fail%20to%20add%20up/-/1056/1003404/-/13ga38xz/-/index.html). Andrew Harding, “Nairobi slum life: Into Kibera,” BBC News World Edition, Oct. 4 2002 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/ africa/2297237.stm). “Life in a slum: Dharavi,” BBC News, (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/world/06/dharavi_slum/html/dharavi_slum_intro.stm) Celia W. Dugger, “Toilets Underused to fight Diseases, U.N. Study Finds,” New York Times, Nov. 10 2006 (http://www. nytimes.com/2006/11/10/world/10toilet.html?_r=1&ex=1189828800&en=905358c57769b677&ei=5070) Mark Jacobson, “Dharavi: Mumbai’s Shadow City,” National Geographic, May 2007 (http://ngm.nationalgeographic. com/2007/05/dharavi-mumbai-slum/jacobson-text) Mundo Real, About Rocinha, http://1mundoreal.org/about/about-rocinha (Aug 31 2012). http://1mundoreal.org/about/about-rocinha. S. Angel, S. C. Sheppard, and D. L. Civco, The Dynamics of Global Urban Expansion (Washington, D.C.: Transport and Urban Development Department, the World Bank, 2005), 102. The United Nations Populations Fund: State of World Population 2007, The Social and Sustainable Use of Space: Sprawl and Peri-urbanization, http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2007/english/chapter_4/peri_urbanization.html (Aug 31 2012). Global Reports on Human Settlements 2009: Planning Sustainable Cities, UN-Habitat – United Nations Human Settlements Programme, http://www.unhabitat.org/downloads/docs/GRHS_2009Brief.pdf (Sept 1 2012). De Soto, Hernando. “The Mystery of Capital”, Finance & Development, March 2001, Volume 38, Number 1 Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Transit Oriented Development: Using Public Transit to Create More Accessible and Livable Neighborhoods, accessed at http://www.vtpi.org/tdm/tdm45.htm Sustainable Cities Collective, Film Reveals Bogota’s Urban Transformation, accessed at http://sustainablecitiescollective. com/embarq/62191/film-reveals-bogota-s-urban-transformation Dario Hidalgo, Why is TransMilenio still so special? Accessed at http://thecityfix.com/blog/why-is-transmilenio-still-sospecial/ MIT, What is Urban Upgrading, accessed at http://web.mit.edu/urbanupgrading/upgrading/whatis/what-is.html Daniel Gordon, 2020: India’s Imperfect Vision, accessed at http://tyglobalist.org/in-the-magazine/features/2020-indias-imperfect-vision/ http://www.unhabitat.org/downloads/docs/GRHS_2009Brief.pdf (Sept 1 2012).
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