The story of urbanization gaining pace is a familiar one in many parts of the world. The Southeast Asian region is no different. In 1950, the rate of urbanization was only 15.4 per cent. The rate today stands at slightly over 40 per cent and is projected to increase to 49.7 per cent by 2025.
While the circumstances surrounding each city within Southeast Asia are unique, the challenges that cities can identify with and collectively address as a region are common. Overburdened cities struggle to supply essential urban infrastructure, services, and shelter to residents, but they have also lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty. Cities are now also more interconnected and share more anxieties — from financial crises and rising inequality to climate change.
Governments need to find creative mechanisms to mobilize the private sector and civil society to generate economic growth and reduce poverty, improve productivity and living conditions, protect the environment, and adapt to climate change.
Against this backdrop, liveability and sustainability have become central concerns for many urban leaders. At the Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC), we believe that good urban governance and integrated planning, demonstrated through sound policies and effective legal and institutional frameworks that mobilize human and financial resources, can result in a city being adaptable to changes in environmental, social, and economic systems over the long term.
Over a series of three workshops, the CLC was most fortunate to have partnered the ASEAN Studies Centre (ASC) in bringing together experts in the region to gain a better understanding of urbanization trends in Southeast Asia. This included an Expert Panel Session at the World Cities Summit 2010 (WCS) in Singapore on 30 June 2010, which provided a platform for regional leaders to share and discuss experiences on the subject. In all, the workshops had allowed for regional urban researchers and policymakers to exchange views on challenges, identify opportunities, and exchange experiences and practices associated with rapid urbanization.
I am happy that the research arising from the proceedings and discussions of the workshops has been captured in the rich and diverse discourse in this book on Southeast Asian cities. This will extend the influence of the ideas and best practices far beyond the workshops and summit.