Even Developed Nations Will Feel Misery as Emigrants Flee Crowded, Poor Cities

Article excerpt

Wally N'Dow, secretary-general of Habitat II, spoke with reporter Takehiko Nomura about the U.N. conference, set for June 3-14 in Istanbul.

Question: According to your report "Habitat II," 93 percent of urban population growth from 1995 to 2025 will occur in developing countries. Will this be a problem only for developing countries?

Answer: No. But they are countries which are the least prepared for it. Those huge numbers we are witnessing in developing countries is the biggest migration in history.

Millions of people are moving every day into these centers, whether they are townships or cities, which are the least prepared for them. They don't have enough infrastructure. They don't have enough services - water, electricity, sanitation facilities. They don't have enough health [facilities]. They are just going mainly to inhabit surrounding areas of the city. There is a lot of human misery.

These people, when they move, believe that they are going to improve their livelihood. Most often they are disappointed. They believe that their children and family could have a better chance for development as a human being, for education, for health. A lot of the times, they are disappointed.

They believe that they can find a job. Most of them now realize that there are no jobs, especially in these years. So we are seeing this major shift into these exploiting environments. In developing countries, they don't have resources.{D-} They don't have institutions. And they do not have job-creating industries to absorb those people.

When the numbers get too big, they start thinking of migrating toward developed countries. You see what's happening in the U.S. People are coming from South America, the Caribbean. Many of those people are coming from cities where there is no hope. So, the problems are affecting developing countries, but in the end they will affect everybody in the world.

Q: Most people in developed countries still don't seem to sense the seriousness of problems caused by overpopulation. How do you make them aware of the problems?

A: I think through these U.N. conferences - where the whole world comes - they consult on the problems, exchange ideas and views. We provide statistics and evidence. They hear real stories and they see for themselves. This is one way.

Another way is to use the media. The media has to report that perhaps the biggest challenge to mankind today is poverty, urbanization and joblessness in the developing world. …