Scenario analysis 2019


Giuseppe Sciortino

Università degli Studi di Trento


The current global system relies on a set of liberal international regimes assuring, with some important exceptions, the circulation of goods, capital and information. No such liberal regime exists for the circulation of individuals. There is (although often violated) a right to ‘exit’ recognized by the UN declaration of human rights. There is no, however, right to be admitted somewhere else. Given the actual socio-economic configuration of global society, this implies that the movements of individuals across boundaries is regulated, rather unilaterally, by the receiving states.

Such regulation is, by necessity, highly restrictive. Contrary to news stories, the population of the world is actually pretty immobile. Only a tiny minority – less tha 4% – live currently in a state different from the one in which she is born. Nor such percentage has been growing remarkably in recent decades. The world is pretty much staying home.

If migration rates are pretty stable, the migration potential (the number of people that would move if only they had an appealing chance) is actually growing (and much higher of those of actual migrants). Surveys in emigration countries points nearly anywhere to a large migration potential (roughly, at least four times the number of current international migrants).

Measured against this global demand for admission, the functioning of migration control appears quite effective. Passports, visas, border guards, career sanctions and anti-trafficking measures are able to protect the segmentary differentiation of the world political system in a remarkable way. This restrictive regulation of migration is far from being a mere historical contingency. On the contrary, citizenship plays a key role in producing and reproducing the current global social stratification. Location is a major determinant of income. Unsurprisingly, migration is above all an attempt at social mobility through motility.

Although often ignored, the restrictive regulation of migration is an important dimension of the current global political system. It is a functional pre-requisite for any redistributive welfare policy. It has become a key factor in the functioning of all democratic societies (national public opinions, in fact, are nearly always highly restrictive). Paradoxically, such restrictionist attitude is stronger and more consistent in those states that grant resident foreigners a modicum of right and a path, no matter how long, to citizenship. It is enough to compare the percentage of foreign residents in Western Europe and South America with those of the Gulf States to realize the existence of a factual trade-off between numbers and rights.

Powerful factors militate against international mobility, particularly along the South-North direction. Why, then, migration is such a conflictual issue? Why do state complains to be “unable” to regulate migration? To understand it globally, three structural tensions are to be considered:

– The strain between political system, legitimated in reference to a community of belonging, and the market economy, whose regulation is based on prices, not territory;
– The tension between political will, inevitably particularistic, and a national and international legal system that is increasingly autonomous and increasingly universalistic (embedded liberalism);
– The tension between an international order defined by a segmentation of the political system in nation-states defined as of equal power and status and the factual existence of enormous – and growing – economic, political and military differences.

Urban Value Creation

Montserrat Pareja-Eastaway

Universidad de Barcelona



In the context of urban competitiveness, cities aim to increase the number of areas that become attractive for the location of high added-value activities or the settlement of talent.  In terms of land use, this could be the result of processes of brownfield development, urban regeneration or built environment rehabilitation, among others. With respect to the tools to raise the value of an existing urban area, a broad range of instruments can be identified: from the increase in the use of digital technologies to the use of flagship events (i.e. mobile world congress in Barcelona), improving environmental amenities or building new cultural facilities (i.e. Guggenheim in Bilbao). The major aim of these processes is to increase the existing urban value.


Several aspects should be taken into account while reflecting on the processes of urban value creation. First, to whom is this value addressed? Urban strategies might definitely be aimed at increasing the urban value for existing citizens by providing green areas or better social facilities. However, after Florida’s recipe provided in the 2000s, many local governments targeted foreign capital and talent in their urban planning activities. Besides, the rise in tourist flows all over the world is also a source of urban value creation.  Second, how is this value created? Local policies and actions traditionally decide, in a sort of paternalistic mode, the better pathways to achieve certain objectives associated to the creation of urban value. Processes of co-creation among the different stakeholders involved in using the city, have been recently employed as a natural mechanism to increase the value of the city for all those benefiting from its use. Thirdly, how has the capital gain created by the increase of urban value been shared by the different actors of the city? What kind of mechanisms have been developed to compensate the increasing value? In an era of liberalisation and diminishing role of the public intervention, there is a considerable risk related to the unbalanced absorption of urban value creation by certain economic actors in key areas of the city. This has sparked multiple effects, among others the displacement of existing residents and activities in these areas.  And finally, what kind of processes and dynamics are created as side-effects of the urban value creation procedure? Frequently, although the objective of value creation is clear and defined, there are some effects, some of them totally desirable and some of a negative nature, that also take place in the area of intervention. The attractiveness or popularity of an area after certain interventions of value creation might result in profound conflicts in the use of space by different actors. The availability of brand new green spaces or cultural facilities for the inhabitants could be considered as a positive side-effect of an intervention aimed at increasing the economic activity in certain areas.


An additional feature to be explored in processes of urban value creation is their sustainability (social, economic and environmental) over time.  Since we know, for instance,  that around 70% of the world population will be concentrated in cities in a couple of decades, or that headquarters of large firms are increasingly less dependent of agglomeration economies, the current processes of urban value creation should respect the foreseen urban dynamics and the already existing resources in the city. Urban ecosystems are highly sensitive to changes, for instance, those triggered by new technologies and big data. Public authorities are responsible for guaranteeing a smooth urban transition to new dominant paradigms.


There are some experiences where targeting knowledge and innovation as main drivers of economic growth have transformed existing areas with low added value activities into the most dynamic scenes in the city. This is the case, for instance, of the  district of innovation 22@Barcelona in 1998: by means of an urban, economic and social transformation of the territory led by the municipality, the resulting increase in urban value would, on the one hand, displace existing activities with no or little capacities to produce high added value goods or services and, on the other,  allow the location of targeted sectors able to afford higher prices and rents. Besides, the implementation of compensating mechanisms (i.e. higher density) to private landowners affected by the redevelopment and reorganisation of land was used in the negotiation to free land for other purposes than the existing ones.  Even though the process was definitely top-down, after 15 years the targets of the urban value creation process have changed. Since 2018, the different processes of urban value creation have been agreed upon by different stakeholders with a negotiated pathway for future intervention.

Key questions to be considered from a North – South global perspective:


  1. Are the processes of urban value creation targeting the same objectives in the global North and South?
  2. Up to what extent is the urban value co-created with the different stakeholders involved? Do the global North and South follow similar patterns? Are we witnessing a shift from top-down to bottom-up processes?
  3. How is the capital gain obtained after urban value creation distributed among actors? Are there mechanisms that guarantee an equal or at least, balanced distribution?
  4. Does it make sense to be concerned about the sustainability of processes that alter urban value creation? Is there a similar concern in the global North and South?
  5. How are the city’s existing resources contemplated in the processes of urban value creation? How are they channelled and cultivated? Do these processes take place in both the global North and South?

Housing in the souths of the world

Margarita Greene

School of Architecture, CEDEUS,

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile



There are three perspectives regarding housing that I would like to refer to at this moment, finishing with a short reflection on how to advance towards urban sustainability. Although each of them affects our countries in different ways, they share common factors that allow us to talk about the “souths of the world” as one Mega Region.


The first is Housing beyond the House. In this part I would refer to how a residential area requires urban services and equipment that go beyond the plot, house or flat. In this sense, it is important to consider aspects such as accessibility: while the city offers the benefits of richer opportunities (in economic, social and cultural terms), if the house does not have a proper accessibility to the rest of the urban amenities these opportunities will be unreachable. On the other hand, to provide the services that must accompany the dwelling, and that allow for an adequate urban quality of life, it is necessary to consider multiple stakeholders from both the public and private sectors. Finally, in this section I would like to refer to the mobilization of resources required for providing adequate housing.


The second regards Demography and Social Context, where I would give an overview of the demographic transition in relation to countries’ development, and also of the family and household transitions (changes in households and families composition), as well as the spatial transition (urbanization). This subject leads directly to the issues of immigrants, special groups’ needs (the elderly, children) and cultural changes that may have enormous impacts on housing and residential areas.


The third subject will approach Informality and Incrementality. One problem in the last century has been the generation and increase of informal settlements, which do not provide minimum conditions for families or communities to develop a healthy and enriching quality of life. The formal approach will be analysed, showing how it has changed from ‘slums are a problem’ to ‘slums are part of the solution’. This has led to the incremental approach to housing, which can be understood as a basic self-made house to the improvement of neighbourhoods and social consolidation.


Finally, I would like to approach the sustainability perspective and how it affects the morphology of the urban realm (i.e., compact city versus sprawl), the mobility patterns (active mobility and public transport vs cars), and the aim of diversity in function (combining residential, commerce, work sources) and social groups (among rich and poor, young and old, etc.). In the Chilean case and in most of Latin America a main problem in urban development has been segregation, and nowadays there is much effort involved in integration strategies to overcome it.

Global Discourses of Nature and Sustainability. Will Green Open a New Inequality Gap?

Enrique Aliste

Universidad de Chile


Many recent discourses focus on nature, landscape and “green” as a very important concept and source of wellbeing. Green is at the heart of future desires, it shapes the new global ideas and public policies, and it affects the accountability of the private sector. Today, an important part of the performance of investments is linked to the idea of sustainability, climate change commitment and good practices with communities. And one of the key actions for this commitment is the protection of nature.


On the other hand, however, one of the most important processes in the global Souths is land grabbing for ecological reasons (or “green grabbing”), where important national and transnational investment funds buy great plots of land at the end of the world, for e.g. in Patagonia.


In these scenarios, what kind of consequences can be expected for the future of the global Souths? Who manages these actions and for what purpose? What kind of geography are we producing for the future global era of sustainable development and climate change actions? What scenarios can be predicted for the global Souths in this context?


This is not a skeptical approach to climate change adaptation or sustainable discourses: it is a call for discussing, reflecting and thinking beyond the present for the future of the global Souths.


Keywords: green economy; global change; social geography, development imaginary, global Souths, hegemonic discourses, “eco-extractivism”.

Urbanization in the Global South: Can We Make it Sustainable?

Kala S Sridhar

Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore, INDIA


This presentation focuses on urbanization in the global south, and in particular in China, India and Brazil (CIB). These three countries have been selected as being representative of Asia and Latin America, and subject to availability of data.


There are many similarities across the three countries—India started its liberalization in 1991, while China started much earlier, in 1978, and Brazil joined the party with its economic reforms in 1994. India is only 31% urban as of Census 2011, two decades after its economic reforms began, but recent research (Sridhar (2019) finds that if India were more liberal in its definition of what is urban, then more than half of India would be urban today. China, on the other hand, has experienced a much different, and chequered urbanization process since its liberalization in 1978 when its urbanization was only 20%, 36% at the turn of the millennium (in 2000); and rose more rapidly to 56% in 2018. Brazil has been always more than 80% urban, but the creative abilities of its cities to unleash growth has been recognized only post-1994, the year of economic reforms in that country.


Few countries have become high income without also becoming adequately urban, as Spence, Annez and Buckley (2008) point out. While Brazil has the highest per capita income among the CIB countries, it is also unsurprisingly the most urban, with China in second place, and India last, being the least urbanized. For the 1960-2018 period, based on data from the World Bank, we find the highest correlation between urbanization and per capita GDP in the case of China (0.96), followed by that for Brazil at 0.95, and for India at 0.91.


In each of these CIB countries, the number of cities at the apex of the urban hierarchy is lower than that at the bottom of the hierarchy, as predicted by Christaller’s central place theory and Zipf’s law. While undoubtedly cities contribute the most to the GDP of every country, they have to be made economically efficient and egalitarian. Economic efficiency is defined by the number of jobs accessible within a certain commute which refers to the city’s effective labor market, as per Bertaud (2014). We find that the accessibility of jobs within a 30-minute commute is the highest in Bangalore, when compared with selected North American cities for which the data are available. No doubt, Bangalore is projected to have the highest per capita GDP ($12,600) by 2030, as per McKinsey Global Institute (2010).


As a measure of the egalitarianism of a city, we examine the population living within 10 KMS of the central business district (CBD) as this reflects the city’s sprawl, presumably caused by urban development policies. On this measure, Seoul, South Korea is the most egalitarian, followed by Bangkok, Thailand and Shanghai, China, where roughly 50% of the metropolitan area’s population lives within 10 KMS of the CBD. Indian cities are the least egalitarian from this viewpoint, where urban policies distort household location away from the CBD where jobs are located. This may also be seen in the floor area consumption in cities around the world, which is the highest in cities such as Copenhagen, but the lowest in Indian cities. One possible reason for this is the strong land use regulations (as seen in unduly low Floor Area Ratio (FAR)) in India’s cities, compared with that for other cities around the world. The impact of FAR limits on city suburbanization, sprawl and spatial area is well established (Sridhar (2010)), Brueckner and Sridhar (2012), Bertaud and Brueckner (2005)).


The logical fallout of strong land use regulations in cities of the global south is obvious—they are environmentally not sustainable. This may be seen in the carbon emissions globally, whereby China and India are the highest contributors to global emissions, along with the US and EU. Therefore, urbanization has to be managed well, to make it egalitarian and environmentally sustainable. Otherwise we are throwing the baby out with the bath water.




Spence, M., Annez, P. C., & Buckley, R. M. (Eds.). (2008). Urbanization and growth. World Bank Publications.


Bertaud, Alain (2014), Cities as labor markets, Marron Institute on Cities and the Urban Environment, WP #2, New York.

Bertaud, A., Brueckner, J.K., 2005. Analyzing building-height restrictions: predicted im- pacts and welfare costs. Regional Science and Urban Economics 35,  109–125.


Brueckner, Jan and Sridhar, Kala Seetharam (2012). Measuring welfare gains from relaxation of land-use restrictions: The case of India’s building-height limits, Regional Science and Urban Economics (Special issue in honor of Jacques Thisse), 42 (6) (2012): 1061-67. DOI: 10.1016/j.regsciurbeco.2012.08.003

McKinsey Global Institute (2010) India’s urban awakening: Building inclusive cities, sustaining economic growth, April.


Sridhar, Kala Seetharam (2019). Is India’s urbanization really too low? Some evidence, Area Development and Policy, forthcoming. DOI: 10.1080/23792949.2019.1590153


Sridhar, Kala Seetharam (2010). “Impact of Land Use Regulations: Evidence from India’s Cities,” Urban Studies, 47 (7) June 2010: 1541–1569.

Spatial Inequality and Poverty in African Cities

George Owusu

Institute of Statistical, Social & Economic Research (ISSER)/

Centre for Urban Management Studies (CUMS)

University of Ghana


The rapid pace of urbanization characterized by under-served urban neighbourhoods, sprawl and the emergence of slums and other informal settlements are common features of cities of the global south, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet these characterizations of cities have not slowed down the movement of the population to cities. This is because cities are largely seen as offering better livelihood opportunities compared to rural areas. In other words, the ‘brighter lights’ of cities and towns which describe the lure of urban life, and the promise that urban centres hold for individuals and groups who may be hungry, jobless, or just curious remain strong – fueling the shift of the population to cities and hastening the process of urbanization. Equally important is the fact that migrants to cities in the global south, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, are predominantly young people and this inevitably contributes to high rates of natural increase in urban centres. Youth populations in cities are coterminous with high levels of unemployment, a major contributory factor to urban poverty. Moreover, urban poverty is equally associated with poor living conditions and inequalities.


Nowhere in the global south is the process of urbanization a challenge as in Sub-Saharan Africa where economic growth and development have not kept pace with the rates of urbanization. For instance, while Sub-Saharan African countries can match the urbanization rates of China and India (which are considered the industrial powers of the future), they cannot boast of anything near the rates of economic growth of these two countries. The effects of this situation are increasing urban poverty and the emergence of slums and other informal settlements. Indeed, urban sustainability issues in many Sub-Saharan African countries are best observed through the challenges confronting their cities. Yet, urban life has not collapsed in most African countries largely on account of the informal sector which provides the urban population with housing, employment and income, and any claims on consumption of goods and services in the city.


In many African countries, poor urban planning and governance remain at the core of challenges to be met, as they impede the creativity and innovation required to address other urban development challenges. A critical challenge is the inadequate attention of urban planning and governance to the informal economy despite its significant contribution to the city and national economies. In many African cities, the lack of adequate policy attention to the informal sector has led to a situation whereby spatial planning has failed to consider informal economy activities in planning and development of zoning schemes. This has resulted in clashes between informal economy operators and local authorities, mainly on the issue of location, further exacerbating spatial inequality and poverty levels in cities. In many cities in Africa, city authorities and policy-makers’ attempts to deal with informality have entailed taking on euro-centric notions of the city and utopian notions of urban development. Rather than asking how urban dwellers in African cities manage to create their own mechanisms of production and sustenance within existing societal structures, city and national governments have continually pushed a development agenda aimed at making African cities conform to ‘developmental’ norms of cities in the global north.