Foreign Policy Blogs

Urbanization Leading to “Mega-Regions”

UN-Habitat released its biannual “State of the World’s Cities” report in March, a 250+ page document that covers all manner of subjects about our increasingly urbanized world. More than half of all people now live in cities, and this figure will reach 60% in less than twenty years, and 70% by 2050.

A very interesting trend, covered in an article within the Guardian, describes the emergence of what are referred to as “mega-regions”. The author explains that these “may stretch hundreds of kilometres across countries and be home to more than 100 million people”. Examples include Hong Kong-Shenhzen-Guangzhou, where approximately 120 million persons live, as well as Nagoya-Osaka-Kyoto-Kobe and Rio de Janeiro-São Paulo.

The interpretation of whether this trend is positive or negative varies. On one hand these zones represent tremendous economic force. The UN-Habitat report’s co-author, Eduardo Lopez-Moreno, states that “the top 25 cities in the world account for more than half of the world’s wealth”. In addition, cities often provide better health and education opportunities than exist poorer rural areas.

On the other hand, these regions represent sprawl on a major scale. Once highways and suburban subdivisions cover formally natural areas, is there any turning back?

What implications does this have for how we think about migrants? Much urbanization results from flows of people moving from rural areas to cities. When it comes to research on displaced persons and refugees, there is now increasing focus on those that live in urban areas. This means that the common image of refugees residing in camps in the desert might be replaced by the conception of those living in slums on the outskirts of cities.

  • Education Tay

    National and local planning departments are increasing developing larger areas to encompass a number of towns and cities. Reasons are numerous from changing climates, dam creation, social mobility and also creating and sustaining infrastructure required by people.

    In the 21st century I see more and more mega regions in areas globally to accommodate changing requirements of people, population growth and climate change.


David D. Sussman

David D. Sussman is currently a PhD Candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University), in Boston, Massachusetts. Serving as a fellow at the Feinstein International Center, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study the lives of Colombian refugees and economic migrants in Caracas, Venezuela. David has worked on a variety of migrant issues that include the health of displaced persons, domestic resettlement of refugees, and structured labor-migration programs. He holds a Masters in International Relations from the Fletcher School, where he studied the integration of Somali and Salvadoran immigrants. David has a B.A. from Dartmouth College and is fluent in Spanish. He has lived in Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Venezuela, and also traveled throughout Latin America. In his free time David enjoys reading up on international news, playing soccer, cooking arepas, and dancing salsa casino. Areas of Focus: Latin America; Migration; Venezuela.

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