Of the approximately 800 million poor in the Asia-Pacific region,
500 million live in rural areas. At the same time, a growing share
of the population is living, and expected to live, in urban areas.
The high rate of urbanization stresses the need for good urban
management. It also raised questions about:
- The links between urban and rural areas;
- Rural development polices in an urbanizing
Urbanization is the net effect of a complex process of movements
of people, goods, capital and ideas that link urban and rural
areas. While the urban population grows, the rural areas become
more urban. Today, rural-urban linkages are changing because of
numerous factors, including: (i) improvements in transport, (ii)
improvements in communication, (iii) a diminishing role of government
and (iv) decentralization.
Rural and urban areas and their economies are increasingly integrated,
interdependent and complementary. There is a continuous exchange
of people, goods, capital and ideas and information between urban
and rural areas. Unfortunately, policy makers often do not take
these interdependencies and linkages into account and their policies
are divided along spatial and sectoral lines. Urban planners concentrate
on the development of the urban areas without giving due attention
to its impact on rural development, while rural development planners
tend to ignore the urban areas, as if rural areas exist in isolation.
Moreover, the administrative division in urban and rural areas
results in a lack of coordination and in work at cross purposes.
It is important when planning interventions in urban or rural
areas to look at their consequences on the other. Integrating
urban and rural poverty reduction therefore is of utmost importance.
The recognition of rural-urban linkages by policy makers is becoming
all the more important in the light of the ongoing decentralization
of government functions in many countries of the region. This
decentralization catches many local governments ill-prepared for
the new responsibilities, which include such important tasks as
local economic development, the provision of basic infrastructure
and services, poverty alleviation and environmental management.
Furthermore, recent export-led poverty reduction initiatives,
such as the “Empowerment of rural communities to export
organic spices” in India and “One Tambon, One Product”
in Thailand, have made it clear that these linkages may extend
beyond country boundaries.
The Poverty Reduction Section is increasingly focusing its work
on poverty alleviation through rural-urban linkages. As the theme
of its 57th Session in May 2001, UNESCAP selected “Reducing
disparities: Balanced development of urban and rural areas and
regions within countries of Asia and the Pacific”. At its
December 2001 meeting, the UNESCAP Committee on Socio-Economic
Measures to Alleviate Poverty in Rural and Urban Areas recommended
that “governments pay more attention to the development
of small and medium-sized towns and build the capacity for poverty
alleviation of local governments in those towns in order to reduce
the pressure on mega-cities and primate cities, and it urges UNESCAP
to provide technical assistance in this area”.
Related ongoing activities are paying particular attention to:
- Supporting initiatives of the urban
poor (including migrants) to avoid the urbanization of poverty;
- Stimulating productive investment in
small towns by migrants to promote rural development;
- Facilitating marketing by farmers of
rural produce to reduce rural poverty; and
- Providing information to rural poor
through ICT to empower the poor