Urbanization Conferences


Across the developing world, the growth of cities is outpacing effective policy. Low density land use results in rapidly expanding cities, raising the costs of infrastructure and service provision and limiting livability and productivity. At the same time, limited investments in transport infrastructure such as roads limits the connectivity between individuals and opportunities that make cities engines for growth. Effective policy to address these challenges requires an understanding of the spatial organization of cities, and how the distribution of private and public investments across a city affect economic growth.

The conference hosted by the World Bank, George Washington University, the International Monetary Fund and the International Growth Centre's Cities Program brought together academics and development practitioners to present and discuss questions relating to the spatial organization of cities and economic growth. It focused on effective land and transport policy in cities and the implications of urban development for national growth. 

Conference organizers
Harris Selod, The World Bank
Rémi Jedwab, George Washington University
Edward Glaeser, Harvard University and IGC
Chris Papageorgiou, International Monetary Fund

Photograph: World Bank Photo Collection, "High rises and hotel buildings in Punta Pacifica, Panama City, Panama". Photo: Gerardo Pesantez / World Bank.


            [See keynote address by Paul Romer here]

This conference hosted by the World Bank, George Washington University (Institute for International Economics Policy) and the International Growth Centre Cities Programme brought together academics and development practitioners to present and discuss the challenges of sustainable urban planning in developing countries.

One of the great challenge of 21st century cities in developing countries is that they must fulfill the requirements of connectivity in production for businesses and address the negative externalities for consumers of density with extremely limited financial resources and public capacity. This raises the following questions: What national policies strengthen and weaken developing world cities, and what infrastructure investments deliver the largest growth benefits? In particular, the aim of this conference was to reflect upon whether cities in developing countries should focus their efforts on improving their land and housing sector (see Session 1: Land), their transportation networks (see Session 2: Transportation) or their sanitation infrastructure (see Session 3: Public Services). In other words, how can we build, or rebuild, cities in the future in order to promote economic growth and reduce poverty?

Conference organizers
Harris Selod, The World Bank
Rémi Jedwab, George Washington University
Edward Glaeser, Harvard University and IGC

Photograph: World Bank Photo Collection, "Rapid urbanization in Vietnam". Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tran Viet Duc / World Bank.


            [See keynote addresses by Matthew Kahn and Jan Brueckner here]

This conference hosted by the World Bank, George Washington University (Institute for International Economic Policy), the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management, the NYU Urbanization Project, and The Growth Dialogue brought together academics and development practitioners to present and discuss the challenges of sustainable urbanization in developing countries.

Addressing environmental change in urban areas is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century, particularly given that the world is now more than half urban, and Africa and Asia are experiencing unprecedented rates of urban population growth. Cities themselves are a major contributor to this challenge, as they consume an enormous share of the world’s energy and emit large amounts of carbon dioxide. At the same time, they are heavily vulnerable to climate change and increasingly exposed to climate induced risks (including floods from rising sea levels and higher precipitation, destruction from stronger cyclones and storms, and periods of extreme heat and cold). The phenomenon of urbanization itself is also likely to be significantly altered by environmentally induced migration. Despite these risks, many cities have not created or implemented crucially needed policies to attenuate the causes of climate change and to effectively protect cities from its impacts.

Conference organizers
Harris Selod, The World Bank
Rémi Jedwab, George Washington University
Paul Romer, NYU Urbanization Project
Danny Leipziger, The Growth Dialogue

Photograph: World Bank Photo Collection, "Traffic in Beijing".  Beijing, China. Photo: Li Lou / World Bank.



This conference hosted by the World Bank, George Washington University (Institute for International Economic Policy) and the Growth Dialogue brought together academics and development practitioners to present and discuss the challenges of urbanization in developing countries.

The world is urbanizing rapidly, with cities today concentrating more than half the world’s population. While it is widely accepted that development and urbanization go hand in hand, the expansion of cities gives rise to both opportunities and challenges, with countries urbanizing in quite different ways. Urbanization has been occurring at different times and different paces, and some countries have concentrated the urban populations in a few mega cities, while others have spread the urban population across many smaller towns. Current patterns of urbanization in developing countries raise a number of challenges such as accompanying structural transformation, providing infrastructure, managing urban spatial expansion, addressing externalities in congestion and pollution, and building effective institutions. 

Conference organizers
Harris Selod, The World Bank
Rémi Jedwab, George Washington University
Somik Lall, The World Bank
Danny Leipziger, The Growth Dialogue

Photograph: World Bank Photo Collection, "Overlooking the central Kumasi market at closing time in Kumasi, Ghana", June 22, 2006. Photo: Jonathan Ernst / World Bank.



The conference on "Urbanization and Poverty", jointly organized between the World Bank and George Washington University-Institute for International Economic Policy (GWU-IIEP), brought together academics and development practitioners over two days to discuss the challenges of urbanization in view of rural-urban structural transformation.

The world is urbanizing rapidly, with cities today concentrating more than half the world’s population. While it is widely accepted that development and urbanization go hand in hand, the expansion of cities gives rise to both opportunities and challenges, with countries urbanizing in quite different ways. Urbanization has been occurring at different times and different paces, and some countries have concentrated the urban populations in few mega cities, while others have spread the urban populations across many smaller towns. Particularly little is known about the relation between the pace and nature of the urbanization process and the evolution of inequality and poverty. This conference aimed to initiate a dialogue among all stakeholders on the drivers and patterns of urbanization and their consequences for inequality and poverty to elicit key insights for policymakers, with special attention to Africa’s unfolding urbanization process.

Conference organizers
Luc Christiaensen, The World Bank
James Foster, George Washington University
Remi Jedwab, George Washington University
Peter Lanjouw, The World Bank
Harris Selod, The World Bank

Photograph: World Bank Photo Collection, "City view of Bogotá, Colombia" on January 11, 2016. Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank.