A. Population distribution and sustainable development

Basis for action

9.1. In the early 1990s, approximately half of the Governments in the world, mostly those of developing countries, considered the patterns of population distribution in their territories to be unsatisfactory and wished to modify them. A key issue was the rapid growth of urban areas, which are expected to house more than half of the world population by 2005. Consequently, attention has mostly been paid to rural-urban migration, although rural-rural and urban- urban migration are in fact the dominant forms of spatial mobility in many countries. The process of urbanization is an intrinsic dimension of economic and social development and, in consequence, both developed and developing countries are going through the process of shifting from predominantly rural to predominantly urban societies. For individuals, migration is often a rational and dynamic effort to seek new opportunities in life. Cities are centres of economic growth, providing the impetus for socio-economic innovation and change. However, migration is also prompted by push factors, such as inequitable allocation of development resources, adoption of inappropriate technologies and lack of access to available land. The alarming consequences of urbanization visible in many countries are related to its rapid pace, to which Governments have been unable to respond with their current management capacities and practices. Even in developing countries, however, there are already signs of a changing pattern of population distribution, in the sense that the trend towards concentration in a few large cities is giving way to a more widespread distribution in medium-sized urban centres. This movement is also found in some developed countries, with people indicating preference for living in smaller places. Effective population distribution policies are those that, while respecting the right of individuals to live and work in the community of their choice, take into account the effects of development strategies on population distribution. Urbanization has profound implications for individuals' livelihood, way of life and values. At the same time, migration has economic, social and environmental implications - both positive and negative - for the places of origin and destination.

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