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Chapter IX: Population distribution, urbanization and internal migration - A. Population distribution and sustainable development

Basis for action

9.1. In the early 1990s, approximately half of the Governments inthe 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 thanhalf of the world population by 2005. Consequently, attention hasmostly 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, inconsequence, 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 the livelihood, way of life and values of individuals. At the same time, migration has economic, social and environmental implications - both positive and negative - for the places of origin and destination.


9.2. The objectives are:

  1. To foster a more balanced spatial distribution of the population by promoting in an integrated manner the equitable and ecologically sustainable development of major sending and receivingareas, with particular emphasis on the promotion of economic, social and gender equity based on respect for human rights, especially the right to development;
  2. To reduce the role of the various push factors as they relate to migration flows.


9.3. Governments formulating population distribution policies should ensure that the objectives and goals of those policies are consistent with other development goals, policies and basic human rights. Governments, assisted by interested local, regional and intergovernmental agencies, should assess on a regular basis how the consequences of their economic and environmental policies, sectoral priorities, infrastructure investment and balance of resources among regional, central, provincial and local authorities influence population distribution and internal migration, both permanent and temporary.

9.4. In order to achieve a balanced spatial distribution of production employment and population, countries should adopt sustainable regional development strategies and strategies for the encouragement of urban consolidation, the growth of small or medium-sized urban centres and the sustainable development of ruralareas, including the adoption of labour- intensive projects, training for non-farming jobs for youth and effective transport and communication systems. To create an enabling context for local development, including the provision of services, Governments should consider decentralizing their administrative systems. This also involves giving responsibility for expenditure and the right to raise revenue to regional, district and local authorities. While vast improvements to the urban infrastructure and environmental strategies are essential in many developing countries to provide a healthy environment for urban residents, similar activities should also be pursued in rural areas.

9.5. To reduce urban bias and isolated rural development, Governments should examine the feasibility of providing incentives to encourage the redistribution and relocation of industries and businesses from urban to rural areas and to encourage the establishment of new businesses, industrial units and income-generating projects in rural areas.

9.6. Governments wishing to create alternatives to out-migration from rural areas should establish the preconditions for development in rural areas, actively support access to ownership or use of land and access to water resources, especially for family units, make and encourage investments to enhance rural productivity, improve rural infrastructure and social services and facilitate the establishment of credit, production and marketing cooperatives and other grass-roots organizations that give people greater control over resources and improve their livelihoods. Particular attentionis needed to ensure that these opportunities are also made available to migrants' families remaining in the areas of origin.

9.7. Governments should pursue development strategies offering tangible benefits to investors in rural areas and to rural producers. Governments should also seek to reduce restrictions on international trade in agricultural products.

9.8. Governments should strengthen their capacities to respond tothe pressures caused by rapid urbanization by revising and reorienting the agencies and mechanisms for urban management as necessary and ensuring the wide participation of all population groups in planning and decision-making on local development. Particular attention should be paid to land management in order to ensure economical land use, protect fragile ecosystems and facilitate the access of the poor to land in both urban and rural areas.

9.9. Countries are urged to recognize that the lands of indigenous people and their communities should be protected from activities that are environmentally unsound or that the indigenous people concerned consider to be socially and culturally inappropriate. The term "lands" is understood to include the environment of the areas which the people concerned traditionally occupy.

9.10. Countries should increase information and training on conservation practices and foster the creation of sustainable off-farm rural employment opportunities in order to limit the further expansion of human settlements to areas with fragile ecosystems.

9.11. Population distribution policies should be consistent with such international instruments, when applicable, as the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Timeof War (1949), including article 49.


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