Concept Note

Urbanization is a critical issue that has significant implications for sustainable development. The world is rapidly urbanizing, with over half of the global population living in urban areas. The Global South, which includes countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, has been experiencing rapid urbanization over the past few decades. The United Nations estimate that by 2050, over two-thirds of the world's population will live in urban areas, with much of this growth expected to occur in the Global South. The nature of urbanization in the South has its own specificities as well as similarities with the growth of cites in the Global North. ‘Urbanization without industrialization’ and informality in housing, economy and employment have been important features of this process. Historically, urbanization accompanied rural-urban migration, where people move from rural areas to urban areas for better economic opportunities. While migration in the North witnessed a permanent shift of population to the cities, it remained largely intransient in many countries including India in the South, manifested in rural-urban labor circulation. This form of migration is often a result of factors such as poverty, lack of access to essential services, and environmental degradation.

The rapid pace of urbanization in the Global South presents both opportunities and challenges. On the one hand, urbanization can contribute to economic growth, job creation, and improved access to basic services such as healthcare, education, and sanitation. On the other hand, rapid urbanization can also lead to urban poverty, informal settlements, environmental degradation, and social inequality. Overcoming this ‘urban dilemma’ and harnessing the potential of cities to expand opportunities and improve the quality of life is imperative.

A critical challenge of urbanization in the Global South is the need for adequate infrastructure and services to support the growing population. This includes clean water, sanitation, electricity, transportation, and housing access. In many cases, unplanned urbanization has resulted in the growth of informal settlements, where people live in substandard housing and lack of basic services. To address these challenges, policymakers and urban planners in the Global South need to promote sustainable and inclusive urbanization for the wellbeing of all sections of urban citizens. There are several good examples from both North and South, which can provide rich insights for evolving strategies in this context.

In 2015, the Institute for Human Development (IHD) and the Department of Urban and Regional Planning of the University of Florida in partnership with NITI Aayog, Government of India, had organized an international conference on this theme. This conference had successfully provided an opportunity for deliberating policy and academic issues relevant for promoting sustainable urban development, with the participation of around 300 experts including academics, urban planners, policymakers and other stakeholders. It also had the benefit of government’s participation and patronage. It was inaugurated and addressed by the then Urban Development Minister of India, Mr. Venkaiah Naidu and the Vice-Chairman of the NITI Aayog, Professor Arvind Panagariya.

A second edition of this conference, Sustainable and Inclusive Urban Development in Global South, is conceived to take these deliberations forward and bring together evidence and perspectives on the latest developments in urban landscapes, and policy and planning strategies globally. More specifically, it will provide a platform and opportunity for experts and practitioners to share regional urban experiences and case studies of projects to help in setting the agenda for inclusive urbanization, concurrent with the efforts in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (in particular, Goal 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable).

Scope and Objectives
This conference will delve deeper into some of the recent urbanization trends and the urban policy and planning. The emergence of Megacities in the Global South presents a host of opportunities for planners. By 2030, the South is expected to have 34 out of 41 Megacities. With the growing urban population, appropriate economic growth strategy is urgently needed. The massive rural-urban migration has created some of the largest informal settlements in the world. The inhabitants in such settlements lack citizenship rights, including basic services, and infrastructure. According to the UN, approximately one billion people live in informal settlements, with the majority located in the Global South. The unplanned and massive urbanization is putting pressure on the environment. As cities grow, they often encroach on natural habitats, leading to the loss of habitat and biodiversity. In addition, urbanization contributes to air and water pollution and waste management issues. However, in recent years, the advancement of technology has helped urban service delivery, such as using data and analytics to optimize transportation and energy use. The use and adoption of technology are on the rise, but their spread has been very limited. Addressing these challenges will require a coordinated effort from policymakers, urban planners, and civil society, and learning from the best global practices can contribute to this process.

One of the primary objectives of this conference is to bring together urban experts and practitioners from different sectors and countries to discuss and explore strategies for achieving sustainable and inclusive development. The conference will contribute to the global efforts towards SDG 11 of making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, through the exchange of ideas, sharing of best practices, and building partnerships.

Like several countries in the Global South, India is also experiencing rapid urbanization which is likely to exacerbate in future. The experts and policymakers in the country are devising several policies to address the associated challenges mentioned above. Several papers and sessions in the conference will also be focused on India which is expected to throw light on the new urban issues and initiatives and insights for devising appropriate policies.

Themes of the conference
The tentative themes to be discussed at the conference would be:

  • International experiences of urbanization
  • Urban governance and planning
  • Creating decent employment and green jobs
  • Cities, small and medium towns
  • Migration and urbanisation
  • Strengthening rural-urban linkages
  • Social and economic inclusion; urban poverty and slums
  • Urban spaces and gender equality
  • Equitable, accessible and safe transportation
  • Public safety and security
  • Planning for just cities
  • Climate change, risks and resilience
  • Climate finance, green and sustainable urban development
  • Trunk infrastructure (water and waste management)
  • Formal and informal urbanization
  • Affordable housing and rental housing
  • Land use and urban restructuring
  • Transportation and smart urban mobility
  • Technology and innovation
  • Role of cultural heritage and arts in urban development
  • Multispecies cohabitation in cities

Besides these themes, papers on other themes relevant to the conference are welcome. Apart from paper presentations, panels will be organized. Some proposed panels are: Green urban development and social inclusion; Future of higher education and urban planning; and smart urban mobility.

Paper Contributions: Papers are invited from scholars and experts from both Global South and North. An extended abstract in about 500-700 words containing research objectives, data and methodology and key findings should be submitted online on the Conference portal by 25 May 2023. Communication about acceptance of abstracts will be sent by 30 May 2023. Full papers of accepted abstracts are to be submitted by 25 July 2023.

Panel Proposals: Panel proposals are also invited from scholars and institutions. Each panel proposal should contain a concept note, title, authors and abstracts (500-700 words) of the papers along with short bios (100-150 words) of the panelists. The proposals are to be sent by 31 May 2023 by email to

Date, Venue, Partners, and Participants The conference will be organized during 10-12 August 2023 in Delhi at the India International Centre. It will be jointly organized by the Institute for Human Development (IHD), New Delhi ( ) and the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Florida (

The conference will be of three-day duration. Around 200 participants will be drawn from various fields such as urban planners, social scientists, urban development experts from relevant sectors, policymakers, development practitioners, etc. Around 40 to 50 experts and scholars from outside India, including the University of Florida, are likely to participate in the conference.

Conference Outputs The conference aims to contribute to the global efforts to achieve sustainable and inclusive development by generating new knowledge, identifying best practices, and fostering partnerships. The conference is expected to result in a number of outcomes, including:

  • A better understanding of the challenges and opportunities for sustainable and inclusive urban development.
  • A shared vision and commitment to sustainable and inclusive urban development.
  • New partnerships and collaborations among stakeholders in the field of sustainable and inclusive urban development.
  • Recommendations for policy and practice that can be used to promote sustainable and inclusive urban development.
  • A set of research questions that can guide future research on sustainable and inclusive development.

Proceedings of the conference and key conclusions and recommendations will be brought out immediately after its conclusion for broader dissemination. Later on, the selected revised papers will be brought out as one/two edited books through a leading publisher. Given the importance of this theme in the current policy discourse, it is hoped that the conference will contribute significantly to policy and analysis.