I was commissioned by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency to participate in a research on inclusive and green urbanisation in three different delta cities: Ho Chi Minh City, Beira and Barranquilla.

The New Urban Agenda

The United Nations New Urban Agenda recognises the role of cities in achieving its sustainable development goals. It, however, also acknowledges that cities in developing countries often lack the financial, organisational and even legal leverage required to achieve effective city planning. This makes local capacity development all the more important in collaborative projects, especially since informal urbanisation takes place in many of these cities.

The absolute number of people around the world who are living and working in cities in an informal setting — that is to say not as a formal inhabitant, is still increasing. The current number is estimated to approach one billion.

Seeking the vicinity of formal settlements, these people are obliged to live in ecologically vulnerable locations, such as riverbanks and other low-lying areas. Climate change and an increasing flow of water from the growing formal city nearby, increases the risk of flooding and flood-related hazards for these informal settlements.

The unbridled, high-density construction of these shanty towns, in turn, are polluting riverbeds and detention basins, reducing the water storage, buffer and purification capacity of the formal cities.

The 2016 Flash Flood in Ho Chi Minh City

Dutch approach

Dutch foreign policy on trade and development cooperation is aimed to enhance inclusive and ‘green’ growth in developing countries, and is geared towards collaboration between local parties and Dutch experts from knowledge institutes, companies and NGOs.

Projects are set up not only to tackle problems, but also serve local awareness and capacity building. Moreover, the stimulation and support of networks lays the foundations for knowledge sharing and experience-based learning between projects.

The New Urban Agenda supports the participative Dutch approach that is geared towards green and inclusive growth. This approach could be improved by further development of current methods and instruments for situations that involve informal urbanisation. In doing so, it is important to critically consider the application of such methods within and between projects.

Networks could be employed, in this respect, by projects learning from each other’s methods or approach. It is furthermore important that individual projects are monitored and evaluated from a policy perspective; particularly also with respect to their possible contribution towards achieving the sustainable development goals.

The UN’s New Urban Agenda encourages the Dutch approach to inclusive green growth in developing countries. This approach could be enhanced by a stronger focus on collaboration between national and international experts and local stakeholders and specialists.

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