9 out of 10 Latin Americans to live in cities by 2050: UN

By Juliana Barbassa, AP

RIO DE JANEIRO–Nearly nine out of 10 Latin Americans will live in cities by the year 2050, and the region should use this moment of economic stability and slower population growth to make those cities more equitable, said a U.N. report issued Tuesday.

The report by the United Nations Human Settlements Program said the region is already the world’s most urbanized, with 80 percent of the population living in cities. This growth came at a cost: it was “traumatic and at times violent because of its speed, marked by the deterioration of the environment and above all, by a deep social inequality,” the report said.

“The main challenge is how to develop in a way that curbs the enormous inequalities that exist within cities,” said Erik Vittrup, the head of human settlements of U.N.-Habitat’s regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean. “There are other cities that have been through these urban transformations and don’t have this level of inequality. It goes against the economic model in Latin America. Cities didn’t grow more inclusive; the prosperity wasn’t for everyone.”

Still, the region is poised for positive change, the survey found. The population growth of cities has slowed to just below 2 percent a year and the region’s economy has stabilized after decades of high debt and inflation, making this a time to invest in needed infrastructure, housing and basic services, the report said.

“We’re at the end of an era of urban explosion, with few exceptions,” said Vittrup. “We’re seeing a reduction in poverty, indigence in urban areas; unemployment is going down.”