The issue of whether the Conference should predominantly focus on urban or rural areas became more apparent and was not resolved. Although many African interventions during the first week had focused on this issue, not many other countries had revealed their desire to focus on urban areas. However, during the drafting this issue proved to be more serious and consumed a relatively large amount of time. Countries that preferred an urban focus argued that most issues being addressed by the Conference are, by their very nature, most acute in cities.
Issues such as air, water, sewage and transport are problems associated with dense settlement. In most countries improvements in the efficiency of modern agriculture have led to fewer rural jobs, resulting in a rural exodus. This, together with the unfailing population growth, accounts for a substantial proportion of urbanization. The growth of cities is inevitable. Moreover well managed cities are now viewed as positive settlements where many choose for social, cultural and economic reasons. Because of economies of scale, problems such as education, health care, sanitation and so on are much cheaper to address in cities. Additionally, urban areas account for approximately one-half of the population of most countries, and are growing. There were two main reasons why some countries argued that rural and urban areas be given equal attention. First there is an underlying idea that cities are inherently bad; the centers of crime and corruption; and the scene of a breakdown in family and societal values. This idea is fed in some countries by seemingly insurmountable problems facing poorly managed cities. This attitude has been fed for many years by the now outdated, but not forgotten, approach by many donor countries and institutions of focusing on the negatives of urbanization and to develop policies that discourage urbanization. These policies have since failed. Policies now reflect the understanding that urbanization cannot be halted and, if managed well, can yield many benefits.
Additionally, in Africa the population lives predominately in rural areas (unlike most other regions of the world). Many African states therefore attempted to steer the focus of the Conference away from solely urban issues to human settlements issues of all deprived people.
The re-drafted text reflects the unresolved question of focus. It includes several references to "rural and shelter" and instead of "shelter and urban" the text refers to "shelter, settlements and urban". [Return to start of article]