The independent resource on global security

Urbanization trends

Urbanization trends

  • There will be more, and bigger, cities in the future. In 1900, 10% of the world’s population lived in cities. Today the figure is over 50%, and it will reach 75% by 2050 (The Urban Age Project, London School of Economics).
  • In 2010, well over 200 million people lived outside the country of their birth, and cities are becoming more diverse as they attract communities of different nationality, faith and ethnicity.
  • The movement into cities is led by young people, who see fewer opportunities to meet their aspirations in rural areas.
  • Cities account for a growing share of national economies and also concentrate wealth. Instead of 200 nations, 600 cities are now considered the backbone of the world economy (McKinsey & Co), and in future cities, as much as countries, will compete for investment, talent and influence.


To compete, cities will have to convince investors and inhabitants that they offer a safe and secure environment where people want to live and investors want to place their resources. If effective strategies are not developed, the consequences will be more serious, as the importance of cities to national life increases.

States have mainly been responsible for providing security in the past, and they will continue to carry the main responsibility in the future. However, cities and municipal authorities are increasingly examining what role they can play as security providers, not only beneficiaries. Cities will play a role in a number of ways:

  • Urban resiliencelessen the impact of an unavoidable shock, and respond effectively so that disruption to the city and its inhabitants is as little as possible and as short as possible.
  • Urban inclusivenessensure that religious, sectarian, tribal, ideological, gender and racial identities live shoulder-to-shoulder without becoming fragmented. Win public trust that resources and services are provided in a fair and equal way.
  • Urban violencereduce the fear of residents and visitors in that they may be the victims of violence of any kind.