Theater of Cruelty

Cities in crisis

Eric Berg
Erik Berg
Erik Berg worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs / NORAD from 1978 to 2013. He now heads Habitat Norway.
RECONSTRUCTION / This appendix gives the war's destruction of cities and towns in Ukraine and the need for reconstruction the most attention.


This edition of the ORIENTERING is about the world becoming a world of crises. They are simultaneous, connected and mutually reinforcing. And meet in cities and towns where 80 percent of the world's population lives. The UN climate organization describes the crises as a cascade. Others compare this to the damaging effects of atomic and hydrogen bombs. With crises comes rebellion. The article authors write, among other things, about increasing 'food riots' in the big cities – or about indigenous women's rebellion against land grabbing in northern Argentina under the auspices of a dominant patriarchy.

Norwegian politicians and representatives of the World Bank, the UN settlement programme, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Ukrainian civil society reflect in a survey on the challenges of humanitarian aid. The conclusion, like NY The guiding principle of TID#'s appendix is ​​that people must own their development and that resources should be mobilized from the bottom up.

Despite heat waves, there are the destruction of cities and towns in the war Ukraine and the need for reconstruction to which we give the greatest attention. The war also has consequences for food security and safety poor and hungry around the world. The current situation makes it clear that at the urban micro level, people's food security can be improved through increased own production and local sales. According to a Swedish professor, urban food environments, especially the marketplace, have great potential as an arena and agent for improved food safety.


In the discussion of reconstruction, space has been given to young, competent Ukrainian researchers. They all point to the fact that the public sector needs reforms. New transparent decision-making structures and property relationships must allow for broad ownership and participation from below. For the donor countries, a strategic question becomes how far one can go in strengthening the public sector without demands for reforms. Which comes first: basic reforms or administrative capabilities?

Several articles show how corruption affects planning and development. Developers have networks into the municipal administrations. But preparations for EU membership and Volodymyr Zelenskyi's success with 'de-oligarchisation' could open the way for governance reforms. Financethe tycoons' grip on power has weakened. And Zelensky holds the key to cooperation with Western interests in the preparations for EU membership. But will it be a neo-liberal elite collaboration?

With Ukraine's almost 15 million refugees and internally displaced people, an acute housing problem has arisen. Reforms are also necessary in the housing sector, with 95 percent private ownership. The appendix presents several 'new city' and housing models, particularly from Africa and Asia; fantasy cities such as NEOM/The Line in Saudi Arabia; remote sleeping towns like in Mexico with hundreds of thousands of large scale; prefabricated standard housing; as well as China's ecocities. But few of the models meet sustainability
the criteria.

Far more relevant than tech and eco-cities financed by global capital are the models presented housing development in European cities. We have heard the conclusion before: Social sustainability challenges must be given greater attention. Though sustainability and 'resilience'? The terms are outdated and must be given new content, claims a former head of research at FN Habitat. The goals are also in conflict with each other, as the article on the pandemic's consequences for urban development shows. Health or emission considerations? Sbrawl or density?

Humanitarian aid

The billions go to humanitarian aid aid in Ukraine. So does the caravan of uncoordinated, voluntary organisations. After 18 months of war, it can be stated that the UN and the multilateral system not only lack competence and capacity. The absence of coordination is more evident. Three actors are competing for the role of leading donor coordinator: the UN, the World Bank and the EU. Ukraine has so far not shown much ability as a receiver coordinator. An overall development plan is expected by Christmas.

The fact that Norway has almost unilaterally channeled money through multilateral organizations is a problem.

At Norway almost unilaterally channeling money through multilateral organizations is a problem. The system has long been in crisis: financial, organizational, administrative and ethical. Urban development architecture is particularly affected because subsidies from member countries such as Norway, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Canada and the USA have been cut in the last decade. The fact that the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) announced 50 new positions for Ukraine in May reflects the situation. The most crucial thing for this country will be to stop the brain drain and invest in its own resources.

The Ukraine Defense Contact Group – 31 NATO member states and 23 like-minded countries – coordinates , literary aid to Ukraine with the United States in the driver's seat. As in previous land conflicts, we see an imbalance between military and civilian effort. Social and political considerations are pushed aside and become an afterthought to the military. The question now is: What conditions will the military-industrial complexes on both sides set for development – at the same time as the time pressure increases. In 2024, presidents will be elected in both Russia (March) and the United States (November).


All the article authors in MODERN TIMES' supplement are part of Habitat Norway's global urban network. Some are winners of the association's master's scholarship (2022/23).
They show that student research is also an important source of new knowledge.

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