Today, an estimated 55 per cent of the world’s population lives in cities. The number of urban residents worldwide is expected to grow by 2.5 billion to reach almost 7 billion by 2050.[1] Cities shape the way people move and interact, serving as facilitators for economic growth, social cohesion and environmental progress.

The dynamic structure of a city can promote or hinder the wellbeing of its inhabitants, and the urban population is a decisive determinant of a city’s health. The healthiest cities are those where the urban setting and resident community assume symbiotic roles to achieve an inclusive and sustainable environment. Active participation, intersectoral cooperation and societal equality all contribute to an integrated social space, which is the ultimate incubator for sustainable development.[2]

Home to some of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, the Arab region has a rich urban history dating back thousands of years. It is particularly urbanized when compared with the rest of the world: by 2020, an estimated 74 per cent of the population in Arab countries will live in cities; while in Qatar and Kuwait the proportion is expected to be as high as 99 per cent and 100 per cent, respectively.[3]

[1] Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), 2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects, 2018. Available from

[2]   World Health Organization, Types of healthy settings, 2010. Available from

[3]   DESA, Percentage of population at mid-year residing in urban areas by region, subregion and country, 1950-2050. Available from