What sustainable development for the cities of the South? Urban issues for a third millennium

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – proclaimed in the year 2000 and aimed at guiding the
planet’s management and its priorities for the next 15 years – were widely based on the concept of ‘sustainable
development’. This concept will be once again broadly discussed in 2012 on the occasion of the
United Nations Rio+20 Summit. It will be an opportunity to decipher to what extent the city, as much
from a spatial as from a societal point of view, is a stakeholder in such debate. After analysing the various
interpretations of the concept of ‘sustainable development’, this article questions its implementation within
the framework of the MDGs and the role assigned to urban actions. Due to its complexity and in spite of its
economic and demographic prevalence, urbanism has been bypassed by a number of international global
initiatives launched to date. A series of options have been proposed to finally give the city the high profile it
deserves in any sustainable development analysis, aiming as much at the urbanistic and material production
as at the social and economic balance of its inhabitants.
Keywords: cities; urbanism; urban environment; Millennium Development Goals; sustainable