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How to ensure sustainable urban growth? The Astana Economic Forum takes a look

How to ensure sustainable urban growth? The Astana Economic Forum takes a look
By Katy DartfordCharlotte Kan
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Under the spotlight at this years Astana Economic Forum are the challenges of ensuring sustainable urban growth in Kazakhstan and across the rest of the planet.


Half of the planet already lives in cities and by 2050 the figure will reach 70 percent.

This edition of Target heads to Nur-Sultan, in Kazakhstan for the 12th edition of the Astana Economic Forum to take a closer look at how we can ensure the sustainable development of our urban areas.

The story of this futuristic city is a great illustration of the main theme of the forum this year: Inspiring growth, People, Cities, Economies.

"It’s one of the fast-growing capitals in the world. It’s also one of the youngest capitals in the world and this level of urbanisation now and the trends that influence the development of our city create many possibilities but also numerous challenges, " says Mayor of Nur-Sultan, Bakhyt Sultanov.

Located in the middle of the Central Asian Steppes, Nur-Sultan has only been Kazakhstan’s capital since 1997. 

Yet since 2002, its population has doubled in size to over 1 million people.

Ensuring urban growth is sustainable in Kazakhstan and across the rest of the planet is high on the agenda this year.

“When it’s time to implement smart cities’ policies... look at cities that have done it, that are learning how to do it. Look at Singapore, at Dubai and Barcelona. But then you have to come up with your own version,” says Xavier Sala-i-Martin, a Professor of economics at Columbia University.

Since its launch more than a decade ago by the First President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Astana Economic Forum has become an important platform to discuss trends in a highly strategic region. Over the years, more than 50,000 delegates from 150 countries have attended - including 20 Nobel Prize winners.

"There are lots of highly respected speakers who come and share recommendations that we can take on board to find the right direction for Kazakhstan" says Aigul Solovyeva, Chair of Kazakhstan's  Association of Environmental Organisations.

This year a roundtable on achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals was organised for the region’s finance ministers and heads of central banks.

Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund told the Forum that they must really focus on processes that would raise living standards for people, and "achieve ( ...) this higher, more sustainable and more inclusive growth in the region.”

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