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Moving towards urban sustainability in Kenya: a framework for integration of environmental, economic, social and governance dimensions

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Global urban development is increasingly becoming an aspect of focus as nations fight sustainability challenges. A review of the current literature on urban sustainability suggests that research on development of cities, in both developed and developing countries, is growing fast, with an emphasis on sustainable development. However, very little of this research contains an integrated framework to systematically identify and examine the various dimensions of urban sustainability and to measure and evaluate them appropriately. Cities are more than the sum of their sectors, and are complex and interdependent systems on whose dynamics the quality of life of millions of human beings and a good part of the economy depend. Environmental, economic, social and governance problems can create formidable barriers to urban sustainability. Governance remains a critically important dimension of urban sustainability, especially when discussing urbanization in developing countries, given rapid population movements and imbalances in socio-economic development. Understanding how cities function is fundamental to resolving these imbalances. The aim of this paper is to provide a review and analysis of the concept of urban sustainability and to propose the development of a holistic framework through integration of environmental, economic, social, and governance dimensions of sustainability. Such a review would make it possible to understand the complex dynamics of the four dimensions and to assess the progress and challenges in moving towards urban sustainability, taking the case of Nairobi, Kenya, as an example. The paper argues that, for urban sustainability in developing countries, more emphasis should be placed on the governance dimension, because this is where the biggest challenge exists, with increasing needs for immediate management of rapid urbanization.

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Correspondence to Emmanuel Mutisya.

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Handled by Masafumi Nagao, UNU-Institute for Sustainability and Peace (ISP), International Christian University (ICU), Japan.

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Mutisya, E., Yarime, M. Moving towards urban sustainability in Kenya: a framework for integration of environmental, economic, social and governance dimensions. Sustain Sci 9, 205–215 (2014).

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