Toward an improved quality of life
By the year 2050, cities are expecting to accommodate 6.4 billion people, equal to around two-thirds of the world’s population. Urbanization occurs because people move to cities seeking a better quality of life, where they can easily access a range of human services such as social facilities, health services, education, job opportunities, good housing conditions and transportation. So what does quality of living indicate? Can it be measured? And which cities are considered to have a good quality of life?
Quality of life (QOL) is the well-being of the people living in a certain place, featuring the negative and positive aspects of life. Robert Costanza, an ecological economist, once stated that “while quality of life has long been an explicit or implicit policy goal, adequate definition and measurement have been elusive. Diverse ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ indicators across a range of disciplines and scales and recent work on subjective well-being surveys and psychology of happiness have spurred renewed interest.”
Accordingly, years ago, Mercer, a leading human resources consulting firm, created a comprehensive annual survey that measures the quality of life in cities around the world. The survey that compares cities was first created to help multinational companies in their market analysis if they were planning an expansion and in order to compensate a mobile workforce fairly.
The survey says “quality of life” in a city can be measured with 39 factors distributed between politics, economics, environment, personal safety, health, education and other public services.
According to these indicators, Vienna, Zurich, Auckland, Munich, Vancouver, Duesseldorf and Frankfurt were ranked the highest cities this year in the 18th Mercer’s Quality of Living report. However, developing, unsafe and war-torn cities such as Baghdad, Bangui, Sanaa, Port au Prince, Khartoum, N’Djamena and Damascus took the highest slots in the worst living cities in the report.
How can we make quality of life for people living in cities ranked at the bottom of the list better? What approaches should be taken in order to help them live in more suitable circumstances?
The wide-ranging agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals is very crucial for improving the quality of life in cities – the higher the level of sustainable development in a city, the higher is its quality of life. Moreover, all the factors on the QOL index are interrelated with the SDGs, which shows the crucial role the SDGs can play to positively impact cities with low levels of quality of life.
However, the use of the SDGs will always stay on hold until governments and communities start using them in differently. Ministries should start using these goals to create a holistic developmental approach that helps them create a better life for their people.
When the governments of the “worst quality of life” cities see the importance of having an agenda where the SDGs, the sustainability of a city and the well-being of the people are all interconnected, we may reach developing cities with an improved quality of life.
Nahla El-Zibawi is project coordinator at the Outreach and Leadership Academy of the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.