“multiculturalism as an urban phenomenon should be celebrated, not feared, as it enhances the fabric of societies and brings color and vibrancy to every city it touches…there are approximately 175 million documented international migrants worldwide. The flow of humanity into the cities is fuelling a new multiculturalism that has the potential to broaden their cultural and ethnic dimensions. However, some cities have been unable to cope with multiculturalism, which has generated increasing xenophobia and ethnic tensions”. (Osanjo & Warah, 2004, p.56)
At first, the increasing resemblance between cities across the world might give an impression that the developing world is catching up with the developed world in terms of economic prosperity. This is certainly true to the extent that we learn from GDP and other economic indicators. But intellectuals have pointed out that the multinational corporations that operate in developing nations have acted irresponsibly toward the local and broader communities in which they operate. While they can accurately evaluate the values of tangible assets, more often than not the measure of intangible consequences of the company’s operations are not accounted. So, now the citizenry of the area surrounding the company’s processing or manufacturing facility gets affected. The affectation could be of varying degrees and can manifest slowly over a long period of time (Foreign Policy, 2008, 70). These are all costs alright, but not for the concerned transnational corporations. These ‘externalities’ are not accounted for by them. For example, emerging economies such as India and China, alongside middle or low-income economies with growth potential have attracted several foreign institutional investors. These economies “typically have less sophisticated market supporting institutions and fewer location advantages based on created assets, such as infrastructure and human capital” (Foreign Policy, 2008, 71). This situation leads to over population, high levels of poverty, rise of urban shanty towns and also creates friction between social groups. This sad situation is belied by urban symbols such as the skyscrapers and high-tech industry.
Taking note of the unsavory consequences of economic globalization, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had pointed out that “policy makers need to plan for ‘cities of difference’, which are open to all and exclude none, and are able to capitalize on the benefits of a multicultural existence. This requires the engagement of all non-governmental and community stakeholders on the basis of legislation that guarantees the rights of citizens to the city and judicial systems that enforce those rights” (Annan, as quoted in Osanjo & Warah, 2004, p.56 This observation comes in the light of a UN report that showed how poverty levels are on an ascendency in many cities and how this is partially due to the uneven costs and benefits of economic globalization. Furthermore, Annan pointed out that “urban poverty has been increasingly concentrated in particular neighborhoods that have generally become the habitats of the urban poor and minority groups: racial minorities in some societies, international immigrant groups in others.” (Annan, as quoted in Osanjo & Warah, 2004, p.56)
This assessment is further validated by the findings reported in United Nations Human Development Index (HDI). Beyond economic indicators of prosperity, the HDI takes into account a broader set of parameters that measure human well being and social harmony in a country. These parameters include child mortality rates, women’s freedom within society, quality of air, access to drinking water, adequate health care facilities etc. Since economic globalization has accelerated in the last four decades, it is instructive to study HDI measures over this time period. What emerges from these studies is that the human development scores for the local population in most cities has declined or stagnated in the period. This suggests that while cities have grown to resemble one another, they also mirror the poverty and inequality evident in them. (Sands, 2001, p.1)