A university student focused on cybersecurity, Mason Bird has also completed coursework in political science. Outside of academia, Mason Bird maintains a strong interest in ancient and contemporary events that have had a major impact on the ways in which we lead our everyday lives.
Experts predict that by 2050 75 percent of the world’s population will inhabit cities. One question vexing political scientists is how to enable these cities to adapt to their growing population. An outgrowth of this concern is the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), which recently brought 30,000 civic leaders and urban planners to Quito, Ecuador.
The conference focused on issues such as sources of inequalities, analyzing how cities around the world can address social and political pressures and find ways to integrate vulnerable groups into the planning process. In cities in Brazil, housing councils have proved a viable platform for ensuring that residents have access to affordable, equitable housing.
At the root of Habitat III is a process of learning from past failures, many of which stem from a politicized public-services landscape that benefits only a few vested interests. One example is in Mexico, where the autonomy of many citizen water boards was decimated to the point where they were controlled by groups with partisan interests that no longer benefited local residents. Another area of Habitat III focus is on the vibrant informal economy, which is largely unregulated and untaxed, and yet sustains vast numbers of workers who fall below the poverty line.