Over the past quarter-century, the collective wisdom on how to deal with imbalances between urban and rural areas has undergone a major evolution. This has been particularly stark in India, home to one of the largest rural populations in the world.
The recent Habitat III summit on sustainable urbanization also paid significant attention to these so-called urban-rural linkages. And indeed, the Habitat conferences — which happen only every 20 years — offer a useful measuring stick by which to gauge strategy on this complex issue. The phrase "human settlement" formally entered the United Nations lexicon during the Habitat I conference held in Vancouver in 1976, coined to acknowledge that all settlements, whether urban or rural, fell under the purview of the U.?N.'s new Human Settlements Programme, now known as UN-Habitat.