The extraordinary rate of urbanization and democratization of countries around the world is causing permanent changes in how people live that are elevating the importance of sustainable urban development, according to Paul Wolfowitz, scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and chairman of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council. In a keynote address at the ULI Spring Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, he told attendees, “The work you do is critical for the health and prosperity of the 7 billion people who inhabit this planet.”

Wolfowitz pointed to three major changes that are shifting the relationship between the world’s developing countries and the advanced ones:

  • The incorporation of more countries such as India, Brazil, Turkey, South Korea, Vietnam, Mexico, and South Africa into the world’s financial system. “More countries have the economic strength to be significant powers on a regional or global scale.”
  • Progress made since the Cuban Missile Crisis in reducing the likelihood of nuclear war. “The chances of us destroying each other are very small.”
  • The expansion of freedom and democracy to half the countries around the world (with more to come in the years ahead). “This huge advancement of freedom has been good for the United States because it’s turned our enemies into friends, and it has made our friends stronger and more self-reliant.”

The best outcome resulting from this unprecedented combination of economic, societal, cultural, and political shifts, Wolfowitz said, is that “the world will become a more complicated place.”