Vital Cities and Citizens

Contribute to the quality of city life

Over half of the world’s population lives in cities. This will have risen to 66 percent by 2050. Cities in Asia and the sub-Sahara in particular are faced with mass migration from rural areas. As a result, the poor population in these cities is growing at a rapid rate. Globalisation, technological change, international migration and growing inequality are increasing the complexity of the social structure and cultural makeup of cities worldwide.

With the Erasmus Initiative ‘Vital Cities and Citizens’, Erasmus University wants to help improve the quality of life in cities. In vital cities, the population can achieve their life goals through education, useful work and participation in public life. The vital city is a platform for creativity and diversity, a safe meeting place for different social groups.

By exploring how social changes affect city life, researchers can help cities to flourish. In this Erasmus Initiative, researchers from different disciplines work closely together to identify the conditions for equal opportunities in life, safe living environments and harmonious co-existence for an increasingly diverse population. “The unique combination of insights from the humanities and social and behavioural sciences enables this research project to map out new trends – at individual, institutional and macro levels,” explains Professor Henk van der Molen, the dean responsible for the initiative.

The research has three sub-themes:

Migration and diversity
More people are migrating over longer distances, with cities often forming key nodes within the various global migration networks. The population of migration cities is often very diverse – in some cases, more than half of the urban population has an international migration background. The boundaries between permanent and temporary migration are blurring: some migrants return home; others continue their journey; still others stay.

This mass migration often leads to inequality between newcomers and those who have already lived in the city for some time. This increasing diversity engenders feelings of loss and insecurity. How do social organisations and institutions respond to this?

Safety and resilience
Although urbanisation creates numerous opportunities for education, employment and new services, many city-dwellers have to deal with poverty, crime and social exclusion. This particularly applies to minorities. For effective measures, it is important to identify the conditions for a safe and comfortable life in an urban environment.

Culture and Creativity
Cities serve as breeding grounds for new creativity. A rich cultural scene improves quality of life and helps create a city in which a diverse population can feel at home. At the same time, culture is subject to constant change and is also strongly influenced by this diverse population. The question, then, is how to stimulate the creativity of individuals and organisations? And: what is the role of the media and the creative industry in this process?