In Focus: Urbanism in Dubai

Dubai’s emergence didn’t happen overnight and is not a result of hydrocarbon reserves or geographic location.


In most cases, western countries have the resources, the desire, and the ability to implement sweeping changes to push forward human-centric designs. What these cities don’t have in nearly the same quantity as emerging market cities is enthusiasm. From Dakar to Sao Paulo and Bogota, the emerging world (defined for our purposes as the 85 percent of the world’s population that lives outside of North America and Europe) is home to the fastest growing and youngest cities on the planet. 

In these dynamic urban environments innovation is taking place on a grassroots level. Not because it is trendy or exciting but rather out of necessity. These cities are also home to growing middle classes that are eager to travel and engage the way their western counterparts have for decades. Just as the West had 
its locus of points– cities that embraced the mantle of being global role models such as Paris, London, 
and New York– so too does the emerging world. Lagos, Singapore, and Dubai form the new locus for this age. And it is Dubai that is watching closely the debates and innovations taking place around human-centric urbanism and putting them into action. 

The dusty pearling outpost that rose into one of the world’s most dynamic urban centres that is home to more than 200 nationalities’ is a narrative about Dubai that is well-known around the world. 

Indeed, the city has transformed itself in a remarkably short amount of time to become one of the primary focal points of the emerging world. Given the reach of Dubai’s aviation prowess, millions of people from the far corners of the globe use it as a major transit hub. Add to that its financial weight, and businesses throughout the emerging world are gravitating to Dubai. If you are an East African entrepreneur, Dubai is the most logical place to do business and access the rest of the world. The same can be said about Central and South Asia and the Middle East. 

Dubai’s emergence didn’t happen overnight and is not a result of hydrocarbon reserves or geographic location. It is the result of clear, long-term planning and investment into the infrastructure of what makes economies and cities function well. When it comes to the urban environment, Dubai has demonstrated a willingness to embrace trends designed to put the human first. That is why the city is focused on being socially inclusive and engaging while embracing the shared identities of residents to create a sense of place. This will help Dubai remain economically vibrant and further expand its liveable, walkable and transit-friendly neighbourhoods. By learning from other cities across the world, Dubai can create its own affordable, accessible and equitable communities that promote healthy living and well-being. 

From happiness campaigns spearheaded by the Dubai government to the creation of public transport infrastructure and open areas to the city’s myriad efforts for the elderly, disabled and children, Dubai has been on the forefront of the human-centric trend. Perhaps more important however are the decisions about the efficiency of city government that are not in the public eye in the same way as infrastructure projects. Effectively managing and collectively governing the human-centric city of the future that Dubai is building today require the efficient and responsible use of vital resources with the ability to continuously learn and innovate as needed.