Rapid urbanization over the past two decades has generated extensive needs for infrastructures, facilities and land to accommodate the expansion of economic activities, services and settlement areas. Several objectives must be met against a background of a strong pressure of demand and limited resources. For planning professionals and urban authorities the challenges are many: to improve the basic information needed for ordinary land management transactions; to overcome the problems posed by the coexistence of differing land regimes and legal systems; to respond to the development of the so-called "irregular" neighbourhoods; to set up a system of government guaranteeing participatory and transparent management of land planning operations; to promote forms of access to and procedures of urban management that reconcile the interests of various social groups.
Under the banners of "regional cooperation" and "re- gional development," local governments are banding together to "plan" the future of their metropolitan areas. Fragmen- tation and decentralization, regionalists argue, are compro- mising the ability of cities to compete successfully in an increasingly competitive global environment. Only by pull- ing together through cooperative arrangements and, in some cases, consolidating local governments can metropolitan areas solve pressing urban problems such as poverty, afford- able housing, education, and job creation.