Urban Legislation, Land and Governance provides policy and operational support to Governments and cities on urban legislation, land and governance issues. It supports the development of urban legislation and governance models that are gender-responsive and address land problems equitably, including by promoting international guidelines on decentralization, the strengthening of local authorities, and advocating access to basic services for all, along with social inclusion and participation.

Objective and Strategy

The overall objective of Urban Legislation, Land and Governance area is to increase access to urban land, the adoption of enabling urban legislation and the establishment of decentralized governance that foster equitable sustainable urban development, including urban safety. Urban Legislation, Land and Governance supports projects that bring about upstream systemic changes, as well as those which deliver results such as an increased supply of serviced land for the expansion of cities. The strategies and interventions include creating and nurturing an urban network that engage in knowledge creation, dissemination, advocacy and maximizing the impact of interventions, such as:

  • Drawing on the in-house experience of bringing together key stakeholders under a shared agenda, values, and a common goal. Following the same principles, a global network on safer cities contributes to city-to-city dialogue and exchange visions on urban safety public policies;
  • Piloting tools in the field through demonstration projects, some of which are set out in manuals and guidelines;
  • Developing the capacity of local and national authorities and other Habitat Agenda partners, including carrying out the comprehensive capacity assessment of tools for each area of work. Tools such as business process mapping are used to look critically at institutions and identify ineffectual practices, promote learning and provide technical advisory support that can align organizational capacities with proposed interventions or reforms;
  • Developing new knowledge and documenting existing good practice. From a legal standpoint, identifying tools such as legislation for land readjustment and planning, developed and adapted as appropriate. The planned results are realized through the application of tools and services and by deploying in-house capacity and pooling the expertise of partners;
  • Working across government departments in urban planning, land, and local government finance in specific geographic areas to facilitate synergy and organizational coherence. In addition, sharing of expertise, tools and instruments for planning, implementation and evaluation to achieve better coordination between, and within, activities that are led from headquarters and the field;
  • Drawing on experience from the Global Land Tool Network, a number of initiatives – the core of which is a web-based legal facility – are used to draw in partners, supply a database of legislation, provide a roster of urban legal consultants, and build and disseminate knowledge. These target national governments, cities and Habitat Agenda partners. In order to multiply the results of intervention, this facility also opens up advocacy and communication modules for governance activities;
  • Taking note of current contextual regional and local characteristics, developments and challenges. The work on governance, social cohesion and urban safety addresses those specificities, and designs and implements region-specific strategies and programmes;
  • Implementing country and city-level activities is important. Certain governance issues need national entry points, while others are addressed through city-level engagement;
  • Identifying and focusing on quick wins, high-impact and low-cost interventions is also important. Urban legal interventions are designed to have city-wide, subnational and national interfaces, depending on the level or levels at which the legislation is enacted in a given country (local, state or national levels).