Urban planning and design area supports Governments and cities with tested approaches, guidelines and tools to support urban growth and improved sustainability, efficiency and equity through planning and design at all levels and scales. Efforts are focused on ensuring that planning and designing contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Within the context of multilevel governance, a special focus is placed on promoting key principles, including optimizing the population and economic density of urban settlements, where appropriate, promoting mixed land use, diversity and better connectivity. Throughout this approach, issues of social inclusion, including ensuring gender balance and the inclusion of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, are addressed and, where possible, locally and regionally defined urban planning and design traditions will be respected.

Objective and Strategy

The overall objective of Urban planning and design area is to improve policies, plans and designs for more compact, socially inclusive, better integrated and connected cities that foster sustainable urban development and are resilient to climate change, at the city, regional and national levels.

Urban planning and design area strategy for achieving the planned results is informed by evidence-based best practice and lessons learned from experience. The strategy for implementing the programme of work is as follows:

  • Promoting, within the context of decentralization and multilevel governance and through multi-stakeholder processes, a number of critical principles, such as optimizing the population and economic density of urban settlements, where appropriate, ensuring mixed land-use, diversity, better social capital, innovation and improved connectivity in order to take advantage of agglomeration of economies and to minimize mobility demand. In particular, this approach emphasizes the need to plan in advance for urban population growth, on a scale commensurate with the challenges faced, in a phased approach and with a view to fostering job creation and the development of social capital. The approach also builds on local cultural values and promotes endogenous development within the context of regional, national and global development;
  • Improving urban planning and design at the national, regional and local levels is operationalized within the framework of decentralization, as broadly provided for by the International Guidelines on Decentralization and the Strengthening of Local Authorities and other key UN-Habitat documents;
  • Developing at the regional and global levels a set of tested approaches, guidelines and tools to support the management of growth and improved sustainability, efficiency and equity of cities through planning and design on various scales, including slum and neighbourhood, city, regional, national and supranational scales;
  • Making such approaches, guidelines and tools available to city, subnational and national Governments;
  • Building capacity at local, national and global levels, supported by dedicated strategies and programmes, including human resources, tool development, organizational development and institutional strengthening components;
  • Ensuring that urban plans and designs are accompanied by effective implementation mechanisms, in consultation with all relevant sectors and actors;
  • Performing a catalytic role by reinforcing existing partnerships, and establishing new strategic partnerships with agencies of the United Nations system and with non-governmental organizations, educational establishments, scientific institutions and professional bodies that have the collective financial resources, infrastructure and expertise to work;
  • Working within the United Nations country team framework to mainstream urban planning and design within the overall approach to urban sector support.