Stockholm, 15 December 2017 - Hosted by Sida, UN-Habitat organized back-to-back international expert group meetings on urban legislation from 6-8 December 2017. Participants of the meeting included experts in different fields and professions of Urban Law from around the world.

Law is underrated as an integral factor in sustainable development. How law influences development outcomes is poorly understood, and existing capacities for the design and reform of urban legislation are weak or non-existent in many countries. This meeting was important in assisting UN-Habitat, the UN’s expert agency on urbanisation, in strengthening its strategy for tackling the need and demand for adequate urban legislation in many parts of the world.

The first, two-day, meeting discussed the approaches and methods of addressing Urban Legislation in the ever-urbanizing world. The meeting had lively discussions on the challenges of Urban Law and how to put in place systems for improved access to land, to have enabling legislation, and to have effective governance to enhance equitable sustainable urban development. The experts provided recommendations in priority areas as well as for the adjustment of the Unit’s strategy, some of which may be implemented immediately and others that may be incorporated in the development of UN-Habitat’s next Strategic Plan (2020-2026). The meeting validated UN-Habitat’s convening power and urged to use this to provide a platform for raising awareness on Urban Law, through the continuation of forums such as the Urban Law Day. It also called for increasing partnerships to strengthen Urbanlex and awareness building and take advantage of existing Hotspots of competence.

The third day was a peer review of the Planning Law Assessment Framework (PLAF), a diagnostic tool developed by UN-Habitat to identify, in a structured, objective and systematic way, the strengths and weaknesses of planning legislation. Planning laws establish and regulate complex systems that not only govern spatial development but also directly influence land management and finance at local and national levels. Therefore, they have an impact on many areas of life and economic activity in a country. Ensuring that planning laws fulfil their functions as effectively as possible means that they are frequently under scrutiny as contexts and needs change. Well managed review or reform processes typically involve several steps from policy validation through to post-legislative scrutiny. Having some means to benchmark the legislative quality and identify the key characteristics, or lack thereof, of existing instruments is an important step. It is important to note that this type of assessment is principally one of reflection and not competition, so benchmarking is intended to explore whether a law has the ability to address priority issues and not to quantitatively rank it against other laws from different contexts. While most effective when used as part of a wider structured process, an assessment of an existing instrument may also be useful in and of itself, whether as a means for project delivery or as a contribution to deciding on whether to launch a reform process or not.

The PLAF was received with enthusiasm by the experts and recommendations will be taken into account to improve the tool further.

Download the Concept note here.

For More info, see attached concept note, with the list of participants and on urban laws: