UN-Habitat envisions well-planned, well-governed, and efficient cities and other human settlements, with adequate housing, infrastructure, and universal access to employment and basic services such as water, energy, and sanitation. To achieve these goals, derived from the Habitat Agenda of 1996, UN-Habitat has set itself a medium-term strategy approach for each successive six-year period. The current strategic plan spans from 2014 to 2019. While every new strategic plan is in continuity with the previous one, this approach allows for a better response to emerging urban trends such as new demographic, environmental, economic, spatial, and social developments. It permits necessary readjustments to address change and evolutions and creates opportunities to incorporate lessons learned.
UN-Habitat's strategic plan 2014-2019 and its seven focus areas
Current trends of rapid urbanization – with over half of the world’s population now living in cities, and 90% of urban growth taking place in developing countries – coupled with recent global economic turmoil, growing poverty, and rising consequences of climate change have created the need for such strategic readjustments. After a recent and successful reorganization of its internal structure to improve efficiency and to optimize the use of its resources, UN-Habitat is presently addressing its mandate through the 2014-2019 Strategic Plan. The plan outlines seven focus areas:
- Urban legislation, land, and governance,
- Urban planning and design,
- Urban economy,
- Urban basic services,
- Housing and slum upgrading,
- Risk reduction and rehabilitation, and
- Research and capacity development.
The current plan sets its priorities on the first four focus areas, which have been neglected in the past in favour of other areas that were then deemed of higher priority. At the present, it has become evident that the establishment of adequate urban policies and legal frameworks is principal to achieving the overall development goals. Without enabling structures and strong guidelines, proper urban planning and design will always be hindered, as we can see in cases of poor regulations and unresolved land issues. And without good planning and design, any housing and slum upgrading programmes will be harder, if not impossible, to implement. Because of the magnitude of work needed to effectively address the current urbanization challenges, UN-Habitat will also strengthen its partnerships at all levels: with governments, local authorities, NGOs, the private sector, and civil society. The 2014-2019 Strategic Plan places great emphasis on UN-Habitat’s catalytic and federalizing role, which positions it as a leading and acknowledged authority on urbanization matters.
UN-Habitat's regional presence
UN-Habitat’s four regional offices for Africa, Arab States, Latin America, and Asia also play a prominent role in the current strategic exercise. Through increased delegation of authority from headquarters, these offices will be in the best position to implement the strategic plan at a regional level, as they are able to fine-tune and interpret the plan in light of local particularities. Likewise, it will be easier for these offices to disseminate urban knowledge within their areas, to implement local programmes, and to strengthen regional partnerships in the most efficient way. To ensure effective progress monitoring and the achievement of results, the current strategic plan will be implemented in three successive phases of two years each, organized in biennial work programmes and budgets that will each need to be approved by UN-Habitat's Governing Council and the UN General Assembly.