Urban areas especially cities are now home to slightly more than half of the world’s seven billion people. Current urbanization trends indicate that an additional three billion people will be living in urban areas by 2050, increasing the urban share of the world’s population to two-thirds’. However, the current era of rapid urbanization has been marred with inadequacy of capacity and sometimes resources to match urban development needs. In many regions, urbanization is characterized by lack of adequate infrastructure, poor housing, inadequate plans, lack of effective legislations and financing mechanisms, etc., attributes that hinder shared urban prosperity. As such, the Global Urban Observatory (GUO) was established to fill the gaps in global monitoring of the urbanization process and all its dimensions.

The Global Urban Observatory (GUO) unit is a specialized statistical unit in charge of global monitoring of the Habitat agenda and other agenda with an urban linkage. This includes building capacities of national governments, establishing local, regional and global mechanisms for urban monitoring, and supporting data collection for urban indicators (covering economic, environment, social, health, transport and urban data that are presented using UrbanInfo Software), data analysis and regular dissemination of urban data. GUO further compiles, analyzes, publishes urban indicator data, and maintains the Global Urban Indicator database. GUO provides guidance (reference materials, UrbanInfo software and other technical support) to cities setting urban observatories. GUO is already responding with efficiency to the challenges that the monitoring and reporting of the New Urban Agenda and SDGs requires.

GUO carries out normative work such as developing the City Prosperity Initiative (CPI) and computing the CPI for selected cities. Coordinating and guiding the refinement of metadata of Sustainable Development Goal 11 Indicators, as well as conducting capacity development of national statistical offices and cities to compute them is also carried out by GUO.

Monitoring the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals

The Global Urban Observatory (GUO) carries out activities pertaining to the monitoring of the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals relating to human settlements, including achieving a significant improvement in the lives of those living in informal settlements (slum dwellers), and halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Using the city as a unit of analysis, the programme regularly updates the urban indicators at city and country levels.

GUO coordinates the use of urban indicators as specified in the New Urban Agenda guidelines in the agency’s main flagship reports including the State of the World Cities Report, the Global Report of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation in Cites report, regional, youth, gender and other report. GUO also produces the Global Urban Indicators Database and contributes to the United Nations Secretary General reports on the Sustainable Development Goals. It also ensures that reliable and up-to-date urban information is available for reports, messages and speeches of the Executive Director and other representatives of the Agency.

The Development Impact Assessment function  

The Development Impact Assessment function (DIA) monitors urban inequities. It was initiated in 2003 through intra-city analysis and Urban Inequities Surveys to measure urban specific issues such as security of tenure, social capital, transportation, crime and violence, accidents, employment, climate change, municipal finances, housing rights, gender, etc. The DIA assists the agency to assess the level of its intervention and those of other actors that impact the lives of people, in terms of housing, social, economic and health conditions among others.

Global Urban Observatory Network

Global Urban Observatory Network (GUO-Net) is a worldwide information and capacity-building network established by the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-HABITAT) to help implement the New Urban Agenda at the national and local levels. The GUO-NET consists of national and city-level institutions that function as National and Local Urban Observatories.

The purpose of GUO-Net is to support governments, local authorities and civil society:

• To improve the collection, management, analysis and use of information in formulating more effective urban policies;
• To improve information flows between all levels for better urban decision-making;
• To stimulate broad-based consultative processes to help identify and integrate urban information needs;
• To provide information and analyses to all stakeholders for more effective participation in urban decision-making;
• To share information, knowledge and expertise using modern information and communication technology (ICT);
• To create a global network of local, national and regional platforms for sharing information about the implementation of the New Urban Agenda;
Some tools and benefits provided by the GUO network;
• Training on using the urban indicator toolkit for data collection and analysis; 
• Training on how to use the results of the urban indicators data for fund raising activities;
• Conferences of the network members for information exchange and city-to-city networking;
• Access to internet resources available at UN-Habitat’s website including urban indicators databases and Urban Info system;
• Data used for evaluations done for the World Cities Report published biannually by UN-Habitat.

UN-HABITAT achieves these objectives through a global network of local, national and regional urban observatories and through partner institutions that provide training and other capacity building expertise.

Below are websites of urban observatories in GUO-Net from the regions:

  1. Africa
  2. Asia
  3. LAC
  4. Others

New urban observatories can be included and existing urban observatories can update their information by completing the following questionnaire and return to unhabitat-guo@un.org :

Tools and Guides

For English Version, download here

Version française, télécharger ici

GUO Webpage