The Global Network of Urban Planning and Design Labs is an initiative of UN-Habitat to support local governments in achieving sustainable urban development, by bringing together local and international planners to work on concrete projects.

Welcomed in 2015 by resolution 25/L.6 of the Governing Council of UN-Habitat, the Network’s sets up temporarily and permanent Labs as part of or in close collaboration with the government. The network develops capacity of local and international planners with a ‘Learning by Doing’-approach and creates as such a global portfolio of practice that is being exchanged in the Network.

The Network disseminates UN-Habitat’s sustainable planning principles, advocates planning as a cyclical and participatory process that engages early on with civic society, the private sector and decision makers. The Labs of the Global Network are integrative facilities with a project approach that utilizes design throughout the whole planning process.

The Global Network is focused on implementation applying a ‘three-pronged’ methodology that integrates planning, finance and the legal framework.

Network Objectives

  • To set up temporary and permanent Urban Planning and Design Labs
  • To apply and implement UN-Habitat’s sustainable urban planning principles in concrete projects
  • To facilitate and develop applied knowledge exchange between planners worldwide with a ‘Learning-by-Doing’ approach
  • To develop a portfolio of practice and deduct successful tools and models for implementation
  • To mobilize resources for planning and implementation of concrete projects

This network contributes to making the world’s cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, an ambition formulated by target 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Design Process

The design process is a key component in the work of the LAB. In many contexts, design arrives at the end of the planning process, after all the problems have exhaustively been described. The LAB promotes integrating design throughout the whole planning process since design explorations can actually also contribute to problem definition and the formulation of goals. Doing so replaces the sequential planning process with an iterative planning process in which plans are developed, tested and improved. This provides space for all sorts of stakeholders to contribute and participate in a process focused on implementation. Furthermore, the LAB’s emphasis on clear and understandable plans ease political buy-in and can accelerate governments’ decision-making processes where plans often end up in gridlock.


So far, the LAB successfully supported urban planning in various cities around the globe. The LAB is currently assisting the development of the Johannesburg’s Spatial Development Framework 2040, due for finalization in 2015. The LAB has also prepared concept plans for Planned City Extensions for Silay, Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro in the Philippines, Santa Marta (Colombia), Kisumu (Kenya), Ningo-Prampram (Ghana), urban renewal in La Candelaria in Medellin (Colombia) and the LAB developed Urban Planning Guidelines for the Union of Myanmar already applied in the city of Kalay and Pyay. The LAB often collaborates with other planning agencies. With the Guangzhou Planning Institute for example, it developed the new District Plan for Wuzhou in China and Planned City Extensions in Nyagatare and Rubavu (Rwanda). Generally, the LAB uses four strategies to address urban growth:

  1. City-Wide Strategies
  2. Planned City Infills
  3. Planned City Extensions
  4. Urban Renewal
  5. Trainings and Guidelines

Related Sustainable Development Goals

Related Sustainable Development Goals

SDG 3 logo
SDG 5 logo
SDG 10 logo
SDG 11 logo
SDG 13 logo
SDG 17 logo

Donors and partners

The LAB develops tailored partnerships for the definition and implementation of multi-scalar projects and programmes. Through participatory approaches, the LAB facilitates integration across institutional departments, different levels of government and civil society. The LAB connects governments with a diverse range of partners relevant to the different phases of the project cycle to develop tangible, realistic and impactful projects and programmes. By linking multilateral banks and financiers to transformative and feasible projects, financing mechanisms are identified that support implementation. The active building of partnerships between different experts, professionals, knowledge and academic partners, allows the LAB to provide suitable, evidence-based technical assistance and support to governments.

Our Experts

Naomi Hoogervorst
Programme Management Officer, Planning, Finance and Economy Section
Urban Practices Branch, Global Solutions Division