A busy street in Mathare slum, Nairobi @UNHabitat/Julius_Mwelu
A busy street in Mathare slum, Nairobi

4 March  2022 - The United Nations Statistical Commission has endorsed the implementation of the global urban monitoring framework (UMF) as part of the harmonised United Nations system-wide strategy for monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda (NUA).

The framework, which the 53rd session of the UN Statistical Commission adopted on March 1st, harmonises existing urban indexes and tools and offers a universal framework for measuring the performance of the SDGs and the NUA.

The development of the UMF followed a request from the Statistical Commission to UN-Habitat in 2019 to constitute an expert group to revise and develop new guidelines and principles for a harmonised framework for global urban monitoring.

With this goal in mind, UN-Habitat reviewed the City Prosperity Index, which was designed to support tracking of the NUA and the SDGs. In parallel, a global analysis of urban monitoring tools and indices deployed by other international organisations, local governments, and academia discovered many duplications.  

The UMF will serve as a monitoring tool for UN-Habitat programmes and those implemented by other partner organisations to help track their performance at the city, national, regional or global levels and link many of these programmes to the SDGs and the NUA. It will also act as a potential tool for guiding Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) and the preparation of urban data for the common country assessments with the UN country teams.

UN-Habitat worked with over 15 UN agencies and 18 partners to develop the UMF, in the process organising two expert group meetings, whose participation included national partners, academia, local government officials, civil society actors, private sector actors and various UN agencies, to discuss the modalities of developing the tool.

One such partner was the Madrid City Council, who worked closely with UN-Habitat to lead a systematic and extensive process within the United Nations System for the development of the UMF and is currently using the UMF as a basis for the development of its VLR process of the 2030 Agenda.

The UMF indicators’ framework is designed on a matrix with five domains and four city objectives. The domains are society, economy, culture, environment and governance and implementation, while the objectives are safe and peaceful, resilience, inclusive and sustainable.

Speaking during an event organised on the sidelines of the 53rd UN Statistical Commission meeting, Robert Ndugwa, chief of UN-Habitat’s Data and Analytics Unit, noted that this was a baseline structure that cities or local governments can build on.

“We have mapped 72 indicators that we recommend to start off with but any city or local government can build onto any other components,” he said.

UN-Habitat has been, and will continue to be, instrumental in guiding urban regions and partners through the UMF implementation processes, including adaption and localisation of UMF indicators’ framework, data sourcing, indicators’ standardization, weighing, and reporting.  

Through this structure, cities and regions are able to track and report on their performance, assess themselves against similar cities or regions, identify their weak domains and objectives as well as gaps that can be addressed through policy actions, and forge their way towards better performance.