UN-Habitat is the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future. Its mission is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development and the achievement of adequate shelter for all.
Cities are facing unprecedented demographic, environmental, economic, social and spatial challenges. There has been a phenomenal shift towards urbanization, with 6 out of every 10 people in the world expected to reside in urban areas by 2030. Over 90 per cent of this growth will take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. In the absence of effective urban planning, the consequences of this rapid urbanization will be dramatic.
In many places around the world, the effects can already be felt: lack of proper housing and growth of slums, inadequate and out-dated infrastructure – be it roads, public transport, water, sanitation, or electricity – escalating poverty and unemployment, safety and crime problems, pollution and health issues, as well as poorly managed natural or man-made disasters and other catastrophes due to the effects of climate change. Mindsets, policies, and approaches towards urbanization need to change in order for the growth of cities and urban areas to be turned into opportunities that will leave nobody behind. UN-Habitat, the United Nations programme for human settlements, is at the helm of that change, assuming a natural leadership and catalytic role in urban matters.
In October 2016, at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development - Habitat III - member states signed the New Urban Agenda. This is an action-oriented document which sets global standards of achievement in sustainable urban development, rethinking the way we build, manage, and live in cities. Through drawing together cooperation with committed partners, relevant stakeholders, and urban actors, including at all levels of government as well as the private sector, UN-Habitat is applying its technical expertise, normative work and capacity development to implement the New Urban Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal 11 - to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
Mandated by the UN General Assembly in 1978 to address the issues of urban growth, it is a knowledgeable institution on urban development processes, and understands the aspirations of cities and their residents. For forty years, UN-Habitat has been working in human settlements throughout the world, focusing on building a brighter future for villages, towns, and cities of all sizes. Because of these four decades of extensive experience, from the highest levels of policy to a range of specific technical issues, UN-Habitat has gained a unique and a universally acknowledged expertise in all things urban.
This has placed UN-Habitat in the best position to provide answers and achievable solutions to the current challenges faced by our cities. UN-Habitat is capitalizing on its experience and position to work with partners in order to formulate the urban vision of tomorrow. It works to ensure that cities become inclusive and affordable drivers of economic growth and social development.
Developing a holistic and global approach towards urbanization
Cities need to be green and manageable in a sustainable way, as well as future-proof and in tune with the environment. Furthermore, cities must ultimately become blooming places for the self-fulfillment of all residents. UN-Habitat has therefore developed a holistic and global approach towards urbanization that embraces much more than just technical considerations. Beyond its traditional core areas -- such as city planning, infrastructure development, and participatory slum upgrading -- UN-Habitat, today, also focuses on urban legislation and risk management, as well as gender, youth and capacity building for all actors involved in the urbanization process.
UN-Habitat undertakes cutting edge research on urban trends, with the resulting flagship reports being authoritative and highly regarded within the urban development community. Through its global advocacy platforms such as the World Urban Campaign (WUC), and events, such as the World Urban Forum (WUF), UN-Habitat also establishes think tanks and networks that enable governments, experts, civil society groups, multilateral organizations, private sector, and all other development partners to jointly address present and future urban predicaments.
UN-Habitat is currently active in over 70 countries around the world. It has a wide range of diverse projects, such as post-disaster reconstruction programmes in Haiti, addressing slum growth and housing problems in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and supporting the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to develop land policy guidelines. With 400 core staff and up to 2,000 project personnel at any given time, UN-Habitat manages all this work through its headquarters (the UN-Habitat Secretariat) in Nairobi, Kenya, as well as through four regional offices, one for Latin America and the Caribbean in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, one for Asia and the Pacific in Fukuoka, Japan, one for the Arab States in Cairo, Egypt, and one for Africa also based in Nairobi, Kenya. UN-Habitat also has several liaison and information offices around the world (New York, Geneva, Brussels, Beijing) whose task is to create and maintain links with key governments and other multilateral organizations or development agencies.
UN-Habitat’s work depends on close partnerships with national and local governments, helping authorities and institutions to identify and address their specific needs. Despite UN-Habitat's tremendous efforts to prevent uncoordinated human settlement growth and urbanization issues from becoming the world's next major crisis after climate change, this challenge still requires involvement from all sectors of society. Governments, policy makers, experts, media actors, and members of the public are all vital to addressing the massive urban challenges that we face today, and we encourage everyone to get involved in transforming our shared urban future.
Most of UN-Habitat's funding comes from voluntary contributions from governmental and intergovernmental donors, while the UN General Assembly provides part of the regular budget. Other UN bodies, local authorities, the private sector, and multilateral organizations provide funds for specific projects (termed “earmarked” or “non-core activities”). These are UN-Habitat’s sources of funding:
- Regular budget allocations, which are approved by the UN General Assembly, entering the core funding
- General purpose contributions, which are non-earmarked voluntary contributions from governments to support core funding and the implementation of the approved work programme
- Special contributions, which are earmarked voluntary contributions from governments and other donors for the implementation of specific activities in the work programme and are consistent with the UN-Habitat mandate
- Technical cooperation contributions, which are earmarked resources from governments and other donors for the implementation of country-level activities
Paper City: today's urbanization challenges in a nutshell
Watch Paper City, a short stop-motion video animation portraying today’s urban challenges using nothing but paper... Aimed at an audience not yet familiar with urbanization processes, the video intends to draw attention on current issues caused by rapid and uncontrolled city growth. It points out possible urban solutions in a visual and attention-captivating way that is fun and easy to understand.