What is UrbanLex?

UrbanLex is a free global database that aims to improve access to the legislation that regulates the urban environment. The database features seven critical areas of urban law that are essential to the sustainability and development of the legal framework in urban areas. 

Compiling the laws is important but it is only the first step. In order to make UrbanLex more useful and advanced than a simple data repository, the database incorporates research tools. 

The laws can be searched using various indicators including theme, region, country or keywords. The laws are primarily available in their original language and accompanied by a digest in English. The digest is an important added value, as it increases the accessibility of instruments and describes the core functions and mechanisms of relevance to urban law. 

The Challenge

Many of the problems associated with urbanization stem from, or are exacerbated by not having adequate legislation to provide a framework for growth. Urban law, in common with other fields of law, is challenged by a lack of understanding beyond a small specialist community of how instruments and institutions relate to each other and translate into impact on the ground. This lessens the transparency of legal systems, often with negative impacts on fundamental human rights, equity and accountability. UrbanLex provides simple access to legal instruments and highlights the connections among related instruments. Moreover, it acts as a catalyst for further research and discussion which will lead to much needed innovation and an emphasis on impact-oriented solutions.

Related Sustainable Development Goals

Related Sustainable Development Goals

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Donors and partners

UN-Habitat has established partnerships with academic institutions, networks and organizations from all regions to collaborate and enhance Urbanlex as well as knowledge sharing and development.  The Partners have assisted in the collection and uploading of the laws on the database, as well as participated in different foras, to exchange their best practices, expertise and innovation in the field of urban legislation and development. A variety of partners have co-organised  ‘Urban Law Day’ seminars with UN-Habitat that explore urban law issues and themes according to local priorities or based on global processes. A specialized training seminar titled ‘Building drafting skills for improving the quality of urban legislation” has also been developed together with the Sir William Dale Centre for Legislative Studies to familiarize urban policy makers with the dividing lines between policy and legislation, help them understand the criteria of quality in legislation and familiarize them with existing methods and tools for evidence based law making and basic drafting principles. This collaboration has brought greater sustainability, comprehensive outreach and continuity to the actions of the UrbanLex programme

Our Experts

Anne Amin
Policy, Legislation and Governance Section
Urban Practices Branch, Global Solutions Division