We support sustainable and inclusive planning and design of cities by developing normative work, providing technical assistance in the formulation of urbanization polices and strategies, building local capacity and delivering context-specific solutions and services based on integrative and participatory processes.

The Challenge

  1. By 2050 approximately two thirds of the world’s population will be living in urban areas, bringing a distinct set of challenges and opportunities to the area of urban development.
  2. The challenges of rapid urbanization include growing vulnerability to climate change, spatial inequalities, pressures of migration and conflict, and difficulties to promote inclusive prosperity and economic development.


To address the multifaceted challenges of urbanization and make the most of the ‘urban advantage’, UN-Habitat’s urban planning and design work creates spatial strategies and plans, alongside inclusive processes that consider human rights, gender, age and other identity categories, that enable urban managers and other stakeholders set a proactive framework for sustainable urbanization in both developed and developing country contexts. This is achieved by adopting:

  1. An integrative approach to urban planning and employing a variety of people-centred tools and methodologies - such as participatory planning, frontier technology implementation, international collaboration and cross-sectoral partnerships and
  2. Focusing urban planning efforts on key elements that can leverage the urban advantage for many - such as prioritizing public space within a framework of urban density, mixed land use and social mix, equitable access to land and tenure security and the integration of the formal and informal spaces and systems.

Through these approaches, UN-Habitat supports stakeholders to create safe, inclusive, and resilient cities.


More than
100 cities
planned and designed sustainably with 80 of them adopting plans and designs to guide public expenditure, private investment and sustainable policy decision-making.
50 countries
were at different stages of national urban policy improvement processes, promoting inclusive and participatory approaches to sustainable urbanization.
UN-Habitat supported
51 cities
through the Planning and Design Lab in 30 countries in sustainable urban planning. In addition, 20 Planned City Extensions and 23 Citywide Strategies were developed.

News and Stories

Beneficiary - Yo Ito

“I have often seen appeals by many agencies to address the problems of arid and semi-arid areas. Spatial planning modalities and development of adequate infrastructure is our way of contributing to mitigating such problems and I am sure it will help the people of Kalobeyei, Kenya to move to a better future. The Government of Japan is happy to be part of this noble project. We are also happy and wish to congratulate all those who collaborated to deliver this and we will continue to support you in your endeavours. I am happy to see that UN-Habitat and partners are working hard to see that refugees and the local people work hand in hand.”

Yo Ito, First Secretary of Japan to the Republic of Kenya, Government of Japan at the certification Ceremony for Japanese Innovation Technologies in Kalobeyei New Settlement in Kenya, a settlement for refugees and host communities

Related Sustainable Development Goals

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Leaving no one and no place behind

Hover over or click the icons to learn about UN-Habitat's work on social inclusion here.

Sustainable, inclusive and safe cities and communities are essential to a dignified life with all human rights protected. UN-Habitat’s work focuses on promoting urban areas that comprehensively meet and safeguard human rights through specific design principles as well as inclusive planning and design processes that leave no one behind.

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How women experience the city significantly shapes how they can lead their lives, yet urban planning and design often fails to accommodate women’s specific needs and preferences. UN-Habitat actively works towards gender-inclusive cities by applying a gender lens and empowering women to shape the cities they live in by engaging in planning and design processes.

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UN-Habitat’s work aims to achieve inclusive planning and design that considers the needs and preferences of all urban dwellers, particularly vulnerable groups such as children, youth and the elderly. Participatory approaches to urban planning and design, for example in the form of planning charettes and workshops that allow different target groups to work together at eye-level, allow for a better understanding of how cities can cater for all populations.

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Planning and especially design play a crucial role in ensuring accessibility and accommodating the needs and preferences of persons with disabilities. Participatory processes and awareness raising support planning and design solutions that improve the urban realm accordingly, making cities and communities more equal and inclusive.

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Donors and partners

Successful urban planning and design builds on partnerships with and between complex sets of stakeholders. UN-Habitat nurtures ad hoc as well as long-term partnerships with other UN agencies, local and national governments, the private sector, civil society, and funding partners to facilitate collaborative action for urban transformation. Through expert consultation, co-production and participatory processes, we develop global norms and guidelines and trigger innovation. Together with our partners, we build capacity on the job as well as in the form of carefully designed training events and materials and thereby reach both global and local experts and decision-makers.

Our Experts

Chief, Planning, Finance and Economy Section
Urban Practices Branch, Global Solutions Division