Universities are outposts of knowledge production and human resources and also part of the existing global infrastructure for training the next generation of young professionals who will contribute towards urban sustainability.
In 2014, UN-Habitat created the UN-Habitat University Initiative – ‘Habitat UNI’ for short – to establish a framework in which university work in the field of urban sustainability could be integrated with that of UN-Habitat.
UN-Habitat’s university partnerships have born repeated fruits in the work of the agency and its partners. Initiatives have ranged from sweeping international-collaboration programs to ad-hoc projects and applied technical support initiatives. University partnerships vary far and wide across UN-Habitat programs.
The history of Habitat UNI stresses the value of having a formal bridge between the academic world and UN-Habitat operations, linking its vast range of university partnerships across the global North and South. Likewise, it also testifies to the self-organising potential and resilience of academic collaboration in cross-border urban research and education.
UNI aims to create global awareness of academic progress in the field of urban sustainability. In doing so, it bridges academic research to the ongoing work of UN-Habitat, as well as that of UN-Habitat’s partners, such as local governments and civil society actors. UNI is the institutional link between current urban issues, university research, and tangible change towards sustainable cities of the future.
To unlock the potential of universities as key actors in city governance, Habitat UNI is committed to promoting the following principles of sustainable urban development:
Socially-inclusive, gender sensitive and healthy development of cities using participatory planning and decision-making processes
Governance structures which contribute to transparent and efficient local resource mobilization
Effective management of adversity and change including crisis preparedness for natural and manmade disasters
Vibrant, resilient, and competitive local economies which promote decent work and livelihoods as well as accessible infrastructure, services, mobility, and housing
Habitat UNI delivers on its mandate by upholding overall commitments towards achieving the climate goals of the Paris Agreement and inclusive recovery from the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic
Universities & the New Urban Agenda
Together with other flagship global agendas, the New Urban Agenda (NUA) aims at closing the gap between academia and practice. The NUA recognises the potential for university-city collaborations to become interconnected accelerators of knowledge and skills.
UNI aims to enhance the profile of university-city partnerships, both through its own and university networks, as well as through initiatives aimed at recognising how higher-education institutions can act as conveners of multi-scalar conversations.
Universities & the SDGs
Many universities today are embracing the SDGs in their curricula and research. This is reflected in frequent university cooperation with governing authorities in the form of Voluntary Local and National Reviews (VLRs and VNRs) targeting progress towards SDG11. UNI aims to focus explicitly on the urban dimension of the SDGs, both in the context of the Global North and South.