Event date

General Information

The annual Urban Law Day is jointly organised by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and UN-Habitat. The Urban Law Day is a specialised forum aiming to bring together a multidisciplinary circle of academics and practitioners interested in urban legislation, including planners, architects, policy makers, economists, urbanises and lawyers.


The purpose of the Urban Law Day is to facilitate discussion, the exchange of views, networking, and the presentation of new research findings or emerging issues. It will also address the role and importance of effective functioning legal frameworks for sustainable urban development.


The issues at hand and their implications on sustainable urban development

Legal frameworks and the institutional structures they establish are foundational elements in urban development strategies. They are the means for implementing the policies determined by legislative and executive authorities and they are central to delivering the rights and protections that societies offer to individuals and groups.

Central elements of urban legal frameworks, such as those regulating urban planning and development control, are not functionally effective in a large proportion of developing and least developed countries. They are often based upon foreign models, which may be technically sound in an abstract sense but provide for ambitious frameworks with multiple interlocking elements that seek to manage the detailed evolution of cities.

While these legal frameworks propose detailed management, they frequently fail to provide municipal leaders with the land acquisition, financial or social tools that they need to actually make the framework happen. These technical challenges are enough on their own but, in all but the rarest of cases, they are combined with major resource constraints.

Many least developed, and a number of developing countries have limited skills bases, particularly in government service. They are also unable to secure the financial resources necessary to fundamentally impact the shape of their cities. While the combination of these factors may vary, the result is almost always that legal frameworks for urban development are poorly implemented, if they are implemented at all.

This does not mean that the legal frameworks are good and that challenges can be addressed by an implementation ‘silver bullet’: the legal frameworks are not implemented because they are not relevant. The complex or inappropriate nature of technically driven legal frameworks means that they are not implemented as intended and activity on the ground becomes a series of ad hoc ‘one offs’ instead of part of a predictable and systematic pattern.

Complexity and administrative discretion also creates a prevalent trend of unaccountability and lack of access for vulnerable groups, particularly the poor, youth and women. They are unable to access economic and social opportunities and are often deprived of basic rights. In addition to limiting government ability to deliver policy, the weakness of legal frameworks limits local government abilities to develop revenue streams and discourages investment, particularly from regional and international investment sources.

UN-Habitat’s approach to legal frameworks and experience from ASUD countries

UN-Habitat proposes a radical departure from the traditional focus on achieving the implementation of technically advanced structures. In its place, the adoption of legal frameworks that are the simplest possible solution to a given problem is advocated. Overall, UN-Habitat through the ASUD promotes simpler, better formulated and more transparent legal frameworks for urban development.

The emphasis is on frameworks that function and contribute to the development of the rule of law as well as to the achievement of specific municipal goals. These will provide a solid and predictable long term framework for urban development that can be built upon, as is needed and as capacity and resources allow.

Programme and Registration

For more information and registration, click here

Opening 9.30-9.40:

 • Lord Carnwath, Supreme Court and Chair to IALS Advisory Council

Theme 1: Urban policy 9.45-11.30

• UN Habitat and the 2015 Development Goals, Robert Lewis-Lettington

• Case study: Development and application of planning law in England, Luke Barfoot, Rachel Bickerton, and Nagla Stevens, Lawyers, Planning Reform, DCLG Legal Advisers – Government Legal Department

Theme 2: Drafting urban law 11.30-1.15

• Translating urban policy into “Good Law”, Nigel Rendell, Parliamentary Counsel, Office of the Parliamentary Counsel

• From policy to law: making planning law in England – legislative options and processes, Luke Barfoot, Rachel Bickerton, and Nagla Stevens, Lawyers, Planning Reform, DCLG Legal Advisers – Government Legal Department

Theme 3: Implementing urban legislation 2-3

• The implementation game and evidence based post legislative analysis: case studies from developed and developing countries, Dr. Maria Mousmouti, IALS, Urban Law Fellow, Executive Director, Centre for European Constitutional Law, Athens

Theme 4: Workshop 3-5.30

• Participants will receive in advance the text of a short planning law along with the UN Habitat report on the problems of its implementation. Participants are invited to identify how to address the problems of the legislation in question, facilitated by Robert Lewis-Lettington.

• Having established the policy goals of a possible legislative intervention, participants are invited to identify the best legislative option (amending or new law, primary or secondary legislation, structure, expression), facilitated by Prof. Helen Xanthaki. Finally, a report to UN Habitat will be drafted, facilitated by Dr Maria Mousmouti.

• At a later stage the Sir William Dale Legislative Drafting Clinic will draft the legislation, and participants will be invited to assist and contribute.

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