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Urban Legal Network

Icons-03Urban law is the collection of policies, laws, decisions, and practices that govern the management and development of the urban environment. Legal systems are among the major impediments preventing innovative mayors and urban managers from creating reforms and overcoming the pressing challenges of their cities and urban systems.

Many cities are burdened by laws that do not match the prevailing urban reality. Worse still, the capacity to enforce laws and regulations that are already in place is often lacking. Municipal authorities often have limited access to specialist legislative expertise, and struggle to respond to these situations.

The multiplicity and rigidity of laws and regulations compel citizens to pursue informal routes to conduct land and property transactions, to do business, to acquire means of a livelihood, and even to access basic services. As a result, parallel systems flourish and Urban Legal informality becomes the norm.

UN-Habitat's expertise in urban legislation

UN-Habitat has experience in the implementation of law and policy-making processes that have led to legislation. It also has knowledge about the institutional strengthening and the capacity assessment and development associated with the implementation of legislation.

UN-Habitat recognizes urban law as one of the foundations of effective urban management and development. Well formulated law based on sound policy supports effective implementation. It creates a stable and predictable framework for both public and private sector action, and can guarantee the inclusion of the interests of vulnerable groups while also providing a catalyst for local and national discourse.

UN-Habitat works with partner countries and local governments to support the improvement of their law making processes as they affect the urban environment. This may involve the reform or development of a particular tool or a broader review of the urban legal framework, as well as sharing information and experiences among countries.

UN-Habitat’s knowledge pertaining to legal reform is used to support cities. In addition, UN-Habitat is developing mechanisms for the creation and dissemination of legal knowledge and a network to develop capacity and access external expertise, with the aim of producing:

  • an increased awareness of legal systems operating at the city and national levels;
  • recommendations for more robust strategies to reform urban legal systems; and
  • improved capacities of local authorities to design and implement legal reform.

In undertaking it’s work, UN-Habitat places a priority on practical interventions that are tailored to national and local contexts and needs. These priorities depend upon effective partnerships with local authorities, local experts, and affected communities. Through this approach, UN-Habitat provides the support local and national governments need to incrementally improve their urban legal frameworks while also developing innovative solutions to shape future urban development.

Urban Legal Network

The Urban Legal Network (ULN) is an initiative of UN-Habitat. Its aim is to become a leading global network that promotes and facilitates the exchange of urban legal knowledge in the field of urban development. ULN is a global focal point for:

  • Urban legal knowledge and idea exchange;
  • Urban legislation best practice and tools; and
  • Urban legal partnerships and experts in the urban legislation field.

The Network is based on the belief that good urban legal knowledge and robust urban legislation are fundamental for developing innovative, inclusive, and productive cities. Importantly, good urban legislation is vital for improving the lives of everyday people within cities and is thus fundamental to urban planning and development initiatives.

If decision makers, planners, organizations, and citizens in cities have access to this knowledge in one spot, they can use and adapt this information to strengthen their specific urban contexts.

Find out more on the website of the Urban Legal Network

The urban development paradigm

UN-Habitat has recently re-stated its view of the urban development paradigm, including the views that:

  • Robust legislative frameworks must underpin all planning;
  • On-going dialogue is necessary between legislation, policy, and planning to ensure relevance, innovation, and a capacity to meet the future challenges facing cities;
  • Development and planning must have a clear and unequivocal rights based approach; and local governments provide an exciting entry point for change, and should be encouraged to create enabling regulations.

The 'rights based' legislation

UN-Habitat also believes that ‘rights based’ legislation can help to promote participation, and UN-Habitat is therefore committed to the daily involvement of urban dwellers in the development decisions and planning outcomes that affect their daily lives. UN-Habitat’s work on Urban Law operates on several levels:

  • Developing programmes among UN-Habitat branches and offices, as well as other partners, to deliver integrated packages of assistance for urban development.
  • Developing innovative approaches, tools, and methodologies to address particular problems in urban law reform.
  • Creating and sharing information about urban law.

The Urban Legal Network (ULN) forum

The Urban Legal Network (ULN) forum is a way to gauge which key aspects of urban law interest you. By participating, you help us to learn about which urban law areas and issues are most important for you, and what we should consider.

The ULN forum themes include:

  • General principles governing urban law;

  • Property law and tenure;

  • Governance (administrative law);

  • Planning;

  • Housing and buildings regulations;

  • Infrastructure and basic services;

  • Municipal taxation, finance, and economic development;

  • Environment, natural, and cultural resources; and

  • Urban resilience and post disaster recovery.

For more information, visit the ULN forum

UrbanLex - the urban law database

UrbanLex is a global collection of urban laws. UN-Habitat is compiling urban laws from over 190 member states into a user-friendly database. The laws are fully searchable, and categorized by the following key topics:

  •        Urban planning;

  •        Natural and cultural resources;

  •        Taxation, finance and economic development;

  •        Building and construction;

  •        Disaster recovery and resilient cities;

  •        Infrastructure and basic services (water, sewerage, electricity and transportation);

  •        Governance and government.

Find out more on UrbanLex here

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 18.17.30 Learn about National Urban Policies   Screen-Shot-2014-05-21-at-15.04.56Learn about the Urban Legal Network

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