UrbanLex is a global collection of urban laws, compiling urban laws from 190+ member nations in a fully relational 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, Transportation)
  • Governance and Government

What is Urban Law?

Urban law is the collection of policies, laws, decisions and practices that govern the management and development of the urban environment. UN-Habitat's work on urban law focuses on its institutional priorities and the needs of Habitat Agenda Partners. This leads to an emphasis on particular areas, including:

  • Planning for city densification and extension;
  • Land management; and
  • Innovation in urban development financing.

These areas are considered with a particular emphasis on the inclusion of vulnerable groups, such as women, youth, the poor and the socially marginalised. In addition to its institutional priorities, UN-Habitat recognises that supposedly discrete technical fields frequently interconnect in practice and is also committed to providing information and sharing experience in all areas of urban law whenever the opportunity arises.

Why Urban Law?

The urban environment is extremely complex, being the focus of human economic, social and political activity throughout the world. Any decision on its management can have a profound impact for millions. However, these decisions can be extremely challenging, often involving conflicting individual and collective interests. As a result, law plays a fundamental role in the management and development of the urban environment. It sets the 'rules of the game' for all interested actors. It promotes accountability and provides the basis of stability and predictability in decision-making. Law is also one of the principal guarantors of liberty and equality, providing an opportunity to ensure that the vulnerable and disadvantaged are heard, considered and protected.


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