Effective advocacy, partnerships and monitoring
UN-HABITAT helps cities learn, know and understand their own needs. From finding out how many people in a given street may have water and sanitation, to what local non-governmental and civil society organizations might think about a city, or how women’s views should be taken into account, and helping exchange information and best practices world-wide, the agency provides the facts, figures and studies that can help decision makers at every level and even local residents make optimum choices.
UN-HABITAT uses its World Urban Campaign, its public website and flagship publications, as well as a special best practices department to ensure that smart ideas are widely available. For example, through the best practices database, a city like Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea learn how Durban, South Africa fights crime, or how an urban water management project in Kathmandu, Nepal, can benefit a city with similar problems in Latin America.
The agency publishes two biennial flagship reports, The State of the World’s Cities, and the Global Report on Human Settlements. Both are today considered among the most authoritative reports pertaining to urban matters anywhere to be found. Also in this league are another set of regional biennial reports – The State of African Cities, The State of Arab Cities, The State of Asian Cities, The State of Chinese Cities, The State of European Cities in Transition, and The State of Latin American Cities.
Johannesburg is the centre of the world's largest gold-mining industry and the largest engineering and manufacturing centre in Africa.
Each quarter, UN-HABITAT also publishes its flagship magazine, Urban World, its Annual Report and scores of specialised reports on its global work.
Most developing countries do not have regular data collection, analysis and monitoring systems. Good urban policy and planning requires accurate information. UN-HABITAT’s Global Urban Observatory (GUO) helps cities get a bird’s eye view of their situation and their needs. Photograph a city from space, magnify it, look at a few streets in any area, and then send in survey teams to fill in the blanks from the streets up – how many people live there? How many have access to water and sanitation? Are the roads in need of repair? How many people have AIDS or malaria? Which slums are the most overcrowded? Armed with answers to such questions, it is far easier and cheaper to bring improvements.
Women face discrimination of one kind or another in every major city of the world. The agency strives to broaden gender equality and women’s rights into all its activities by supporting and strengthening gender awareness. It seeks to ensure more accountable, participatory and empowering urban development practices through a gender sensitive approach. The implementation of women’s rights to land, property and housing remains a formidable challenge facing the world today, along with personal safety in every town and city.
UN-HABITAT recognizes young people as active participants in the future of human settlements. The agency has partnerships with youth organizations at the local, national and international levels, to ensure their voices get heard. Working with young men and women and understanding their diverse abilities, realities and experiences is an essential element of UN-HABITAT’s drive for sustainable urbanisation. The UN-HABITAT Urban Youth Fund helps young people in poor countries aged 15 - 32 obtain funding for innovative ideas and projects.
UN-HABITAT has partnerships with governments, local authorities, donors, the private sector, parliamentarians, urban professionals and researchers, and many NGOs and community groups world-wide. Our collaboration with local authorities is particularly important and spreads to all levels – from technical cooperation projects at city level, to capacity building in collaboration with training institutions and policy dialogue at major events like our biennial World Urban Forum. The agency also has many alliances with the business community.
The World Urban Campaign
In 2010, UN-HABITAT and its partners launched a new global drive to promote better cities for all. At a time of global financial crisis, the World Urban Campaign takes on a special sense of urgency in the drive to reduce urban poverty, cut back on energy consumption, cut air and water pollution, and promote cleaner, safer, greener cities where all feel they belong, whether rich or poor. It will promote 21st century planning, effect land and housing policy, stronger local authorities, and better climate change and disaster preparedness, cities without slums, water and sanitation for all. As humanity now moves into a new urban era, the idea is to take these urgent issues as campaign themes to exploit the combined power and influence of governments, local authorities, the media, business, and others to achieve policy change, bring in new thinking and awareness of the importance of living in a better and smarter urban world. In short, to consider urbanisation as something positive and wonderful, as something that can enhance humanity’s greatest legacy – our cities.
The World Urban Forum
The Forum was established by the United Nations to keep abreast of urban trends, is today the world’s premier conference on managing growing towns and cities. Since its inception at the first meeting in Nairobi, Kenya in 2002, this conference held every two years has grown in size and stature. A unique feature of the World Urban Forum is that is its one of the most open gatherings on the international stage. It brings together government leaders, ministers, mayors, diplomats, members of national, regional and international associations of local governments, non-governmental and community organizations in open dialogue and exchange. Also invited are professionals, academics, grassroots women’s organizations, youth, slum dwellers groups, the private sector and the media as partners working for smarter and inclusive cities. Each session builds on the lessons and success of the previous events.
World Habitat Day
This is another occasion where the agency brings urban matters to the international agenda each year. The United Nations has designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day. The idea is to reflect on the state of our towns and cities and the basic right of all, to adequate shelter. It is also intended to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat. Spearheaded from a different city around the world every year, the event always linked to an urban theme is also celebrated in small towns, villages, at schools, city halls and on local television in more and more countries. It is on World Habitat Day that the agency anoints the winners of out the Habitat Scroll of Honour Awards.
UN-HABITAT also runs a special website called the Urban Gateway (urbangateway.org) which operates as a virtual meeting place and special forum for the global urban community.
Training and capacity building
Training programmes are provided for local government officials and staff in a range of areas including leadership, municipal finance, local economic development, strategic planning, governance, gender, climate change and land management.
Strategic Urban Planning
UN-HABITAT also works closely with urban planning professional associations and others in a new drive to promote urban planning for the 21st century, within the broad context of sustainable urban development.
UN-HABITAT has created a new network of partners called the Sustainable Urban Development Network (SUD-Net). This network is driven by UN-HABITAT’s vision of vibrant and pro-poor urban economic growth that is achieved without causing irreparable and long-term damage to the environment. The network is dedicated to helping Habitat Agenda partners apply strategies that will reduce the ecological footprint of cities while protecting property, stimulating pro-poor local economic development, and combating social exclusion and poverty. In terms of mitigation, better planned cities, more efficient and effective public transport, and more compact communities not only reduce energy consumption and pollution, but also contribute to social inclusion and cohesion. In terms of adaptation, helping our cities protect lives and property from extreme weather patterns is not only a means of promoting resilience but also a central strategy to improve the living conditions and safety of the poor and the most vulnerable members of society.
UN-HABITAT’s runs programmes designed to help make our cities safer, bring relief in countries suffering the aftermath of war or natural disasters, promote sustainable cities, good governance and support a group of priority towns. Its experts work with governments, local authorities, civil society organisations and the poorest of the urban poor themselves. In some countries of the world, crime problems have been exacerbated by a proliferation of weapons, drugs, unemployment and delinquency. UN-HABITAT helps cities and towns create the capacity to address urban insecurity and help establish a culture of crime prevention.
Inclusive cities and governance
The divide between the wealthier and poorer segments of society in our cities stands out as one of the major paradoxes – some would say scandals – of this early 21st century.
After all, cities concentrate what has become known as the “urban advantage”, namely, a bundle of opportunities which, from basic services to health, education, amenities and gainful employment, have never been so favourable to human development. Yet all too frequently, cities also concentrate high, unacceptable degrees of inequality as these opportunities elude major segments of the population. Good governance gives us inclusive cities where equal access to urban services and opportunities are less restricted by all kinds of invisible and very visible barriers. Look, for example, at the growing number of gated communities in many countries that continue to shut out the poor. Experience shows that a lack of inclusionary planning (taking the needs of the poor topmost into account) is only planning for trouble. Any sustainable vision for the future of any city can only be of an inclusive, not divisive nature.