Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world.
United Nations Development AccountUnited Nations Headquarters New York

Development Account Projects

Global energy network for urban settlements: promoting energy access for the urban poor worldwide


Current patterns of energy production, distribution and utilization are unsustainable, and there are wide disparities in the level of energy consumption within and between developed and developing countries. One third (2 billion people) of the global population has no access to basic energy services. Most of them (1.6 billion people) live in developing countries, mainly in South Asia and in Sub-Saharan Africa. They depend on inefficient biomass fuels, such as wood, animal and crop waste for cooking and heating, which have detrimental effects on air quality and health. About three-quarters of the world’s commercial energy is consumed in urban areas, and many of the people in direst need of access to modern energy systems are located in rapidly growing informal urban settlements (slums) throughout the developing world. In-migration into cities has created very dense informal settlements where 30 to 40 per cent of the urban population lives in abject poverty and dismal conditions. Despite such numbers, the energy needs of poor urban households, and particularly of women, in developing countries have not been properly addressed, as development efforts have focused intensely on the rural poor.

It is widely assumed that precisely because the urban poor reside in the cities of the world that they must have no energy needs or challenges at all. Access to affordable, modern energy services is a pre-requitite for sustainable development and poverty alleviation and, more specifically, for achieving each of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Lack of access to reliable, safe and mostly environmentally-friendly energy is a strong constraint on human development.

The project seeks to encourage and support the design and implementation of energy-access programmes and projects for the urban poor worldwide through the Global Energy Network for the Urban Settlements (GENUS), a dynamic new partnership and collaboration with multiple institutions and stakeholders including the public and private sectors, governmental and non-governmental organizations, grass-roots groups, national and international development agencies, working in the urban energy sector.


To encourage and support the design and implementation of energy-access programmes and projects for the urban poor worldwide through the exchanged and dissemination of best practices and technologies, awareness creation, advocacy, tools development, knowledge management and capacity-building.

Expected Accomplishments:

  • Increased level of knowledge among policymakers, municipal managers and within informal settlements in cities of developing countries on how best to address the issues the urban poor face in terms of having access to clean modern energy.
  • Improved capabilities within the urban energy community to more effectively and efficiently respond to the energy challenges faced by the urban poor through strengthened South-South collaboration and North-South exchange of knowledge, expertise and collaboration.

  • Increased application of programs and projects addressing the unique characteristics and elements of improving energy access for the urban poor within the UN system and the wider international development community.

Implementation Status:

The Global Energy Network for Urban Settlements (GENUS) was launched in the third regional focus area Latin America and Caribbean. The regional network has been established to help finding solutions for waste management and the conversion of waste into a source of energy. The meeting held in San Jose, Costa Rica established an increased commitment to and interest on Energy from Waste as a solution to increase access to energy in informal settlements in cities of developing countries.

A first outline for a GENUS Knowledge Management Toolkit has been developed and UN-Habitat is in the process of finalizing a range of templates to be included in this. Templates will provide how-to-guides and best practices papers amongst others. The Knowledge Management Toolkit will be used as discussion material in the upcoming Steering Committee meeting during the 23rd Governing Council and will be further implemented and adapted by the GENUS partners.

Links: http://www.unhabitat.org/categories.asp?catid=631.