Cities throughout the world are witnessing rapid growth, thus increasing the demand for high-quality services and necessitating that governments and municipalities develop improved solutions that fulfill the requirements for sustainable urban development and assure the social, economic, and environmental interactions distinctive of cities in the modern era. The observable acceleration in urbanization is taking place within a framework that entails expanding globalization, intensifying competition, continuous technological development, and the transformation to smart cities. Palestinian cities and urban areas are no exception in this regard; nearly 75 percent of the Palestinian population lives in urban areas that must expand their visions, objectives, and strategies towards the development and conservation of resources that will enable them to continuously and reliably respond to the needs of their residents and visitors.

Furthermore, Palestinian cities and urban areas must operate within a unique context, as numerous challenges and far-reaching impediments are imposed by the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Such entail the ongoing confiscation of land, demolition of houses, imposition of closures and roadblocks, sieges of urban areas, and control of the resources required for sustainable development.

The first State of Palestine: Cities Report was drafted and presented as part of preparations for the Habitat III (HIII) conference and the launching of the New Urban Agenda. The report reflects the current urban reality with all its spatial, social, economic, and environmental components and outputs. It highlights the obstacles to sustainable development in cities, and includes the most important recommendations.

I would like to thank all those who contributed their efforts and prepared and brought to fruition this report, ranging from staff at the Ministry of Local Government to partners at other national institutions and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme in Palestine. It is hoped that this report may provide a source of insight for planners and policymakers engaged in the planning of Palestinian cities.


Recent years have witnessed a substantial global movement to advance sustainable development agendas, among them the Paris Agreement (as part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). All of these global frameworks have established — some for the first time — the importance of “thinking urban” and of capitalizing on the potentials and resources offered by cities and urban regions when making efforts to overcome key global challenges. Moreover, during the recent Habitat III conference the world has adopted the New Urban Agenda, and with SDG 11 there exists for the first time a stand-alone sustainable development goal that targets cities and communities and will guide the urban development of the world’s cities over the next twenty years.

In twenty years, more than two thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities. More than half of the world’s population is already living in urban areas, and most of the ongoing urbanization is happening in developing countries. In Palestine, we have made progress in advancing our state-building and development agendas. However, thinking urban, in terms of potentials, limitations, and ways in which global and regional urban agendas and urbanization trends are impacting national and local urban development plans, is still a new concept and at best a work in progress.

This report will present concise and up-to-date data, information, and analyses of the urban contexts in Palestine; indicate urbanization trends and forces; and highlight recent debates and initiatives regarding the urban dynamics in Palestine. It aims at encouraging further work on how to localize the global urban development agendas, including the New Urban Agenda and SDG11, in ongoing efforts towards developing more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient Palestinian cities.

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