The Urban LAB is an initiative from UN-Habitat to respond to the growing demand from cities to find transformative solutions to complex urban challenges. It drives innovative ideas, processes and partnerships to steer tangible and transformative urban solutions that contribute to sustainable urbanization, the achievement of the SDGs and the implementation of the NUA.

Established as an integrative facility, the LAB facilitates collaboration between a multidisciplinary set of partners, stakeholders and experts. It thereby integrates the necessary expertise to develop tangible, catalytic and transformative solutions to complex urban challenges in developed, developing and emerging countries. As an innovation LAB grounded in UN values, it supports cities and Member States to find new pathways for sustainable urbanization.

Taking a holistic and integrative approach, the LAB focuses on a diverse range of topics and themes including the identification of responses to rapid urbanization, urban renewal, urban extension; supporting cities to effectively integrate new technologies and innovation; developing guidelines for strategic planning; addressing the spatial dimension of climate change and resilience; and contributing to embedding the urban and development perspective within the humanitarian and urban crises field.

"Not only are we proud of the content and outcome of the Spatial Development Framework, but also of the process through which it was developed. UN Habitat was a key partner that assisted us greatly in all aspects of preparing the plan, from the broad and through public
participation process, to analyzing the city, conceptualizing the plan and drafting and finalising the document. We also received the National Planning Award 2016 for a municipal plan from the South African Planning Institute for the Spatial Development Framework."

Trevor Fowler, City Manager, Johannesburg

Transformative Projects and Programmes have been developed and completed in
40
countries
The LAB has worked with over
80
cities around the world
Over
40
partners have been engaged including governments, private sector, multilateral banks and financiers, NGOs and many more

Related Sustainable Development Goals

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Leaving no one and no place behind

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Hover over or touch the icons to learn about UN-Habitat's work on social inclusion here.

Deeply rooted in UN values and following UN-Habitat’s mandate to achieve the SDGs and to implement the NUA, the LAB ensures that projects and programmes are designed and implemented to maximise impact and leave no one behind. This is safeguarded not only at a strategic and programme level but also at a technical level, ensuring the implementation of projects ultimately contributes to equal rights and opportunities, as well as greater accessibility for all.

How women experience the city significantly shapes how they can lead their lives, yet their specific needs and preferences are often overlooked. Promoting equal representation in decision-making and allowing women to become agents of change by giving direct input during all phases of the project lifecycle, the LAB raises awareness and empowers women to shape the cities they live in.

Analytic research of the demographic composition of countries and cities as well as direct engagement with different population groups, provides the LAB with a solid understanding of the needs and preferences of children, youth and the elderly. Planning charettes and workshops allow different target groups to collaborate at eye-level, improving the potential of urban solutions to cater for all populations.

Through inclusive participatory processes and specific design principles, the LAB develops and implements projects and programmes that ensure accessibility for all. By accommodating the needs and preferences of persons with disabilities in the design of urban solutions, the LAB actively contributes towards more equal and inclusive cities.

Donors and partners

The LAB develops tailored partnerships for the definition and implementation of multi-scalar projects and programmes. Through participatory approaches, the LAB facilitates integration across institutional departments, different levels of government and civil society. The LAB connects governments with a diverse range of partners relevant to the different phases of the project cycle to develop tangible, realistic and impactful projects and programmes. By linking multilateral banks and financiers to transformative and feasible projects, financing mechanisms are identified that support implementation. The active building of partnerships between different experts, professionals, knowledge and academic partners, allows the LAB to provide suitable, evidence-based technical assistance and support to governments.

Our Experts

Rogier van den Berg
Urban Planning and Design Branch, Urban Planning, Extension and Design Unit, Urban Planning and Design LAB
Urban October