The challenge

The impact of legislation is important: it can set meaningful frameworks for sustainable development or accentuate inequalities and exclusion. The multiplicity and rigidity of laws and regulations compel citizens to pursue informal routes in areas such as land and property transactions, so urban legal informality becomes the norm. Practical legal interventions are needed to create robust, fair and effective legal instruments for a stable and predictable framework and to guarantee the inclusion of the interests of vulnerable groups, while also providing a catalyst for local and national discourse.


The Urban Lex database has
instruments from 68 countries across many thematic areas and provides direct access to the largest collection of legal instruments.
In 2018, UrbanLex recorded over
users and over 31,000 pageviews.
national and local government officials and international civil servants have been provided training on Drafting Skills to Improve the Quality of Urban Legislation, in collaboration with the Sir William Dale Centre for Legislative Drafting of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.

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.

UN-Habitat believes in ‘rights-based’ legislation as it will help promote participation as well as the integration of urban dwellers in the development decisions and planning outcomes that affect their daily lives.

Women are often excluded in urban development initiatives. UN-Habitat advocates for the participation of women and other groups in urban legal interventions as it is a key criterion of success for sustainable urban development

Related Sustainable Development Goals

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Donors and partners

The success of UN-Habitat’s work on legislation relies on a network of partners for developing mechanisms to create and disseminate legal tools and knowledge and to support legal reform processes.

UN-Habitat jointly organizes annual urban law days with academic institutions to exchange best practices, expertise, and innovation in the field of urban legislation and development among a multidisciplinary circle of professionals. This collaboration has brought about greater sustainability, comprehensive outreach and increased awareness of strategies to develop functional effective legal systems.

UrbanLex is UN-Habitat’s principal means of collecting and openly sharing primary information on urban law. As well as providing direct access to the largest collection of legal instruments organized and summarised according to urban priorities, UrbanLex provides a platform for comparative analysis and the identification of patterns and innovations in urban law and is supported by a growing network of partners, such as FAO, CNJUR, University of Wits, etc.

The Urban Legislation Unit is collaborating with UN Environment, UNFCCC and the Commonwealth Secretariat for the development of the Law and Climate Change Toolkit. The Toolkit provides a global resource to help countries to put in place the necessary legal frameworks for effective national implementation of the Paris Agreement and their Nationally Determined Contributions. 

Our Experts

Robert Lewis-Lettington
Urban Legislation Unit
Urban October