Photo: UN Photo/Kibae Park

Our Work on Urbanisation

Over the past 70 years, the world’s urban population has grown fivefold, now nearing 4 billion (54% of the global population). Though cities can provide significant livelihood and lifestyle opportunities, the rapid pace of urbanisation places stress on city infrastructures — water and sanitation facilities, electricity and communication networks, healthcare and education services, and transportation systems. Unplanned/uncontrolled urbanisation also typically leads to disparities in access to public services and utilities as well as endemic poverty, violence/crime, and environmental degradation.

The equitable and sustainable management of our cities is a vital development challenge, and will be a major factor in the success or failure of the post-2015 UN development agenda. The issue of sustainable urbanisation interlinks with many of the focus areas of UNU’s work: governance, migration, water, health, economic development, waste, human welfare, climate change, and vulnerability to natural hazards.

UNU seeks to overcome the past tendency to treat such issues as discrete problems by undertaking interdisciplinary, policy-relevant analysis of urban vulnerability and resilience. The goal is to identify feasible options by which urban populations can tackle the multiple and interlocking crises that face today’s fragile cities. UNU will use its expertise to strengthen its engagement across the UN family in contributing to sustainable urban development policy debates.

Publications on Urbanisation

View a list of urbanisation-related publications on UNU Collections, the online institutional repository for academic publications, reports, and other research outputs of the United Nations University.

Projects in Focus

See more urbanisation-related projects


Dr. Christopher Doll, a research fellow at the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), discusses the main challenges of sustainable development in cities.

Articles on Urbanisation

See more urbanisation-related articles