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UN-HABITAT’s Urban Environment Section helps cities get the most out of their vital role in social and economic development by promoting better environmental policies and programmes and improving urban environmental management.
Sustainable Cities Programme
Sustainable Cities ProgrammeThe Sustainable Cities Programme (SCP) is a joint UNHABITATUNEP facility established in the early 1990s to build capacities in urban environmental planning and management. The programme targets urban local authorities and their partners. It is founded on broad-based stakeholder participatory approaches.Key Features of the Sustainable Cities ProgrammeThe SCP was started in the early nineties to support both the missions of UN-HABITAT and UNEP. The first phase concluded in 2001, and the current second phase runs from 2002 – 2007. Currently the SCP and its “sister programme Localising Agenda 21 Programme (LA21) operate in over 30 countries worldwide.

Environmental Planning and ManagementFocus

A facility to package urban Environmental Planning and Management (EPM) approaches, technologies and know-how.

An EPM capacity development infrastructure – facilitating sub-regional resource networks for wider impact.


  • Strengthening local capacities to address urban environmental priority issues.
  • Enabling replication and scaling-up of EPM activities.
  • Mobilising anchoring institutions for EPM support.


Municipalities and local partners

Donor and technical support

Multi and bilateral external support from UN-HABITAT, UNEP, UNDP, ILO, the World Bank, the Netherlands, Japan, France, Denmark, and the United Kingdom.


  • Broad-based stakeholder involvement in city development strategies.
  • Participatory problem-solving through inclusive processes and ProPoor Governance.”
  • Mobilization of local resources and commitment.
  • A framework for capacity development and support for institutions leading to better implementation.
  • Mainstreaming environmental concerns in urban planning and management.
  • An instrument for implementing UNEP’s Agenda 21 mission at the city level, and the environmental component of the Habitat Agenda, the Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements and the Millennium Declaration.
Localizing Agenda 21
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The Localizing Agenda 21 (LA21) Programme “helps local authorities” to use Environmental Planning and Management (EPM) to identify and address key environmental issues. The Programme focuses on the sustainable development of secondary towns. LA21 builds the EPM capacities of local authorities, and supports human resource development. The programme encourages partnerships between “various local actors,” mobilizes resources and promotes exchange between cities facing similar problems.The key objectives of the LA21 Programme are:

  1. To “improve urban environmental planning” and management processes by supporting city demonstration projects, assisting policy development and promoting decentralized city-to-city co-operation.
  2. To build local institutional support for environmental planning and management by creating partnerships with selected local institutions, supporting networks of national and regional technical institutions and supporting the national adaptation of EPM tools.

By helping local authorities to implement demonstration projects and improve their capacities to deal with priority urban environmental issues, LA21 responds directly to the challenge of the Millennium Development Goals, and particularly Goal 7, TARGET 11, which seeks to improve the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2020.

The approach

The LA21 Programme targets secondary cities. Such cities and towns often lack the competencies needed to deal with their evolving environmental problems, and may not be benefiting from international support. By using the participatory EPM process, each town can create a shared vision for its future development building on the Environmental Profile main findings. Using this “vision,” local authorities can develop “sustainable action plans” to tackle existing environmental problems.

Activities at the city level

  • Preparation of strategic action plans based on the development visions of cities
  • Demonstration projects
  • Local authority capacity-building
  • City-to-city co-operation initiatives

Thematic areas

  • Community-based solid waste management
  • Urban mobility
  • Cultural heritage management and promotion of tourism
  • Sustainable water management
  • Access to urban services and social integration
  • Revision of master plans
  • Establishment of municipal environmental management system
  • Strengthening of citizen participation in urban environment planning and management

CA map

Urban World: Cities and Land Rights

Land is a scarce resource involving a wide range of rights and responsibilities. When poorly managed, it can become contentious often leading to disputes, conflict, degradation and other problems, all of them drivers of slum development and poverty in urban areas.
In this issue of Urban World:

  • Land and climate change in a new urban world
  • Five years into the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN)– A perspective from UN-HABITAT partners around the world
  • Land governance for rapid urbanization Communities making new gains