Cities have long-promised opportunity and prosperity, but today they are failing too many residents. One in three city dwellers lack access to safe, affordable housing. Other core urban services like water and sanitation are also falling behind.  

Two-thirds of the world’s urban population live in cities where income inequality has increased over the past 35 years. The “informal” economy, from street vendors to minibuses, accounts for an astounding 50-80% of all urban employment in the global south. Meanwhile, climate change is bringing floods, heat and deteriorating air quality, often affecting the poorest and most marginalized first and foremost. 

Our Approach to Urban Development

More equitable, resilient cities require systemic changes to how we design and governance across multiple urban systems, from land use to water resilience to the informal economy. 

WRI helps to build more holistic infrastructure and thriving cities by emphasizing integrated planning. We help cities, national governments and regional partnerships respond to the needs of all residents through innovative data initiatives, more climate-resilient and accessible built environments, nature-based solutions, and the integration of informal systems.  

From the World Resources Report: Towards a More Equal City to the WRI Ross Center Prize for Cities, we work with communities, businesses and governments to understand the new urban reality and navigate competing tensions so they can adapt and harness the benefits of change. Cities designed with these principles in mind can provide better services to more residents and safer, healthier, more productive livelihoods. In turn, cities can reap the social, economic and environmental benefits of integrated urban development.