WRI made the case that improving urban services for the under-served – including affordable housing and safe and sustainable mobility – can generate economic, environmental and social benefits for all city residents. WRI’s research and meetings helped inform the New Urban Agenda, a UN declaration signed by 167 nations that lays out a 20-year roadmap for sustainable urban development.

The Challenge

As many as 70 percent of urban dwellers in the Global South lack access to one or more core city services, including housing, water and sanitation, energy and transportation. This problem is poised to worsen as 2.5 billion more people take up residence in cities by 2050. The decisions taken by policymakers today will determine whether cities can grow while improving citizens’ quality of life, or perpetuate a cycle of low productivity, poverty and environmental degradation for the rest of the century and beyond.

WRI's Role

In 2015, WRI launched the first installment of its latest World Resources Report, Towards a More Equal City, finding that meeting the needs of the urban under-served can help make cities more economically prosperous, environmentally sustainable and socially equitable. In the two years leading up to the landmark UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Development (Habitat III) in Quito, WRI brought together leaders and experts to explore the opportunities and challenges of prioritizing core services and policies related to affordable housing, water and sanitation, safe and sustainable transportation, sustainable land use, low-carbon energy, accessible green spaces and parks, transparent data and governance practices, and climate resilient infrastructure. WRI worked with partners including the UN-Habitat Secretariat, NGOs, and ministries from Brazil, Colombia, France, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK to include these priorities in the New Urban Agenda, a UN declaration setting a vision for urban development for the next two decades.

The Outcome

In October 2016, the New Urban Agenda, adopted by 167 countries, explicitly included safe and sustainable mobility and affordable housing as elements in making cities more sustainable and equitable. This Agenda sets a new global standard for sustainable urban development, providing a roadmap for building cities that can serve as engines of prosperity and cultural and social well-being while protecting the environment. WRI will now engage with national and subnational governments as they implement the New Urban Agenda and, through the World Resources Report, will continue to research sustainable and equitable urban development strategies.