What is Urban Law

Urban law is the collection of policies, laws, decisions and practices that govern the management and development of the urban environment.

UN-Habitat's work on urban law focuses on its institutional priorities and the needs of Habitat Agenda Partners. This leads to an emphasis on particular areas, including:

  • Planning for city densification and extension;
  • Land management; and
  • Innovation in urban development financing.

These areas are considered with a particular emphasis on the inclusion of vulnerable groups, such as women, youth, the poor and the socially marginalised.

In addition to its institutional priorities, UN-Habitat recognises that supposedly discrete technical fields frequently interconnect in practice and is also committed to providing information and sharing experience in all areas of urban law whenever the opportunity arises.

Why Urban Law?

UrbanLex is a free global database which aims to improve access to the legislation that regulates the urban environment. The database features seven critical areas of urban law that are essential to the sustainability and development of the legal framework in urban areas. 

Compiling the laws is important but it is only the first step. In order to make UrbanLex more useful and advanced than a simple data repository, the database incorporates research tools. 

The laws can be searched using various indicators including theme, region, country or keywords. The laws are primarily available in their original language and accompanied by a digest in English. The digest is an important added value, as it increases the accessibility of instruments and describes the core functions and mechanisms of relevance to urban law. 

The database is maintained by the Urban Legislation Unit, within the Urban Legislation, Land and Governance Branch of UN-Habitat. If you would like to learn more about UrbanLex then send us an email.