Federation for
Housing and

A Roadmap to the past Habitats and the path to Habitat IV

From 1976 to 2016, the three "Habitats" have been a forum for the international community to discuss the evolution of urbanization and now pave the way to Habitat IV

Habitat I, II, III...and soon IV

Today 54% of the world population lives in urban areas. By 2030, this number is expected to rise to 70%. In this blog post, dedicated to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) we discuss the evolution of urbanization in the 20th century and how this issue has been addressed by the international community and the United Nations. 
Habitat I – 1976 – World Urban Population 37.9%. The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) started in 1976, with the First UN Conference on Human Settlements taking place in Vancouver, Canada, at a time when governments began to recognize the need for sustainable human settlements and the consequences of rapid urbanization (especially in the developing world). Cities came to be seen as the “emerging futures”. There were two major outcomes of this path-breaking event. The first was the Vancouver Declaration, which urged countries as well as  the international community to commit to human settlements policies. This would be achieved by combining spatial planning with fundamentals of economic, social and scientific thinking, in order to alleviate the worst conditions of “uncontrolled urbanization” within a framework of social justice (UN-Habitat, 1976, 2016b). The second outcome, announced in a UN General Assembly document of December 1977, was the establishment of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UN-Habitat, 2016b). 
Habitat II – 1996 – World Urban Population 45.1%. Two decades later, June 1996 in Istanbul, the Second UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), further contributed to raising global awareness about urban and human settlements issues. For the first time in a UN conference, NGOs and civil society organizations were invited to speak and participate in drafting recommendations (UN-Habitat, 2016b). The issues demanding the world’s attention were summarized in An Urbanizing World: The Global Report on Human Settlements 1996, raising awareness on the need to put cities in the forefront of development strategies, and on the growing problem of  poverty and poor housing conditions(UN-Habitat, 1996). The conference led to the acknowledgement of cities as engines of global growth, but also raised awareness of the need for competent and accountable urban governance and the importance of paying attention to citizen groups, community organizations and NGOs. The future role of Governments would be as enablers much more than providers.
Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda – 2016 – World Urban Population 54%. Given that cities are now operating on a radically different economic and social ecosystem than the cities of the 20th century, and given the changes and transformations that have occurred since Habitat II, there was now a need to revisit the urban agenda, and to reposition and rethink the approaches on urban policy (UN-Habitat, 2016b). Is has become more and more clear that achievements on sustainable development will depended on how we manage and guide global urbanization. The New Urban Agenda (NUA) is an action-oriented document which sets global standards for the achievement of sustainable urban development, by rethinking the way we build, manage, and live in cities (UN-Habitat, 2016a). The NUA also seeks to realize Goal 11 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development - making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (United Nations, 2015). Responding to the challenges and opportunities of urbanization, it aims to address the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals. 
Towards Habitat IV – 2036 – World Urban Population ~70%? Urbanization as an endogenous source of development? If the aspirations set out in Habitat III and the NUA are to be achieved, all countries will need to step up in their commitments, by continuously implementing integrated planning and models for capable and accountable governance in cooperation with citizen groups, community organizations and NGOs (The Huffington Post, 2016).
Andreia Fidalgo, Project Manager 
The Huffington Post. (2016). Habitat III is over, but will its New Urban Agenda transform the world’s cities? Retrieved February 28, 2017, from
UN-Habitat. (1976). The Vancouver Declaration On Human Settlements. Vancouver, Canada. Retrieved from
UN-Habitat. (1996). An Urbanizing World. Global report on Human Settlements 1996. Retrieved from
UN-Habitat. (2016a). New Urban Agenda (Vol. 71/256). Retrieved from
UN-Habitat. (2016b). World Cities Report 2016. Chapter 01: From Habitat II to Habitat III: Twenty Years of Urban Development.
United Nations. (2015). Transforming our world: the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Retrieved from Agenda for Sustainable Development web.pdf