What are major Metropolitan challenges, and what are the good practices and solutions to improve such challenges at the level of public policies, planning, infrastructure and basic services?

March 24, 2017

This discussion is now closed. Thank you for your participation.


  • Claudio Torres Slum Upgrading Consultant, Housing and Slum Upgrading Branch. UN-Habitat
  • Pireh Otieno Human Settlements Officer, Urban Basic Services Branch - UN-Habitat
  • Kulwant Singh Regional Advisor - UN-Habitat
  • Marcus Mayr Urban Planner, Climate Change Planning Unit, UN-Habitat
  • Edmundo Werna Head of Unit at Sectoral Policies Dept. ILO

What are major Metropolitan challenges, and what are the good practices and solutions to improve such challenges at the level of public policies, planning, infrastructure and basic services?

Question 1:   What are major Metropolitan challenges, and what are the good practices and solutions to improve such challenges at the level of public policies, planning, infrastructure and basic services?

GIZ Sector Project Sustainable Development of Metropolitan Regions from Germany
Fri, October 2, 2015 at 11.42 am

Spatial planning are often still differentiating strictly between urban and rural development. This dichotomy and the resulting administrative boundaries do not reflect the realities of highly interconnected areas anymore. Metropolitan areas are characterized especially by the strong interlinkages between one or more core cities with their peri-urban and rural surrounding areas, not by their population seize or their concentration of economic functions only. These interlinkages are of economic (flow of goods, capital, workforce, information, innovation…), social (commuting, cultural, political and educational functions of core cities, multi-locality of households…) and environmental (flow of natural resources, city-region ecosystem services, micro climate…) nature. We have to acknowledge these new realities in order to influence the existing interlinkages in a sustainable way and adjust or develop policies and governance structures which reflect them.

If the New Urban Agenda is to provide action-oriented guidelines for sustainable urbanization, it needs to bridge the rural-urban divide and provide a framework for sound governance structures for better coordination between urban and rural development. The New Urban Agenda should foster cross-sectoral and inter-municipal cooperation, promote integrated urban development, and strengthen local governments in order to enhance access and quality of service provision to all citizens. It will need to promote a positive, mutually-reinforcing relationship between cities and their hinterlands. It is thus important to strengthen a culture of cooperation across administrative and territorial boundaries between cities and bordering rural municipalities. Metropolitan governance structures that allow the involvement of multiple stakeholders, sectors and government departments need to be strengthened in order to ensure greater political legitimacy and coherence.

The New Urban Agenda needs to acknowledge the fact that practicing integrated development at the metropolitan level can lead to vast efficiency gains, e.g. with regard to the delivery of basic services, economic development, efficient use and integrated management of natural resources etc. Yet, efficiency gains due to economies of scale always need to be weighed against issues of legitimacy and responsiveness and accountability to citizens. The objective of a metropolitan approach for local governments is thus to cooperate on certain topics/initiatives/services, while possibly competing on others in terms of service quality and cost-effectiveness. Inter-municipal cooperation can be an important instrument to ensure collaboration at a regional level and should be fostered by the New Urban Agenda.

Dennis Mwamati Habitat III Secretariat from United States
Fri, October 2, 2015 at 04.17 pm

Thank you very much GIZ for the dimension of integrated development approach that you have brought on board!

The interconnectivity and continuous exchange; in the various cadres as described in the above comment, between the rural-urban linkages form a very key pillar in delivering sustainability in the urban future. In most cases of metropolitan development, based on these items you have described in your contribution, are enshrined in the development plans. The execution on the other hand, could deliver totally segmented and disconnected results, or vice versa. Elements of financing for such developments, stakeholders involvement, expertise and simply holistic approach in the implementation process amongst other core considerations play a major role in the failure or success.

It’s with this clear underlying understanding of the different parameters of consideration in metropolitan areas, and in general sustainable urban development, that the New Urban Agenda will draw its frame and structure from; to deliver a subtle, resilient and sustainable future for the world’s built environment.

 It would be a good point if we could have some of our colleagues from around the world cite working examples of some metropolises or pilot projects which have embraced this approach, and give us possible projected or current results from the same!! 

Adrine from United Republic of Tanzania
Wed, September 30, 2015 at 08.20 pm

 I just finished my MSc. It’s actually overcast to miss my academic friends, teachers and university grounds. Though there is a bit of a pain in my judgement, I truly hold the spirit of release now, particularly from the essays, dissertations and researches that same manner I have made it. Hence I guess today it is thanking moment. I actually thank write my research paper who helped me to serve all my all kinds of writing for the duration of the class.

Nelson Saule Júnior Lawyer , Gereral Coordinator from Brazil
Wed, September 30, 2015 at 02.59 pm

The Right to the City is defined by the World Charter on the Right to the City (2005) as the equitable usufruct of cities within the principles of sustainability, democracy, equity, and social justice. It is a new collective right of the urban inhabitants, in particular of the marginalized groups and people living under vulnerable conditions, that confers upon them legitimacy of action and organization, based on their uses and customs, with the objective to achieve full exercise of the right to free self-determination and an adequate standard of living. The Right to the City is interdependent of all internationally recognized and integrally conceived human rights, and therefore includes all the civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights which are already foreseen in the international human rights treaties. It includes the inhabitant´s rights to the resources, services, goods and opportunities of city life, including rights to citizenship, to participation in governance, and to land for housing and livelihoods; while also encompassing emerging collective rights, e.g.: to water, energy or cultural identity. The Right to the City challenges the commodification of urban land to argue for recognition of the social function of land and property. Countries and cities have already included these principles and reframed urban legislation accordingly (e.g.: Brazil and Ecuador) and practice (e.g.: Mexico City and Montréal).

Nelson Saule Júnior Lawyer , Gereral Coordinator from Brazil
Wed, September 30, 2015 at 02.47 pm

My organization Polis Institute is member of the  Global Platform Right to the City and  we are  advocating for a Habitat III outcome to embrace the Right to the City principles across four core domains: 

Right to the City principles

  • Protect, promote and implement the Right to the City in all Habitat III documents;
  • Enshrine new paradigms for integrated planning and management in the New Urban Agenda;
  • Ensure inclusive, democratic, secure and sustainable cities;
  • Fulfill the social function of property by strengthening collective social, cultural and environmental interests over individual and economic interests;
  • Incorporate the priorities, needs and experiences of citizens and communities, especially for women, the poor, the minorities and vulnerable groups, and the organizations supporting them.
  • Produce an outcome document with specific and measurable results and commitments
  • Ensure access to basic and social services, mobility, public and green spaces and the enjoyment of natural and built heritage.
    • Produce an outcome document with specific and measurable commitments and results on the implementation of the various components of the Right to the city as well as of the new Sustainable Development Goals.

About the Role of local governments in the metropolitan areas  it is necessary

  • Recognize local governments as crucial actors in the Habitat III outcomes, requiring the means for effective public management and citizen participation, to preserve cities as commons;
  • Recognize the central role and responsibility of local government in the promotion, protection and guarantee of human rights  and the adoption of Human Rights Charters ;
  • Recognize the right to a city constituted as a local political community that ensures adequate living conditions and peaceful coexistence between peoples and with government;
  • Implement real decentralization with the necessary competencies and resources, to ensure that local governments can take effective decisions to fulfill inhabitants’ rights;
  • Ensure that all city inhabitants have rights to participate in political and city management processes and create conditions for citizens empowerment;
Dennis Mwamati Habitat III Secretariat from United States
Fri, October 2, 2015 at 04.14 pm

Hi Nelson and thank you for your contribution!

 Looking at the provisions (in part I and II) of the World Charter for the Right to the City, a lot of the described items are actually in line with global discourse of discussions forming the baseline for the New Urban Agenda. The Right to the City broadens the traditional focus on improvement of peoples’ quality of life based on housing and the neighborhood, to encompass quality of life at the scale of the city/metropolis and its rural surroundings; which forms the rural-urban linkages discourse, as a mechanism of protection of the population that lives in cities or regions with rapid urbanization processes.

It’s a good view you brought on board here and we all look forward to inclusive cities that offer the basic principles and strategic foundations of the right to the city to its population. #NUA

Philippe Rivet from Canada
Mon, September 28, 2015 at 08.48 pm

About the citizen participation, indeed, executing development plans needs the constant exchange between the authorities and its population. The creation of a metropolitan vision requires significant involvement from all stakeholders and, more specifically, from elected officials and civil society.

At the metropolitan scale, its key factor to ensure that each partner must gradually adopt and share the “supralocal and regional vision”.

In the case of the Greater Montréal, the Metropolitan Land Use and Development Plan (PMAD), which come into force in 2012 following an extensive public consultation, provides the implementation of a biennial metropolitan Agora as a key monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the PMAD. The Agora aims to enable stakeholders, elected officials and civil society, to learn, share, debate and propose ideas about the implementation of the PMAD.

The next metropolitan Agora will be held Monday, October 5, 2015, just before the Montreal thematic meeting on metropolitan areas.

Someone would like to share good practices about civil society participation, upstream and downstream metropolitan planning exercises?

Ajay Nair Consultant from United States
Tue, September 29, 2015 at 12.01 am

During public consultation, it is better to use interactive data, visualization and tools for the public to review and express thier input clearly and to the specific development topic. Such medium allows the data from public to be easily ingrated into Plans, policies etc. The discussion chain would also go along as structured thouts and insights.

The process of invite, publi input towards final outputs for development needs to evolve with process analysis, tools and data integration.

Ajay Nair


Ajay Nair Consultant from United States
Sat, September 26, 2015 at 01.44 am

Here are some Planning considerations for the dialogue to debate.

1# Planning professionals also need to lead, manage to produce results in the Cities that they plan. Leaving the ‘visionary plans’ to be implemented and managed by people without knowledge on urban development process often produce undesirable out comes and performance issues in the Cities.

2# Planning standards and tools need to be more universal for countries to adopt. The adaption of universal standards and process would produce market conditions that can attract more products and services from other nations.

3# Cities need to consider supply-chain models for products and services to create sustainable developments with civic and private partnerships. The process also can promote the use of locally available sustainable materials, products and processes in the markets.

Ajay Nair


Dennis Mwamati Habitat III Secretariat from United States
Mon, September 28, 2015 at 02.43 pm

Good point of view Ajay, very much appreciated!

 The initiation of a city/metropolis development plan is quite multifaceted and will require more than the professionals to effectively roll it out. It’s quite true however that, executing such development plans needs the constant exchange between the authorities and its population around the metropolis knowledge pool in terms of public policies, planning, infrastucture as well as basic services. Running away from this collaborative implementation process leads to quite unsustainable urban development in cities, since most ‘urban templates’ need to be localized to its immediate urban context.

 On the second note, it may be quite challenging to obtain the ‘one size-fits-all’ kind of standardized approach towards urban development, due to the diversity in the metropolis scope of engagement, locations, economical aspects amongst others key considerations. Tapping into local expertise and processes localizes most of the global initiatives when it comes to the implementation phase of urban development in respective cities. In this same token, it would be quite kind if any of our professionals shared insights into some existing literature and/or case studies, where this kind of engagement has been, is, or will be successfully executed. 

Ajay Nair Consultant from United States
Mon, September 28, 2015 at 11.20 pm

Thanks for the response. It is a pattern of failure and mis-management of Planned Cities that caused me to think on those lines. The case is similar to any constructive profession, having to leave the designs to a people who do understand the designs to implement and manage a facility.

The stakeholders who manage many of the components of urban growth and operations are in many cities are poorly educated on Planning and Developent process. The leadership takes over the prioties of Cities from its basic growth and living qualities to diverse directions in many cities, not following basic city planning norms and vision. There are many Planners who are also management experts, they can be given the leadership of cities to lead to its capcities, while other stakeholders take-up their respective sector responsibilities. Such an organization pattern help many cities with growth and operational to begin with the transformation.

Hope the community would discuss and research the topic of Planning and Business Management education in Cities with development and operational problems.

Ajay Nair

Philippe Rivet from Canada
Thu, September 24, 2015 at 04.14 pm

Very important topic that is addressed here by the RUAF, thank you for this comments!

Here in the Greater Montreal, the question of the development of land and agricultural activities is at the heart of the concerns of the Montreal Metropolitan Community, the metropolitan agency created in 2001.

In the Greater Montreal, protected agricultural area covers 220,000 hectares, or 58% of the land area of ​​the region. Today, the challenge is not only to protect, but also to optimize in a sustainable way the development of agriculture, agribusiness and agroforestry.

Since the adoption in 2012 of the first Metropolitan Land Use and Development Plan for the Greater Montreal (PMAD), which targets a 6% increase in cultivated land at the metropolitan level, the CMM has put a lot of effort in this direction.

Following the adoption of the PMAD, CMM initiate the work to develop a Metropolitan Action Plan for Development of Agricultural Land and Agricultural Activities which should be adopted by the end of 2015.

Several issues will be considered in this Plan, including those relating to young farmers and farm transfers, to profitability of the bio-food sector, their diversification and recognition multifunctionality of agriculture. To do this, actions include support regional and local initiative to optimize the use of agricultural land, promote the transfer of knowledge, and develop new partnerships.

Another metropolitain areas have interresting plans or projects for the development of land and agricultural activities?

RUAF Foundation-International network on urban agriculture and food systems
Thu, September 24, 2015 at 12.29 pm

One of the key challnges facing metropolitan areas is usstinable urban food provisioning. Growing urbanisation and food insecurity, rising food prices, climate change impacts affecting food supply and resource depletion, have all triggered cities around the world to develop policy and programmes for more sustainable and resilient urban food provisioning and urban food systems. In addition, alarming increases in diet-related ill-health require cities to ensure access to sufficient, affordable, healthy and safe food to their population. Food is also increasingly seen as a driver for other sustainability policies related to health, transport, land use, social and economic development, waste management and climate resilience. 

Local and regional authorities have a key responsibility in building more sustainable urban food systems that improve food security and healthy diets, reduce food waste, provide decent livelihood opportunities for those producing, processing and selling food (in rural, peri-urban or urban areas) and promote environmental sustainable forms of food provisioning.

Development of resilient urban food systems requires both political will and the use of available policy and planning instruments such as land use planning, design and development of infrastructure  and logistics and public food procurement.

The closing of urban nutrient, energy and (food) waste streams, the creation of short food supply chains and the multifunctional properties and synergies of localised food production to other sectoral policies should be simultaneously taken into account.   Only then, an urban food system can be built that is more than just a collection of individual projects. 

Why work at metropolitan (or city region level): The city region level is the most relevant level of scale to develop and implement an integrated and comprehensive solution for a future-proof urban food system, and to best foster sustainable territorial planning, urban-rural linkages, and provisioning of ecosystem services, food and other public goods. 

After all: Cities play an important role in shaping their surrounding rural areas where land use, food production, environmental management, transport, market and producer-consumer linkages are concerned.

Cities-as hubs of consumption, and with many food system activities like processing, storage, retail taking place in urban areas- do have a responsibility and opportunities for building more sustainable food systems, that prevent and reduce food wastes; provide decent livelihood opportunities for rural, peri-urban and urban producers; promote environmental sustainable forms of food production, processing and marketing (like reduced water use, claimer processing and transport systems etcetera) and ensure food and nutrition security for all consumers and other value chain actors.   

The food provisioning system of any city across the globe, whether small or large, is always a hybrid food system, i.e., combining different modes of food provisioning and consumption (institutional, retail, street foods). Some cities are mainly, though not exclusively, fed by urban, peri-urban and nearby rural farms and food processors, while other cities rely largely, though not entirely, on food produced and processed in other countries or continents. In all cases however, food systems link rural and urban communities in a region within a country, across regions, and sometimes between continents. Cities and urban food supply systems play an important role in shaping their surrounding  -and more distant- rural areas where land use, food production, environmental management, transport and distribution, marketing, consumption and waste generation is  concerned.

In this context, a city region food system (CRFS) approachprovides a critical lens for analysis, and at the same time supports on the ground policy transformation and implementation. Working a city region level can be a means to unpack the complexity of rural urban linkage to a practical level, with food being the entry point or common denominator that brings down broader issues such as human rights, climate change and resilience to a digestable form and provide cities and metropolitan regions practical strategies to address broader issues.

Improved city region food systems will help improve economic, social and environmental conditions in both urban and nearby rural areas. Access to affordable and nutritious traded foods from local and regional producers will improve consumer food security and nutrition from high to low income, from rural to urban, and enhance transparency in the food chain.  Access to markets and support to alternative markets (e.g. community supported agriculture, farmers markets, cooperatives, fair trade, etc.) will improve livelihoods of smallholders and other small-scale producers, not just large ones. Local and regional food hubs and shorter value chains, and more broadly efficient and functioning agricultural supply chains that link hinterland producers to market systems, can contribute to sustainable diets, reduce food waste along the chain and stabilise livelihoods in distribution, processing and manufacture of food and fibre products. Scarce water, nutrients and energy can be resourced, reused in agricultural production and recovered resources that may be otherwise urban “waste” flows. Applying a city region perspective can also help creating participatory governance structures that include stakeholders from multiple sectors from both urban and rural areas.

City region food system development will need to go hand in hand with enhancing sustainability of more distant value chains to the benefits of smallholder producers and urban consumers. 

The recogonition for city region food systems , improving urban-rural linkages, and the role that urban and peri-urban agriculture eg localised food production can play are recognised in the Habitat III issue paper on urban rural linkages. This should be supported from a perspective of sustainable metropolitan  development as well as equitable development of urban and rural areas.

Dennis Mwamati Habitat III Secretariat from United States
Thu, September 24, 2015 at 02.16 pm

Very key, and quite insightful comment. Thank you very much RUAF for the dimension you have brought onboard on food provisioning in regards to Sustainable Metropolitan Development. We are all fully aware the challenge that aspect poses to the future of most metropolises, and as well the opportunities for urban innovation it provides to the dwellers and its local and regional authorities. Considering that urbanization has brought high-rated, problem-related innovations, the area of urban food security has well been researched and solutions, as well as pathways provided to ease the load borne by the metropolitan authorities in provision of basic livelihoods for its dwellers. It would be quite interesting if we could have some success stories across the world based on this element of urban food systems, which could well cast some light and focus on the best practices and lessons learned.  

Christopher Blogger: kidurbanist.com from Canada
Wed, September 23, 2015 at 05.21 am

What functions and services are best provided at the regional level, and what are best left to constituent muncipalities, is a fundamental question facing metropolitan areas worldwide. Too often arguments for economies of scale and perceived efficiency leave member municipalities without adequate recourse and voice in decisions made by metro agencies. Equally problematic is stubbornness on the part of municipalities unwilling to collaborate, even in the face of mounting fiscal pressures. Reaping the benefits of metro-level cooperation means striking the right balance for each unique urban region.

A separate issue is political representation. Groups already underrepresented within government writ-large can be further marginalized within metropolitan governance structures. For example, though many municipalities worldwide have established formal youth advisory bodies, oftentimes the purview of these structures are limited to local jurisdiction. This can result in critical perspectives being left out of discussions of important regional issues. Metropolitan governance must take into account and appropriately institutionalize mechanisms to ensure such perspectives are represented.

Philippe Rivet Research advisor, Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM) from Canada
Tue, September 22, 2015 at 08.54 pm

Welcome to the Online Consultations on Metropolitan Areas

Hello everybody, today we are launching the Habitat III Online Consultations on Metropolitan Areas. Comments generated by this e-discussion will contribute to the Montréal Declaration on Metropolitan Areas and the Habitat III process.

First, I would like to say that The Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (The Montréal Metropolitan Community) is very proud to organize this international meeting in partnership with the Habitat III Secretariat. It’s a great opportunity to discuss metropolitan issues and highlight that metropolitan areas do have an important role to play in developing the “New Urban Agenda for the 21st Century”.

Established on January 2001, the Montréal Metropolitan Community (MMC) is a planning, co-ordinating and funding body serving the 82 municipalities of the Greater Montréal, which is home to almost 3.9 million inhabitants.

To open the discussion, we invite you to share your point of view on major metropolitan challenges resulting from the intensification of metropolization. As metropolitan areas become ever more populated, urban challenges grow broader in scope and often call for policies and initiatives that extend beyond local boundaries.  How should these challenges be addressed at the metropolitan level?