Globally, over 50% of the population lives in urban areas today, and this trend is expected to continue – by 2045, the number of people living in cities will increase by 1.5 times to 6 billion, adding 2 billion more urban residents.

With more than 80% of global GDP generated in cities, urbanization can contribute to sustainable growth if managed well by increasing productivity, allowing innovation and new ideas to emerge.

However, the speed and scale of urbanization brings challenges, including meeting accelerated demand for affordable housing, well-connected transport systems, and other infrastructure, basic services, as well as jobs, particularly for the nearly 1 billion urban poor who live in informal settlements to be near opportunities.

Cities also play an important role in tackling climate change, as they consume close to 2/3 of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. As cities develop, their exposure to climate and disaster risk also increases. Almost half a billion urban residents live in coastal areas, increasing their vulnerability to storm surges and sea level rise.

Building cities that “work” – inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable – requires intensive policy coordination and investment choices. Once a city is built, its physical form and land use patterns can be locked in for generations, leading to unsustainable sprawl.

National and local governments have an important role to play to take action now, to shape the future of their development, to create opportunities for all.

Last Updated: Oct 10,2016

The World Bank’s work in urban development aims to build sustainable cities and communities through an urbanization process that is inclusiveresilientproductive, and livable, in line with the World Bank’s goals to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity.

World Bank-supported operations and technical assistance contributes to the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goal No.11 to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

The Bank’s work in urban development has three core pillars:

  1. Strengthening city finances, planning, and governance systems;
  2. Improving different dimensions of living conditions for people – infrastructure services, tenure, housing, and neighborhoods; and
  3. Supporting urban transformation through improved urban and land-use planning, management, and implementation of integrated investments in infrastructure and service delivery in a manner that can improve urban space and impact city form over the long run, through reducing sprawl and enhancing livability, resilience, and productivity.

The three core pillars are translated into six business lines:

  • Cities and economic growth
  • Urban poverty and inclusion
  • Municipal infrastructure and services
  • Affordable housing and land
  • Urban management, finance, and governance
  • Cities and urban environment

These business lines are delivered through a) technical assistance, knowledge, and analytical services, b) convening, and c) financing.

In addition, the Bank is increasingly working on the issue of climate change in cities. It focuses on risk and resilience including ex-ante and ex-post disaster risk mitigation, low-carbon planning and investments, and access to financing for climate-smart infrastructure.

Last Updated: Sep 21,2016

Technical assistance, knowledge and analytical services

Understanding urbanization: The World Bank is conducting research on urban spatial development, housing, and urban environment, focusing on regional, as well as country specific Urbanization Reviews that aim to support national and city-level policymakers in thinking strategically about the opportunities – and addressing the challenges – of urbanization.

Other recent analytical work and tools to help cities manage urbanization and support sustainable, inclusive growth include: 

Resilience: Conducted under the World Bank’s Resilient Cities Program and supported by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), CityStrength is a rapid diagnostic that aims to enhance cities’ resilience to a variety of shocks and stresses. CityStrength has been successfully piloted in Can Tho, Vietnam and in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  It has also been implemented in Ghana’s Greater Accra Metropolitan Area, as well as 10 regional capitals in Ethiopia.

With $1 million support from GFDRR, the Bank is working to help national and local governments in Central America better understand climate change as well as the disaster resilience of their national urban systems. Demands and assessment by the governments identified priority actions in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Finance: The City Creditworthiness Initiative provides local authorities with comprehensive support to promote urban infrastructure investments. The engagement begins with learning programs for leaders called “City Creditworthiness Academies.” The Academies have provided training on fundamentals of creditworthiness and municipal finance to over 500 officials from over 200 cities in Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Korea, Rwanda, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, and West Bank & Gaza


Cities in a changing climate: The World Bank’s work on urban development has been instrumental in advocating for addressing climate change issues during COP21. During the last year, the World Bank invested over $3 billion in urban climate finance and provided technical assistance to help developing countries build climate-smart cities. This figure is expected to grow as the Bank moves to increase its climate finance by a third over the next five years.

Sharing city experiences: The Global Platform for Sustainable Cities (GPSC) is a knowledge platform established in partnership with development banks, UN organizations, city networks, think tanks and local agencies. It is a new initiative that helps increase cities’ overall capability and “readiness” for attracting investment and preparing bankable projects. It aims to promote an integrated approach to urban planning, financing, and implementation.

Metrolab is a World Bank-convened partnership in which metropolitan cities from all over the world share action-oriented knowledge on urban and regional strategic planning and management through peer-to peer-learning. 


In rapidly urbanizing Vietnam, the Urban Vietnam Upgrading Project – with $382 million financing from the World Bank – improved the lives of 7.5 million urban poor with better water and sewage connections, as well as improved roads, sewers, lakes, canals, and bridges.  

In Indonesia, the recently approved Indonesia National Slum Upgrading Program, which includes substantial additional finance through co-financing from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), is improving access to urban infrastructure and services in targeted slums.

In Jordan and Lebanon, two related projects are supporting local authorities and communities hosting Syrian refugees, and include strong consultation and feedback mechanisms.

The Jordan project to address the urgently needed rehabilitation of municipal infrastructure has benefitted about two million people, including 250,000 Syrian refugees.  In Lebanon, interventions to release tensions reached 250,000 people within a year – three times the initial target – particularly those in the host communities close to refugee camps, and also improved service delivery to more than one million Lebanese people. 

In Kenya, the Bank is supporting devolution through lending and technical assistance programs, most notably the recently approved Kenya Devolution Support Program (KDSP) and the Kenya Accountable Devolution Program (KADP). Through both projects, the Bank is playing a key role in supporting the implementation of the National Capacity Building Framework (NCBF) to bring about enhancements in local accountability and basic service delivery.

In Belize, the Bank supported the national government in developing and implementing the National Climate Resilient Investment Plan (NCRIP) through the Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project, which helped position the country to leverage additional climate financing from international financing institutions. 

In the Eastern Caribbean countries, the Bank has mobilized over $200 million for enhancing climate resilience and strategically reducing their vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters, including $83 million from the Strategic Climate Fund, and immediately following natural disasters (e.g., Saint Lucia Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project).

In Georgia, the Regional Development Project assists the country’s regions in improving their infrastructure in order to capitalize on a growing tourism market; thus assisting in improving their local competitiveness and economic development.

In Azerbaijan, the Bank has supported the national government in improving solid waste collection and disposal operations in the Greater Baku area – cleaning and closing the main Balakhani landfill and 50 wild dumps – and a new solid waste management agency for Greater Baku has been established. A national solid waste management strategy and an investment plan are now under preparation with the Bank’s support.

In Pakistan, the Bank is helping the five largest cities in the province of Punjab improve their systems for planning, resource management, and accountability through a $150 million results-based financing. The city governments are developing and implementing medium-term, integrated development and asset management plans with evidence-based prioritization for municipal infrastructure and services, resulting in increased revenue collection and reduced expenditures, providing financial headroom. Automated systems for public access to information and grievance redressal, as well as updated websites with information on budgets and procurements, are ensuring greater accountability.

Last Updated: Sep 30,2016

East Asia’s Changing Urban Landscape: Measuring a Decade of Spatial Growth

East Asia’s Changing Urban Landscape: Measuring a Decade of Spatial Growth

New World Bank data compiled through satellite imagery and geospatial mapping provides better understanding of East Asia’s accelerating urbanization.

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