• Globally, 55% 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. By 2050, 68% of the world’s population will be urban.

    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 05,2018

  • The World Bank’s work in urban development aims to build sustainable cities and communities through an urbanization process that is inclusive, resilient and low carbon, productive, and livable, contributing to the World Bank’s goals to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity.

    The World Bank invests an average of $6 billion in urban development and resilience projects every year. Through a combination of investment project financing, policy development loans, and Program-for-Results funding, the Bank aims to help cities meet the critical demands of urbanization.

    The World Bank is working in partnership with the private sector, governments, and civil society to build cities and communities that are: (1) resilient to climate change and disasters caused by natural hazards; (2) sustainable with low-carbon growth; and (3) well-financed to create competitive economies, jobs for people, and ensure all – especially the poorest – can benefit.

    World Bank-supported operations and technical assistance contributes to the Sustainable Development Goal No.11 and the implementation of the New Urban Agenda to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable for all.

    The World 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 World 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: Oct 05,2018

  • 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: The World Bank Group (WBG) is helping cities adapt to a greater variety of changing conditions and withstand shocks while maintaining essential functions through urban resilience programs. For example, the City Resilience Program (CRP) is an effort to support the Bank’s city-level engagements by providing a platform to support the development of comprehensive resilience-building investments, while crowding in a range of sources of private and official capital to finance these investment programs. Similarly, the CityStrength Diagnostic enhances cities’ resilience and has been successfully implemented in 28 local governments in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Vietnam.

    “Investing in Urban Resilience: Protecting and Promoting Development in a Changing World” discusses the urgent need to scale up the amount of financing that flows to cities and toward projects that increase resilience of urban areas. The report discusses constraints that currently limit the amount of private investment in this space, and makes the case that the World Bank Group can and should deploy its various analytical tools and powerful financing products to attract more private capital into projects that increase resilience of urban infrastructure. 

    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 600 officials from 240 cities in 25 countries, including 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 COP21/22/23 and the One Planet Summit. In recent years, the World Bank has worked in cities and towns across over 140 countries, investing $5.3 billion during fiscal year 2018 in disaster risk management.

    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 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 disasters caused by natural hazards, including $83 million from the Strategic Climate Fund, and immediately following disasters (e.g., Saint Lucia Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project).

    In Colombia, the national government has put forward a series of institutional and policy changes to promote the peace building process. With the support of the World Bank, these efforts focus on strengthening institutions for land management and territorial planning, as well as improving subnational financial management and investment prioritization.

    In East Africa, the World Bank has an operational portfolio of almost $1 billion in urban projects focused on improving financial and institutional performance in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. 

    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, World Bank loans supported the rehabilitation of the main landfill site and establishment of a state-owned waste management company, increasing the population served by the formal solid waste management to 74% in 2012. Support also led to further sustainable waste management practices, helping achieve a 25% recycling and reuse rate.

    In Indonesia, the 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 Argentina, the Metropolitan Buenos Aires Urban Transformation Project is supporting the improvement of living conditions for around 48,000 residents in disadvantaged neighborhoods in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area.

    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 World 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 the North and North Eastern regions of Kenya, the Bank has launched the North & Northeastern Development Initiative (NEDI), a multi-sectoral program consisting of projects in transport, water, energy, agriculture, livelihoods, and social protection to connect the region to national and global markets.

    In Casablanca, Morocco, a EUR 172 million World Bank loan aims to improve the city’s investment capacity by improving the municipality’s revenue management systems, and attracting private investment in municipal infrastructure and services through public-private partnerships.

    In Pakistan, the World 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.

    In rapidly urbanizing Vietnam, the Vietnam Urban 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. 

    Last Updated: Oct 05,2018



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In Depth

Solid Waste Management

Effective solid waste management plays an important role in creating sustainable, livable, low-carbon cities, including improving health, education, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Earth Observation for Development

Using sophisticated measurement systems from a constellation of orbiting satellites, the Earth observation partnership helps communities protect and manage natural resources and plan urban growth.

Guide to Climate Change Adaptation in Cities

This guide discusses good practices and success studies for linking climate change to community priorities and issues such as disaster risk reduction and economic development.

Urbanization Reviews

The World Bank's Urbanization Reviews offer a framework for city leaders to make tough decisions on development by providing diagnostic tools to identify policy distortions and analyze investment priorities.

Additional Resources

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Kristyn Schrader-King