the urban Thinkers Campus (UTC) is an initiative of the World Urban Campaign driven by UN-Habitat 

The Urban Thinkers Campus model is an initiative of UN-Habitat conceived as an open space for critical exchange between urban researchers, professionals, and decision-makers who believe that urbanization is an opportunity and can lead to positive urban transformations. It is also intended as a platform to build consensus between partners engaged in addressing urbanization challenges and proposing solutions to urban futures. 

The first Urban Thinkers in Campus was organized in October 2014 on the theme The City We Need, and brought together urban thinkers and established UN-Habitat partner organizations and constituencies to reflect on current urban challenges and trends and to propose a new paradigm. Building on the previous deliberations of the World Urban Campaign, this Campus was meant to gather new thinking and strengthen the first campaign position entitled The Future We Want - The City We Need that was prepared from September to December 2013 and launched in March 2014 in New York prior to the Seventh Session of the World Urban Forum (April 2014, Medellin). The First Urban Thinkers Campus was acknowledged by participants as a model to pursue for further debates in order to bring partners around the table to negotiate principles, policies, and action planning on key issues that need to be addressed at the Habitat III Conference and built up in the New Urban Agenda. 

Subsequently, the World Urban Campaign Steering Committee at its 11th Meeting in October 2014 recommended that other Urban Thinkers Campuses be solicited in order to amplify the urban thinkers’ movement towards Habitat III. Those new campuses would allow strengthening The City We Need position of partners further. From 29 June 2015 to 20 February 2016, Urban Thinkers Campuses have been organized around the framework of The City We Need. engaging 7,847 men and women from 124 countries and 2,137 organizations, representing fourteen constituent groups: Local and Subnational Authorities, Research and Academia, Civil Society Organizations, Grassroots Organizations, Women, Parliamentarians, Children and youth, Business and industries, Foundations and Philanthropies, Professionals, Trade Unions and Workers, Farmers, Indigenous people and the Media. These constituencies have gathered in 26 Campuses to converge and debate in multiple Urban Thinkers Sessions, Urban Labs, Plenary Debates, Exhibitions, Media and Cinema Sessions organized, under the leadership of the WUC partners. The journey which started in Caserta drove us to Stockholm (Sweden), Kampala (Uganda), Hong Kong (China), New Delhi (India), Palermo (Italy), Nairobi (Kenya), New York (USA), Geneva (Switzerland), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Omaha (USA), Barcelona (Spain), Mexico City (Mexico), Recife (Brazil), Dubai (UAE), Paris (France), Vancouver, Kuching (Malaysia), Chitungwisa (Zimbabwe), Melbourne (Australia), Mannheim (Germany), and ended in Alghero (Italy) (Annex A: list of UTC – Phase 1). 

The recommendations made by the Urban Thinkers Campuses were then compiled and distilled by a Drafting Committee which concluded its work on 12 March 2016 to deliver The City We Need 2.0. The manifesto was then adopted unanimously by the World Urban Campaign Steering Committee on 16 March 2016 in Prague/Czech Republic, where they acknowledged the Urban Thinkers Campus as an unprecedented consensus-building process whereby everyone was given a voice through a decentralized model. Never before in the history of UN-Habitat has such a decentralized process been able to engage participants on that scale in a structured dialogue, giving a voice to everyone to build a joint manifesto. 

The UTC process offers a structured model of participation in multiple locations, allowing people to contribute in a longer time frame while bringing to the table the specificities of different contexts. It builds on both global and local engagement, allows participation from diverse regions, at different times and in different types of sessions allowing dialogue, showcasing, experimentation and consensus building among structured constituent groups and following an agreed format and the same reporting framework for all UTCs.

The City We Need 2.0 presents a new urban paradigm for the 21st century, a vision that was shared with the world before the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), before the Zero Draft of the New Urban Agenda to disseminate compelling messages around key principles, drivers of change, solutions, and generate commitments.

At the 16th session in Quito in October 2016, the WUC Steering Committee has recommended that a new series of Urban Thinkers Campuses be organized in order to continue engaging stakeholders in the post-Habitat III era. WUC Partners have endorsed a new generation of Urban Thinkers Campuses to be used as platforms for action bringing together all partners to implement the New Urban Agenda towards The City We Need.

UTC Goals and Principles

  • Contribute to the implementation of the New Urban Agenda towards The City We Need

    In 2012, Partners of the World Urban Campaign have called for a new urban paradigm based on a critical review of current urbanization patterns and practices: To make sure we have the city we need in the 21st century cities our new urban paradigm will have to be guided by a set of principles preliminarily articulated in the Manifesto for Cities (…). We will have to translate these principles into policy action areas tailored to local conditions. 

    The City We Need 2.0 encompasses ten principles:

    1. The City We Need is socially inclusive and engaging
    2. The City We Need is affordable, accessible and equitable
    3. The City We Need is economically vibrant and inclusive
    4. The City We Need is collectively managed and democratically governed 
    5. The City We Need fosters cohesive territorial development
    6. The City We Need is regenerative and resilient
    7. The City We Need has shared identities and a sense of place
    8. The City We Need is well-planned, walkable and transit-friendly
    9. The City We Need is safe, healthy and promotes well-being
    10. The City We Need learns and innovates 

    and ten drivers of change:

    1. Governance and Partnerships
    2. Planning and Design
    3. Finance
    4. Land, Housing and Services
    5. Environment
    6. Health and Safety
    7. Economy and Livelihoods
    8. Education
    9. Technology
    10. Monitoring and Evaluation

    Those have generated a series of urban solutions proposed after Urban Thinkers Campuses – Phase 1 and before the Habitat III Conference. Those implementable urban solutions were meant to be innovative, stimulating, inspiring, ambitious and grounded in the reality of communities and practice. In the post-Habitat III era the solutions were meant to be subject to further scrutiny and commitment to action. For the WUC Urban Thinkers, urban solutions have been conceived as initiatives, practices, policies and models that address urban challenges. They should range from projects to strategies that have been implemented or are in the course of being implemented, meant to have a proven impact on people’s lives, to be economically feasible, replicable and scalable, influencing transformation. 

    From PRINCIPLES to DRIVERS OF CHANGE and URBAN SOLUTIONS, the next step is geared to ACTION to implement the New Urban Agenda defined for the next twenty years. 

    Solution areas have been identified in the first round of WUC urban solutions prior to Habitat III: 

    1. Financing tools and promotion of social capital: How to finance the City We Need. How communities are going to cope with their lives in a context of reduced resources. Solutions are precisely at the heart of communities and social networks ruled by reciprocity, trust, and cooperation, producing goods and services not mainly for themselves, but for a common good, an essential key to The City We Need. 
    2. Empowerment in the urban space: Informal workers, slum dwellers, children and youth are prime examples of these groups, which if empowered to better access the city yield great returns to communities at unanticipated scales. Empowering people uses various vehicles from education to art. 
    3. Optimization of urban access and flows: Access and flows of vehicles, utilities and data can be greatly optimized in order to improve overall quality of life and economic returns at several levels. Such solutions also have tremendous impacts on the use of energy, land and resources, directly addressing environment and climate issues. 
    4. Sharing and pooling: In the same spirit, sharing and pooling data, bikes, cars, utilities, etc. seems to be the trend in order to cope with decreasing resources and to optimize usage of urban infrastructure and space. At the same time, such solutions reinforce social interaction while promoting economic returns. 
    5. Environmental regenerative urban processes: These solutions help cities to harness their own regenerative capacity in order to address their increasingly damaging ecological footprints. Inefficient operations and wasteful linear systems should be turned into resource-efficient and circular systems 

    Those solutions areas should inspire WUC partners to focus on these areas in dedicated Urban Thinkers Campuses in order to define action towards the achievement of The City We Need. 

  • Creating an open space for critical exchange and consensus building

    The Urban Thinkers Campus should offer an open space for partners. It should convene representatives of different constituencies and partner organizations to debate around emerging practices that can positively contribute to a new urban paradigm in order to define their priorities. 

    The Campus should not be presented as a formal conference where speakers make official presentations. The Urban Thinkers Campus is meant to be a place to share, learn and define the way forward through individual and joint commitments to implement the New Urban Agenda. The format of the Campus should flexible, based on open facilitated sessions, allowing a high level of interaction. All participants should have equal opportunities to voice their views, ideas, and commitment to support their vision towards action. 

  • Action-Oriented UTCs

    The Urban Thinkers Campuses – Phase 2 (UTC 2.0) are meant to articulate the next steps of ACTION in order to implement the New Urban Agenda towards The City We Need: 

    1. PRIORITY ACTIONS: Urban Thinkers should define their priority actions. They should agree on those in roundtables after a series of urban labs and urban thinkers’ sessions
    2. COMMITMENTS: They should bring their individual organizations commitments at roundtables of negotiations after a series of partner group sessions
    3. ACTION PLAN: They should then define an action plan combining all priority actions and commitments of all stakeholders presented in plenary. 
    4. ROLE SETTING: They should agree on roles and responsibilities of stakeholders. 
    5. ROAD MAP: The final outcome of each Campus should be an agreed implementable road map with key milestones presented in plenary. 
    6. SHARING: The above should be shared publicly through all WUC outreach channels (website, social media, newsletter, emails and others). 

The first Urban Thinkers in Campus session was organized on the theme 'The City We Need' and brought together urban thinkers and established UN-Habitat partner organizations and constituencies to reflect on current urban challenges and trends and to propose a new urban paradigm. The new paradigm would be a contribution to the New Urban Agenda, delivered at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in 2016. 

Since 2015, about 43,000 people have participated in about 180 Urban Thinkers Campus Sessions worldwide.

Read more on the UTC's background.

Implementing the New Urban Agenda

The New Urban Agenda was adopted at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador, on 20 October 2016. It was endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly at its sixty-eighth plenary meeting of the seventy-first session on 23 December 2016.

The New Urban Agenda is an action-oriented document that mobilizes Member States and other key stakeholders to drive sustainable urban development at the local level.

The implementation of the New Urban Agenda contributes to the localization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in an integrated manner, and to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and targets, including Goal 11 of making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The New Urban Agenda also calls for strengthened climate action (Goal 13) and an improved urban environment.

Climate Action in the New Urban Agenda

The New Urban Agenda calls for strengthened climate action and an improved urban environment. In particular:

“We commit to integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation considerations into urban and territorial development and planning processes by 2036”
Habitat III Conference - Quito, October 2016
  • The Paris Agreement

    In the Paris Agreement (2015), cities and subnational authorities are explicitly invited to scale up efforts to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. Climate commitments by cities and non-State actors could push countries to better achieve their emissions reduction goals under the Paris Agreement. In 2021, countries are meant to start implementing this agreement. The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) to be held on 1-12 Nov 2021 in Glasgow will be a critical moment.


  • SDG11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

    The United Nation’s Agenda for Sustainable Development, and Sustainable Development Goal 11 “to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” puts sustainable urbanization as one of the key priorities of the global agendas for development. It has been called the ‘docking station’ for all the other SDGs. The adoption of the new Urban Agenda by the United Nations in 2016 has seen national and local governments around the world embark on a transformative path towards making SDG11 a reality.

  • 2021

     "2021 must be the year of a great leap toward carbon neutrality. Every country, city, financial institution and company should adopt plans for transitioning to net zero emissions by 2050.” 

    "We are all rightly focused on responding to the pandemic. But as we strive to overcome one crisis, we have an opening to address another," Guterres said. "The pandemic has shown that we can think big and act big in the face of an emergency. We have crucial decisions to make in the weeks and months ahead. Let's get it right." Antonio Guterres, 16 Nov 2020.