UN-Habitat is the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future. Its mission is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development and the achievement of adequate shelter for all.

Philippine cities are facing unprecedented demographic, environmental, economic, social and spatial challenges. There has been a phenomenal shift towards urbanization, with 5 out of every 10 Filipinos living in cities, with an estimated 84 per cent of Filipinos expected to reside in urban areas by 2050. This growth is expected to happen not only in the capital Metro Manila but mainly in small and intermediate cities. The consequences of this rapid urbanization will be dramatic.

In many big and small cities in the Philippines, the effects can already be felt: lack of proper housing and growth of slums, inadequate and out-dated infrastructure – be it roads, public transport, water, sanitation, or electricity – families facing poverty and unemployment, safety and crime problems, pollution and health issues, as well as the impacts of natural or man-made disasters and other catastrophes due to the effects of climate change. UN-Habitat recognises that urbanization is an opportunity to address these effects and leave nobody behind.

UN-Habitat Philippines programmes use a three-pronged approach:

Urban rules and regulations — Adequate planning rules and regulations are a prerequisite to the design, production and management of efficient and equitable human settlements.

Urban planning and design — The quality of urban planning and design has a determining impact on the value generated by human settlements through efficient and equitable public space, streets and buildable areas.

Municipal Finance — Efficient and transparent municipal finance systems are key to investments, maintenance and management of the city. They should ensure redistribution of benefits generated by urban endogenous development.


The United Nations Human Settlements programme (UN-Habitat) was established in 1978, following a meeting in Vancouver known as Habitat I. At the time, urbanization and its impacts were less significant on the agenda of the United Nations as two-thirds of humanity was still living in rural areas. Since then, the world has experienced massive urban growth.

In 1996, the United Nations held a second conference on cities, Habitat II, in Istanbul, Turkey to assess two decades of progress since Vancouver and set fresh goals for the new millennium. Adopted by 171 countries, the political document, known as the Habitat Agenda, contained over 100 commitments and 600 recommendations.

From 1997 to 2002 half of the world had become urban, and UN-Habitat – guided by the Habitat Agenda and the Millennium Declaration – underwent a major revitalization, using its experience to identify emerging priorities for sustainable urban development.

On 1 January 2002, the agency’s mandate was strengthened and its status elevated to that of a fully fledged programme of the United Nations system. It is through this agenda that UN-Habitat contributes to the overall objective of the United Nations system to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development. Its partners range from governments and local authorities to a wide international cross-section of non-governmental organizations and civil society groups.

The United Nations Millennium Declaration recognises the dire circumstances of the world’s urban and rural poor. It articulates the commitment of Member States, including the Philippines , to reduce poverty and all forms of human deprivation.

In 2003, UN-Habitat launched good urban governance and secure tenure campaigns in the Philippines . A year after, a series of projects for assisting cities in localizing the millennium development goals was started. Thus, the UN-Habitat Country Office in the Philippines was established.

UN-Habitat Mandate

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme or UN-Habitat is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all.

For further on the main documents outlining the mandate of UN-Habitat can be found on UN-Habitat Headquarters website here.