Multi-Lateral Summaries > United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT)

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. The main roles and responsibilities of UNHABITAT derive from the Habitat Agenda, adopted by the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1996. Thereafter, the UN General Assembly mandated UN-Habitat with overall responsibility for the coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda. The Habitat Agenda comprises two main goals: adequate shelter for all, and sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world.

TCB Related Programme

Given the considerable degree of socio-economic interdependence between urban and rural areas in most countries, the international development agenda has given increasing importance to the promotion of a more balanced approach to the development of the two areas, namely the rural-urban linkage development approach. Rural-urban linkages generally refer to the growing flows of public and private capital, people, goods, ideas, information and technology. Adequate infrastructure, such as transportation, communication, energy, and basic services, is central to the rural-urban development linkage approach. One of the main economic objectives of the rural-urban linkage approach is to strengthen (sub-national) trade links by improving access of rural products to urban markets.

The three main aims are: (i) to promote balanced regional development through enhanced rural-urban linkages, (ii) to alleviate poverty through the promotion of employment and other income-generating activities, and (iii) to facilitate the commercialization of rural products in urban areas.

UN-HABITAT considers this approach as having a great potential for promoting regional socio-economic development and, in particular, for generating employment opportunities, and thus contributing to poverty alleviation in both rural and urban areas. UN-HABITAT’s capacity building activities to enhance rural-urban trade links encourage governments to institutionalize and integrate rural-urban linkages into their respective national and sub-national development planning processes. Its activities thus focus on trade policy development, supply capacity and trade promotion at the national level, as well as global advocacy.

Successful Projects

Over the years, UN-HABITAT has taken concrete steps to launch various programmes and initiatives to promote and implement this approach. For example, in cooperation with UNDP and the Government of Nepal, UN-HABITAT has implemented the Rural-Urban Partnership Programme (RUPP), which aimed to strengthen rural-urban development linkages in Nepal. RUPP addressed not only the physical and spatial aspects of development, but also its key socio-economic dimensions. Similarly, with financial support from UNDP, UN-HABITAT has implemented the Poverty Alleviation through Rural-Urban Linkages (PARUL) project in Indonesia. This project adopted several strategies to strengthen rural-urban linkages, including the promotion of public-private partnerships and improved market access for small scale producers through collaboration with large scale enterprises.

Building on this past work, the Urban Economy Branch of UN-HABITAT has recently set up a Rural-Urban Linkages Support Programme (RULSUP) to promote the incorporation of the rural-urban linkages approach into regional and national development strategies. RULSUP will initially focus on strengthening rural-urban development linkages in eastern Africa. Similar initiatives for other developing country regions will be considered in the future.


The Lake Victoria Local Economic Development Initiative (LV-LED), recently completed project: UN-HABITAT, FAO, IFAD, WFP, ILO, UNIDO and the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC)

For more information:

TCB activities in this guide


  • Lake Victoria Local Economic Development Initiative (LV-LED)