The Council draws together global expertise on sustainable, healthy, and just urban development, and works with decisionmakers at all levels of government to redirect cities towards ambitious social goals.

Inaugural Council on Urban Initiatives session
Inaugural Council on Urban Initiatives session

Cities are experiencing change at an unprecedented scale and pace and are disproportionately exposed to challenges of climate change, inequality and well-being. There is a growing consensus that the business-as-usual approach to urban governance, development and planning will fail to deliver on the collective agendas of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and other and net-zero commitments. Urban leaders must move on from incrementalism and work to achieve fundamental shifts in urban environments, systems of governance and forms of habitation.

The Council on Urban Initiatives was established in response to the UN Secretary General, António Guterres’ call to use the pandemic as an ‘opportunity to reflect and reset how we live in, interact with and rebuild our cities.’

The trajectory of cities must change, and the Council contributes to supporting urban leaders remake our urban age.

Cities sit at the heart of delivering the Sustainable Development Goals – but are held back by out-of-date governance structures and economic reasoning. The Council on Urban Initiatives will reimagine the tools, practices and governance frameworks cities need to address society’s most urgent grand challenges, from climate to health and digitalization”

Mariana Mazzucato, Council co-chair and Director, UCL IIPP

Bringing together urban leaders who have transformed their cities – from Barcelona to Bogota – with activists, thinkers and practitioners, creates a real opportunity to reimagine the way cities are planned and decisions are made to make cities fairer, healthier and greener.”

Ricky Burdett, Council co-chair and Director, LSE Cities
Council on Urban Initiatives Launch Publication

This publication was developed to coincide with Cities at the Crossroads, the Council on Urban Initiates official launch event in November 2021. It outlines the Council’s mission and objectives with commentary from Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat and a foreword by Council co-chairs Ricky Burdett and Mariana Mazzucato. The publication also contains a section on urban analytics, illustrating comparative challenges related to spatial growth, justice, health and the environment across 22 global cities.

A world map representing current populations and forecasted growth between 2020 and 2035
A world map representing current populations and forecasted growth between 2020 and 2035

The Council on Urban Initiatives is a collaborative partnership established in November 2021 between UN-Habitat, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose and LSE Cities at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The Council’s work is supported by Impact on Urban Health.

Organising Partners

The UN-Habitat’s vision of “a better quality of life for all in an urbanizing world” is bold and ambitious. UN-Habitat works with partners to build inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and communities. UN-Habitat collaborates with governments, intergovernmental, UN agencies, civil society organizations, foundations, academic institutions and the private sector to achieve enduring results in addressing the challenges of urbanization.

The UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) aims to develop a new framework for creating, nurturing and evaluating public value in order to achieve economic growth that is more innovation-led, inclusive and sustainable. We intend this framework to inform the debate about the direction of economic growth and the use of mission-oriented policies to confront social and technological problems. Our work will feed into innovation and industrial policy, financial reform, institutional change, and sustainable development.

LSE Cities is an international centre that investigates the complexities of the contemporary city. It carries out research, graduate and executive education, outreach and advisory activities in London and abroad. Extending LSE’s century old commitment to the understanding of urban society, LSE Cities investigates how complex urban systems are responding to the pressures of growth, change and globalisation with new infrastructures of design and governance that both complement and threaten social equity and environmental sustainability.

Knowledge Partner

Impact on Urban Health is a place-based funder, focused on improving health in inner-city areas by understanding and changing how inequalities impact our health. Rooted in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, some of the most diverse areas in the world, they invest, test, and build understanding of how cities can be shaped to support better health. Impact on Urban Health is committed to achieving health equity by helping urban areasbecome healthier places for everyone to live.


The Council on Urban Initiatives work is supported by a secretariat which carries out the Councils day-to-day operations. The secretariat team is based at UN-Habitat, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP), and LSE Cities.


Edlam Abera Yemeru Chief, Knowledge and Innovation Branch

Filiep Decorte Emergency Director

Cerin Kizhakkethottam Programme Management Officer


Isadora Spillman-Schappell Research Fellow in Climate, Cities and Innovation

Luis Hernán Sáenz García Researcher

LSE Cities

Catalina Duarte Policy Officer

Louise Ellaway Policy Officer

Tayo Isa-Daniel Project Officer and Researcher