Equitable Global Urban Development: Grand Challenge for the 21st Century

Authored by IHC Global

What is the Problem and What Can the USG Do?

One of the key global strategic issues of the 21st century is the acceleration of urban population growth and the effects it is having and will increasingly have on people, planet and prosperity. The USG, in its foreign assistance program and more generally, has not provided adequate focus on the inter-connected challenges and potential of cities worldwide. What is needed is a recognition that cities represent “systems” and that it takes a comprehensive approach to address them. It is not enough simply for investment to occur with the hope that the “rising tide” will lift everyone. Rather the USG should provide leadership to promote policies and approaches that foster integrated equitable investment and program, engaging rather than excluding citizens, and providing opportunities for individual advancement and achievement. Cities can be the engines of their own development and shared prosperity, but new levers are needed, including financing mechanisms, frameworks, and policies, in order to ensure a sustainable future for us all.


This is an urban world, with more than half of the population living in urban places; this number will increase to two thirds by mid-century. Thus, what happens in cities globally will profoundly shape the world’s future. This rapid growth has environmental, economic, social and governance implications. The many slums and informal settlements that surround most major cities in the developing world are a stark symbol for this negative side of the coin. If properly harnessed, urban can be associated with increased equity and equality, better quality of life for more people, effective climate change adaptation, and global benefits to be reaped from the talents and skills of the population. On the negative side, increasing concentration of urban poverty, heightened inequality, and the enormous physical, economic and spatial divides that characterize many cities, particularly in the developing world, is a breeding ground for instability, public health crises and global insecurity. The USG should be at the forefront of inclusive and equitable urban development, both at home and abroad.

When barriers to inequality are recognized and overcome, cities become places of greater income equality and greater shared urban prosperity for all.


Co-founded by Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR), IHC Global is an independent, non-profit global membership coalition of organizations, businesses and individuals, bringing together private sector and civil society voices and committed to inclusive urban development.

Our mission is to be a leading voice and catalyst for more equitable urban development worldwide and to support the vision for inclusive, resilient, safe, and sustainable cities embodied in Global Goal 11 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. We are building a global network of concerned people to sustain local, national and global policy focus on urban issues and to bring about positive change.


IHC Global serves as a convener, thought leader and leading voice for sustainable and equitable cities and through 1) advocacy and awareness, 2) education and research on practical solutions, and 3) connecting the global and the local.

Advocacy and awareness: IHC Global acts as an aggregating voice through its membership and constituency that influences policy around key urban equity drivers. We work to persuade donors, investors and other assistance providers to prioritize more sustainable, inclusive cities.

Education and solution-oriented research on practical solutions: IHC Global uses it’s convening power, web-based knowledge resource, and wide network to stimulate debate, to analyze, distill, develop, and disseminate practical knowledge, and to provide solution-oriented research and analysis on urban policy and practice.

Connecting the global and local: IHC Global utilizes our policy expertise and location in Washington, D.C., as well as our diverse global membership base, to link global conversations to on-the-ground realities and change. In a two-way interchange, IHC Global provides policy and practice recommendations in order to inform local planning and catalyze local action, as well as brings local solutions and realities into broader policy conversations.

Six Policy Priorities:

IHC Global is focusing attention on six issue areas that are critical to achieving greater urban equity. We advocate for these issues to be addressed within a comprehensive and integrated urban framework to guide development in each city. These are areas where specific actions, when conceived within an overall urban framework that brings together investments and service delivery, can create greater equality. With focused attention, they become drivers for positive change. In the absence of attention, they are insurmountable barriers to equity and equality.

  • Climate Resilience and the Urban Poor
  • Urban Water and Sanitation
  • Gender and Land Security
  • Urban Food Security
  • Housing and Equitable Development
  • Migration and its Implications

More info:

Website: www.ihcglobal.org
Phone: 202.239.4401
Email: jhermanson@ihcglobal.org
Address: 1424 K St NW, Suite 600,Washington, D.C. 20005


Download Member Insight

Download FABB 2016

Foreign Assistance Briefing Book:   2016  |  2013  |  2011  |  2008