Don't Miss >

Future Saudi Cities Programme

Based on the problem described above, the purpose of the programme is to contribute to sustainable urbanization in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through evidence-based analysis and the development of policy options, followed by actions demonstrating the benefits of a the new urban agenda promoted by UN-Habitat. The programme will encourage participatory planning, create more opportunities for partnerships, and equip governments of small, medium and larger cities to understand and identify problems, and design and implement urban planning options for the future of their cities. A key philosophy of the programme is that it will look at the city as a whole rather than from the more common sectorial approach. It will also look at cities in their regional contexts. As illustrated in Figure 1 below, two streams of activities in the first and second years will lead to informed policy analysis and a set of 17 action plans (one per participating city), namely (i) identification of indicators and city-level data collection on multiple dimensions of prosperity, using UN-Habitat's City Prosperity Index and (ii) reviews of existing Saudi planning practices and consideration of principles and approaches to a new urban agenda. The participatory processes built into the programme will result in inclusive, evidence-based policy analysis and customised action plans, in direct support of Saudi Arabia's Country Programme Outcome 1.2. The data generated will feed into 17 national reports an all-encompassing State of Saudi Cities Report and a State of Saudi Youth Report. These sets of information will also support the Saudi national reporting to Habitat III. Through using UN-Habitat's City Prosperity Index, city authorities and local stakeholders will be able to identify opportunities and potential areas of intervention for their cities to become more prosperous. It includes various indices and indicators that are relevant to cities and important for prosperity-oriented public policy-making. The Index focuses on individual cities and measures prosperity across seven dimensions –productivity, infrastructure, quality of life, equity, environmental sustainability, urban form and structure; and institutions, laws and governance (see Table 1).The Index is based on the recognition that prosperity requires the urban functions to be subsumed in all the main categories above. UN-Habitat's Wheel of Urban Prosperity, which will be used as a tool in the programme, illustrates the balanced development of the five dimensions “spokes” of prosperity (productivity, infrastructure development, quality of life, equity and social inclusion, and environmental sustainability) and the two elements of urban form and structure and institutions, laws and governance (in the centre of the wheel). Table 1:Seven dimensions of prosperity Productivity Contributes to economic growth and development, generates income, provides decent jobs and equal opportunities for all through effective economic policies and reforms. Infrastructure development Provides adequate infrastructure- water, sanitation, roads, information and communication technology- in order to improve living standards and enhance productivity, mobility and connectivity. Quality of life Enhances the use of public space for the sake of community cohesion and civic identity, and guarantees individual and material safety and security. Equity and social inclusion Ensures equitable (re)distribution of the benefits of prosperity, reduces poverty and the incidence of slums, protects the rights of minority and vulnerable groups, enhances gender and youth equality, and ensures civic participation in the social, political and cultural spheres. Environmental sustainability Values the protection of the urban environment and natural assets while ensuring growth, pursues energy efficiency, reduces pressure on surrounding land and natural resources, reduces environmental losses through creative, environment-enhancing solutions. Urban form and structure Recognized the element of urban planning that determines the urban form, including street planning and how it influences the other dimensions of prosperity, including street networks and mobility patterns. Institutions, laws and governance Government institutions, laws and governance will drive the decisions that Saudi cities are able, and choose to take Through using the City Prosperity Index, city authorities and local stakeholders will be able to identify opportunities and potential areas of intervention for their cities to become more prosperous. The Index is based on the recognition that prosperity requires the urban functions to be subsumed in all the main categories. Since shared and balanced development is a crucial feature of prosperity, none of the dimensions must prevail over the others and all must be kept roughly ‘equal' on the path of prosperity. UN-Habitat will be including youth and gender-specific indicators within the Index across the 17 cities, with the goal of determining a baseline on the needs of these population groups. Government institutions, laws and urban planning, innovation and creativity will drive the decisions that Saudi cities are able, and choose to take.As part of the evidence for the policy process, a baseline of the legislative and institutional context will be undertaken. This will be used as a framework for analytical study into the principal policy objectives to be addressed, including the collective functioning of the various levels of Saudi government and administration in delivering outcomes at the local level. Initial discussions suggest that priorities may include: a review of the Urban Planning Act; analysis of implementation bottlenecks of existing spatial strategy and plans; responses to informal settlements; and, options for preventing urban sprawl and urban expansion. Once the action plans have been agreed upon, recommendations for any key areas of legislative/institutional change will be provided proposed and validated through both desk based and participatory means. An implementation plan for undertaking any legislative and institutional changes will also be prepared as part of the programme. The programme will then in its third and fourth year support the implementation of three innovative, but representative, demonstration projects prioritized through the action planning process. These will be implemented with co-financing from the municipalities of the three cities selected and be carefully documented for wider learning. The programme will capitalize on relevant projects, studies and surveys that have been conducted through the existing and revised National Spatial Strategy and in support of the National and Local Urban Observatories in Saudi Arabia. It will significantly build on them and undertake to develop capacity for implementation of plans. By doing this, the process will ensure that urban planning, legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks become an instrument of city prosperity and well-being. A new urban and regional planning vision will require a number of changes in the structure and growth of Saudi cities, moving away from urban sprawl and low densities to more compact cities, replace segregation, including that of informal settlements with more integrated cities, and replace congested cities with those that are better connected. The programme will promote a number of options for urban patterns of green growth through city-region planning and creating sustainable urban space through planned city-extensions. It will also promote and build capacity around the importance of public space (with proper layouts) and options for street development. An important component of the localization of the City Prosperity Index in Saudi Arabia will be to integrate streets into the analysis, and to recognize that urban form, planning and structure play an important part in a city's prosperity. Capacity development is critical to the programme's overall purpose and success, and will be addressed from the start (through a capacity needs/gap assessment and orientation workshops), and throughout the four years (with customized training, international experts and exchange visits), to enhance the set of skills required for the new urban vision, and to ensure sustainability. The programme will develop and strengthen national and local institutional and human resources capacities to understand, anticipate, plan, and manage urban growth. The Saudi Training Centre on Sustainable Urbanization, expected to be established during the programme phase through a separate source of funding, will provide an important mechanism to sustain and continually enhance this knowledge and skills. To create a sound participatory process, an important component will be to enable and build capacities for fuller engagement by young women and men, and the overall female population, in Saudi urbanization processes and outcomes. The programme will establish mechanisms for such participatory process through mapping and analysis of youth concerns in cities, the integration of youth and gender indicators into the City Prosperity Index, and workshops for young people and women to constructively engage on urban issues and enhance their capacity in urban development issues that can feed into sustainable structures for further engagement. These activities will help identify champions and organizations to launch a Saudi Youth Sustainable Urbanization Network and Saudi Women Sustainable Urbanization Network, and to support them to engage throughout the implementation of the programme. The population of the 17 participating cities is the ultimate beneficiaries of this programme. The programme will redefine the role of residents in the process of city development to be more active in defining the city they want. The capacity development component that will improve city planning and management will result in improved services to the local populaton. It is expected that laws and regulations reforms will help also to simplify procedures for local population access to city services. Local authorities and involved Ministries will themselves directly benefit through enhancing knowledge and experience on new approaches to manage their cities in a more sustainable way. Decision-makers through updated policies and strategies and city reports will be able to make more informed decisions The programme will be undertaken over a four year period and consists of two main phases, though some of the activities will be implemented and outputs produced through the two phases: Phase I: Diagnosis, analysis and consultation (24 months): ? Initial baselines and reviews of the institutional and legislative context of Saudi Arabia, urban planning practices, sectoral linkages, women and youth analysis and capacity development needs; ? Integration of the City Prosperity Index and diagnosis and identification of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges in Saudi cities, along with future visualization of Saudi cities; ? Consultative processes focused on the identification and validation of important policy objectives, the development of hypotheses and recommendations for action, inclusion of youth and women's participation including through establishment of two Networks, and a Saudi National Urban Forum; ? Training needs and gap assessment and development of a capacity development strategy; ? Preparation of the Saudi Urban Future report and a Youth and Saudi Cities Report for the analysis of different challenges facing prosperity and sustainability of Saudi cities; and ? An advocacy and awareness programme aiming at engaging Saudi stakeholders at all levels and sharing the spirit of the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs in reaching out to the public and including their priorities in all levels of plans thinking and execution (continued in Phase II). Phase II: Capacity development and demonstration projects (24 months): ? Development of a strategic implementation plan and conduct of pilot projects for three cities (large, medium and small (categorized under strategic and economic cities) for the implementation of the recommendations and proposals emanating from the first phase; ? Tailor-made capacity development workshops and best-in-class comparisons and study visits; ? Monitoring through the urban observatories and CPI methodology; and Preparation for the United Nations Housing and Urban Development Summit in 2016 and based on phase one analysis, review of the business environment for planning at various levels for effective projects implementation. As part of the United Nations' efforts in Saudi Arabia, the programme will contribute to building the pillars of sustainable urbanization, including the enhanced quality of life enjoyed equitably by all city inhabitants. UN-Habitat will capitalize on its important niche to promote and integrate the necessary for broader, inclusive and sustainable urban prosperity, integrating UN values of human rights, including non-discrimination, equity, engagement of youth and women, cultural integrity and ecological balance into how cities are managed and enhance participatory planning methods engaging public agencies, private enterprises, universities, welfare and civil society organizations, including youth initiatives and women's organizations. The programme will partners with UNDP, UNDESA, UN Women, The World Bank and Arab Urban Development Institute in the implementation, policy discussion and capacity building activities as well as providing technical advice and support.


Transaction type Value Date
ExpenditureUS$ 18,749,1342018-02-01
Incoming FundsUS$ 25,000,0002018-02-01


No documents available.


Improved capacity of institutions that strengthen the  capacity of national and local authorities and partners  Increased capacity for implementation of urban monitoring systemsLocal and national governments initiated consultative legal reform processes to improve urban extension, densification, planning and financeStrengthened capacities of institutions linked to national, regional and metropolitan authorities to develop urban  policies and plans for compact,  socially inclusive, integrated and connected system of cities 

Related projects


US$ 25,000,000
IATI Identifier
Sectors codes
43082, 43030, 43030, 43082, 11430, 15130
Start date planned
End date planned
Activity status
Middle East, regional
Saudi arabia
Participating organisations
Saudi Arabia

Export project IATI data

Select the format and download the data for this project


Sector tags

Research/scientific institutions

Urban development and management

Urban development and management

Research/scientific institutions

Advanced technical and managerial training

Legal and judicial development

Embed code

Copy and paste on your site </>