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Sub-National Urban Policies to strengthen multilevel governance

Xavier Mestres



Thursday, June 30, 2022


Multifunction Hall Room 9
Metropolitan Area of Guadalajara
Integrated Governance in Spatial Planning for a More Just, Green, and Healthy Urban Future
NE 169


In an increasingly urbanizing world, the role of regional governments has gained relevance in terms of their capacities of guide and/or influence the development of urban areas. The territorial approach on sustainable urbanization is commonly acknowledged, also through the global agendas and the Sustainable Development Goals.

In order to enable to better profit positive impacts of urbanization trends, the different spheres of government need to be coordinatedin the implementation of urban policies and strategies. The absence or weakness of mechanisms for effective coordination between the different levels of government can constitute a barrier to adequate planning, management and development of cities and regions. For this reason, Urban Policies appears as adequate instruments to provide the necessary direction and course of action to support urban development. 

There is general agreement on the importance of producing policy instruments at sub-national levels with a practical and proactive approach. Moreover, the diversity of the world’s institutional architecture does not allow to propose a unique solution, adaptable to all this complexity. However, it is possible to extract lessons from different realities to share and expand the definition of SUPs.

Therefore, UN-Habitat together with United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), published the Sub-National Urban Policy: A Guide as an instrument to support urban management for governments and stakeholders. It was launched in February 2021 as part of the #CitiesAreListening Experiences.The Guide is focused on providing an inventory of experiences and a work system for developing Subnational Urban Policies takins some lessons from several cases around the world.

SNUP allow to articulate the relationship between different territorial jurisdictions and to solve challenges that might arise while facilitating effective and efficient public action. SNUP function as vehicles that align the actions, strategies and resources of the national agenda towards the lower level -territorial contexts- and vice versa.

SNUP as a facilitator of Multilevel Governance to achieve the SDGs

Subnational urban policies, driven by theprinciple of subsidiarity, multilevel governanceand intergovernmental cooperation canhelp foster adaption to new andemergingchallenges such as those related to climatechange, pandemics and disasters.

Although the context of the SDGs is global, their achievement is local and regional, therefore their localisation implies counting on subnational contexts to achieve the 2030 Agenda, as well as a supportive national context and a strengthened multilateral system that scales up knowledge sharing, promotes open dialogue, and investment and prioritises a bottom-up approach of urban development, that is, having a strong participation of local and regional governments in the achievement of the SDGs.

SNUP enhances multilevel governance, thus contributing to those SDGs that require an adaptation of several levels of government in the same direction and a shift to integrated management at all levels and in collaboration with other countries, such as SDG 1a, 2.5, 16.3, 16.6, 16.10, 6.5, 9.1, 11.b, 15.9, 17.4, among others, as well as to those SDGs that require a collaboration between levels of government to plan and design strategies in an integrated approach and/or to mobilise resources in a coordinated manner, such as SDG 15.9, 17.4, 1.b, 15.a, 15.b, among others. 

But, indirectly, most goals require the kind of multilevel governance-based management. Either because they call for the mobilisation and/or pooling of resources that in most cases fall under the competence of different levels of government and therefore need to be coordinated. Or because they set a global ambition that cannot be achieved without multilateralism/or adopting solutions from a perspective of adaptation to the difficulties and particularities of countries, particularly the least developed ones.

Sustainable development requires solutions at global and local levels, and greater coherence between public policies at all levels is therefore necessarily part of a multilevel governance approach. Also, public policies for effective equality and against all kinds of discriminations require a constant deepening of international legislative frameworks, given the disparities in the approach to these issues between the different regions of the world. Multilevel governance promoted by SNUP is a very useful tool for homogenising and advancing in legislation that is more protective of rights.


The event seeks to interchange experiences on relation to Subnational Urban Policies within the context of the 2030 and New Urban Agendas, from global to local and viceversa, related to multilevel governance referred to urban issues.

Main questions to be addressed during the debate will be:

  • How is the relation between NUP and SNUPs? How they can influence and reinforce each other?
  • How can SNUP contribute to better coordination between the different levels of government on relation to the sustainable urban development?
  • What opportunities does the implementation of SNUP offer for the development of cities?
  • How can Subnational Urban Policies contribute to better coordination between the three levels of government (national, regional and local)?
  • Can the Subnational Urban Policies help to unite different territories and strengthen cooperation between administrations?

Session speakers

Mr. Remy Sietchiping
Chief, Policy, Legislation and Governance Section, UN-Habitat
Ms. Maria del Pilar Tellez
Metropolitan and Governance Expert
Ms. Carmen Sanchez-Miranda
Head of UN-Habitat Office in Spain
Ms. Carolina Urrutia
Secretary of the Environment of Bogota City
Bogotá City Council
Mr. Mario Silva
Metropolitan Area of Guadalajara
Metropolitan Area of Guadalajara
Mr. Ignacio de la Puerta
Director General
Basque Country
Mr. Mustapha Zubairu
Coordinator, Niger State Urban Support Programme, Governor’s Office, Minna
Coordinator, Niger State Urban Support Programme, Governor’s Office, Minna
Mr. Cemil Arslan
Secretary General
Marmara Municipalities Union