The Pilot Phase of National Urban Policy Programme: Developing NUP and Smart City Strategies in Iran

The current rate of urbanization will see 5.17 billion people living in urban areas by 2030.  Urbanization has many features that can be leveraged to improve the livelihoods of all citizens – rural, peri-urban, and urban. A NUP is an important tool for governments that seek to manage and direct rapid urbanization and tap into urbanization’s positive effects while accommodating its inevitable stresses.

According to UN-Habitat, a NUP is: “a coherent set of decisions through a deliberate government-led process of coordinating and rallying various actors towards a common vision and goal that will promote more transformative, productive, inclusive and resilient urban development for the long term” (UN-Habitat, 2014).

The work of UN-Habitat on NUP is rooted in the Governing Council resolution HSP/GC/24/L.6 which “requests the Executive Director, in consultation with the Committee of Permanent Representatives, to develop a general guiding framework for the development, where appropriate, of NUPs, based on international good experiences, to further support member states when developing and improving

Their urban policies”. There is a lack of supporting policies and frameworks that can leverage the urbanization process for increased development gains and guide it toward sustainable patterns. In this way, UN-Habitat is currently working to support a number of countries with the development, implementation, and monitoring, and evaluation of NUP. The development of these policies requires a coordinated approach and clear policy directions.

Building on previous project experiences and responding to the growing demand and needs of countries and partners, UN-Habitat, through the National Urban Policy Programme (NUPP) supports countries by equipping them with relevant tools for the development and implementation of integrated and inclusive National Urban Policy and Smart City Strategy.

In Iran, urban and regional planning is based on more than 50 years of experience. The urbanisation process in Iran presents both opportunities and challenges. Similar to the characteristics of many countries in the world, Iran’s urbanisation faces major challenges in areas such as rapid growth of urban population, housing, integrated urban management, and climate change.  In this regard, adopting NUP can help establishing a framework for the overall process of urbanisation.

The pilot phase of the National Urban Policy Programme (NUPP): “Developing NUP and Smart City Strategies in Iran” started in 2017 in collaboration between UN-Habitat, Republic of Korea, in three pilot countries of Niger, Myanmar, and Islamic Republic of Iran. It aimed to develop National Urban Policies and Smart City Strategies in Iran and to offer a platform to foster synergy, coherence, capacity development and mutual learning and exchange global experiences on National Urban Policy. There are three main accomplishments expected from the pilot phase of the National Urban Policy Programme:

  1. Enhanced capacity of sub-national and national governments in the three pilot countries to develop, implement, and monitor and evaluate national urban policy (NUP and SUP) and develop smart city strategies.
  2. Increased centralization of knowledge and tools for the development, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of urban policy (NUP and SUP) and smart city strategies.
  3. Augmented opportunity for knowledge sharing and peer learning activities on urban policy (NUP and SUP) and smart city strategies.

Moreover, NUP addresses these issues in Iran:

  • Lack of communication and inconsistency between the national and local levels,
  • Absence of integrated planning in the urban management system,
  • Poor understanding of the concerns and interests of stakeholders, beneficiaries and related end users,
  • Lack of public participation in urban planning,
  • Inefficiency of some urban planning laws, rules and regulations,
  • Lack of inter organizational relationship,


NUPP in I.R. Iran seeks to contribute to a larger response to urbanization and its emerging challenges, while also consolidating and sharing knowledge on urban policy at the global level. It is also a tool for the implementation and monitoring of global urban agendas, such as the New Urban Agenda, Paris Agreement (agreed upon by I. R. Iran in Paris, on 12 December 2015), and Sendai Framework (agreed upon by I.R. Iran at UN World Conference in Sendai, Japan, on 18 March 2015).

The NUPP in I.R. Iran has gone through different steps from its beginning. In the first step, the “Diagnosis Report” was prepared by the selected consultant and launched in December 2018. In the next step of NUPP, by receiving the approval of the Project Document and preparation of the Inception Report, preparation of the National Urban Policy and Smart City Strategy document is pursued as part of the joint programme of the UN-Habitat and the Urban Planning and Architecture Directorate of the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development (MoRUD) and other partners and stakeholders.