Urban Development | World Bank Institute (WBI)

The World Bank Institute (WBI) is a global connector of knowledge, learning and innovation for poverty reduction. We connect practitioners and institutions to help them find suitable solutions to their development challenges. With a focus on the "how" of reform, we link knowledge from around the world and scale up innovations. Read More »

Urban Development


Urbanization is the defining phenomenon of the 21st century. For the first time in history, more than half the world’s population lives in cities, with 90 percent of urban growth taking place in the developing world. Over the next 20 years, nearly 2 billion new urban residents are expected, while one billion already live in slums.

Urbanization’s unprecedented pace and scale present daunting challenges, while also offering enormous opportunities. Economic prosperity happens mainly in cities, accounting for 70 percent of global GDP. However, only by good planning and management will rapidly growing cities be able to harness this potential, accommodate new urban dwellers, and adequately deliver basic services. Too often those cities bracing for the largest population influxes are the least prepared.


The WBI Urban program equips city leaders, municipal staff, and other practitioners with innovative strategies and tools to maximize the potential benefits of urbanization. We build the leadership skills of mayors and strengthen the technical skills of staff who are on the frontlines of city management.

Cities serve as an integrating space where different sectors converge. This reality, combined with the complex challenges of climate change, globalization, and natural disasters, requires a well-coordinated, multifaceted response. Cities also offer social diversity and attract talented people, providing unique opportunities and the creativity required to meet the challenges of growth and development.

Supporting the World Bank‘s Urban Strategy which addresses the critical needs of cities and local governments, WBI offers three business lines in the Urban sector: 

  • Planning, finance, and governance. This covers the basics of city management, including urban land dynamics, planning principles, and geographic tools for managing urban growth; resource mobilization and financial management; and accountability, transparency, and public participation.
  • Efficient and inclusive service delivery. This includes sustainable access to safe water, affordable shelter and services, and creating acceptable living conditions, especially in informal settlements.
  • Public safety and resiliency. The program promotes proactive risk management practices and helps local governments design policies to enhance resilience to disasters and adapt to climate change. We also focus on community-based approaches for urban crime and violence prevention.

WBI offers structured learning, knowledge exchanges, and advisory and capacity-building services to national urban authorities and city managers.

Our Audiences

WBI works with city mayors, municipal managers and staff, urban development practitioners, utility managers, disaster planning staff, and academics in urban studies programs in developing countries.

WBI Brochure: Innovative Solutions for Cities (PDF 406 KB)

Also see these brochure inserts for more information: 

Structured Learning

Regional/Country Programs