UN-Habitat, with financial support from Siemens AG and Swedish International Development Cooperation (Sida), has launched a new guide, Urban Planning for City Leaders, aimed at providing local leaders and decision makers with the tools to support urban planning good practice.

More than half of the world's population already lives in cities and it is expected that in the next 20 years, that figure will rise to two-thirds of the population. Although relevant to cities of all sizes, the guide targets intermediate cities – those with populations of between 20,000 and two million people – in developing and emerging economies in particular, where the majority of urban growth is taking place. The guide puts early urban planning at the centre of preparations for this growth.

"All too often planning has been disconnected from the day to day realities and needs of citizens", said Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Dr. Joan Clos. "This Guide has been designed to fill the gap between the technical and the policy dimensions of urban planning and to help local leaders to better communicate with their planning departments and ask the right questions."

"Good urban planning can provide the framework for making decisions that are resource effective and sustainable for all cities," said Mr. Roland Busch, CEO of the Infrastructure & Cities Sector at Siemens AG. "The Urban Planning for City Leaders guide is a UN-Habitat initiative that Siemens is proud to support, because we believe that sustainable urban planning is one of the prerequisites for greening urban infrastructure."

The guide was launched at the inaugural conference at the Crystal Building in East London which brought together 300 decision makers from cities around the world, including mayors, city planners, policy makers and thought leaders. The conference explored topics such as the role of spatial planning in creating functioning and liveable cities and how to nurture and develop partnerships with all city stakeholders from the private sector to communities.

Designed by award-winning Wilkinson Eyre Architects, the Crystal is London's newest landmark building and hosts the world's largest exhibition and conference centre dedicated to urban sustainability. It enables experts, business leaders, decision makers, students and citizens around the world to come together and find solutions to the challenges facing cities, including urbanization, demographic shifts and climate change./.