UN-Habitat Communities of Practice

What are Communities of Practice?

After the development of its 2020-2023 Strategic Plan, UN-Habitat underwent a restructuring to make the organization more fit-for-purpose. One key area of this new structure is the creation of Communities of Practice (herein referred to as ‘CoPs’), which bring together colleagues from across the organization (field offices, country offices, regional offices, and HQ) to exchange and learn on a given topic. Most Communities of Practice record their meetings and make the materials easily accessible via MS Teams groups to encourage and support wide engagement across time zones and considering other commitments.

Purpose of the Communities of Practice

The Communities of Practice contribute to the Centre of Excellence by (a) giving visibility to UN-Habitat’s expertise, (b) ensuring coherent and consistent messaging and (c) internally reducing both siloes and a sense of competition for resources among parts of the organization. The CoPs provide opportunities for co-creation and collaboration on normative production, bring together people with similar interests to learn and improve our work; provide spaces to share new ideas; drive UN-Habitat’s policy positions; and refine approaches, tools, and products.

The CoPs focus on three core purposes:

  1. To support and develop UN-Habitat’s solutions on emerging urban issues and to complement internal capacity building efforts by increasing understanding and promoting the use of the tools and methodologies of the agency, raising the subject profile. The CoPs:

  • Share innovations and lessons from across the agency.

  • Engage CoP members in substantive discussions as well as the development, peer review, and application of normative tools and products. This can include conducting brown bags, webinars with CoP members, interactive surveys, and convening retreats/ trainings (general and on specific skills/ tools) for CoP members as well as agency-wide to mainstream CoP expertise.

  • Include colleagues from other areas to disseminate and broaden discussions and knowledge base and engage with other CoPs to mainstream cross-cutting expertise.

  1. To support and develop UN-Habitat’s normative capacity. The CoPs:


  • Support the development of norms and standards in conventions, declarations, regulatory frameworks, agreements, guidelines, codes of practice, and other standard setting instruments, at the global, regional and national levels

  • Support the implementation and integration of norms and standards into policies, legislation, and development plans


  • Mainstream and integrate these norms, standards, policies, and plans throughout all of UN-Habitat’s approaches and work

  • Support quality control in the application of norms, standards, and tools

  1. To support the integration of UN-Habitat’s staff, breaking down thematic silos and integrating Regional Offices, Multi-Country Offices, Country Offices, Liaison Offices, Field Offices, and Headquarters. The CoPs accomplish this through the following approaches:

  • Location: UN-Habitat CoP membership is global (not divided by location) and includes colleagues from all offices.

  • Thematic: Staff are integrated from across the agency to exchange through the CoPs

  • Cohesion: Peer reviews are conducted through the CoPs to ensure different parts of the organization are working cohesively together and building on previous knowledge work, and experience.

  • Projects: CoPs allow colleagues to co-create projects, soliciting greater feedback and integrating expertise in project documents before these go to the PRC.

  • They provide an opportunity to organize wide and early discussion on pipeline projects and programmes for the best collaborations.

  • Fundraising: Many CoPs also share funding opportunities and have found improvement and higher success in project proposals that have been created in CoPs. Colleagues across the agency are able to better support and understand the needs and opportunities available.

  • Iteration: The CoPs provide thematic platforms for iterative project and programme exchanges on challenges, lessons, and ideas so that improvements can be made to our work even before evaluations and reports.

How to join a Community of Practice

To join a Community of Practice, please contact the focal point/ contact listed under each, requesting to join the mailing list and the Teams page(s). Please review each CoP listed below to gain an understanding of which is the best fit for you. Each staff member is required to belong to one primary Community of Practice. Staff members are also able to join multiple Communities of Practice, and are encouraged to consider joining a cross-cutting Community of Practice such as Human Rights and Social Inclusion and/or Climate Change. Please also ensure that you have completed your skills profile on the PAAS system (see broadcast email sent 20 July 2021 from the Executive Director) to indicate your skills and which Community of Practice you have joined.


Policy, Legislation and Governance

About the Policy, Legislation and Governance (PLG) Community of Practice:

The PLG CoP aims at bridging the research-to-policy gap by being the forum where those producing knowledge and those using it across the Agency meet and interact. The PLG CoP facilitates: (i) information, practices, norms and experiences on what different units, country and regional offices of UN-Habitat are working on to be disseminated; and (ii) the capacity on the expertise around UN-Habitat on PLG-related areas to be diffused, Policy, Legislation and Governance Section (PLGS) positions and approaches across projects and programmes to be mainstreamed, and collaboration in the application of PLGS tools to be promoted. 

The activities proposed by the PLG CoP include discussions on new tools and methodologies and strategies for their utilisation internally and externally, webinars and workshops sharing local/national/regional experiences, learning sessions and seminars to exchange best practices and ideas. They are conveyed through a PLG dedicated Microsoft Teams page where documents are shared and accessible, as well as bi-monthly meetings, and at least 4 webinars/workshops/training seminars yearly, and learning sessions.

Members can also be involved in the evaluation and optimization of the CoP’s performance (e.g. answering questionnaires, being part of focus group meetings). More information on the PLGS workstreams is available here.

Focal point/ contact:

Anne Amin (Anne.Klen@un.org) of the Policy, Legislation and Governance Section


Safety, Human Rights and Social Inclusion

About the Safety, Human Rights and Social Inclusion (SHRSI) Community of Practice:

The Safety, Human Rights and Social Inclusion Community of Practice (CoP) is the designated forum for all partners, experts and stakeholders seeking to share and to develop knowledge on tools and best practices related to relevant themes, which are cross-cutting and applicable to all areas of UN-Habitat’s work. 

Discussions are organized around the following ‘cluster’ topics: (1) Human Rights; (2) Gender Equality and Gender Identity; (3) Safety and Safer Cities; (4) Children and Youth; and (5) Persons with Disabilities and Older Persons. Meetings and webinars aligned with these thematic areas allow for discussion and analysis of global situations and trends; provide training sessions and cross-learning exchanges with experts and practitioners; showcase available tools and allow for the co-creation of new tools; and explore opportunities for greater partnership or joint project development. In addition to meetings, members of the SHRSI CoP can access a dedicated Microsoft Teams page to communicate with other members and use the stored documents, links and materials provided (e.g., past thematic sessions recordings, the ‘Database of Human Rights and Social Inclusion Knowledge Resources,’ etc.) as an open library with all available documents related to the CoP’s themes. 

Focal point/ contact:

Shamoy Hajare (Shamoy.Hajare@un.org) of the Human Rights and Social Inclusion Unit (HRSIU) Simon Okoth (simon.otieno@un.org


Planning, Finance and Economy

About the Planning, Finance and Economy (PFE) Community of Practice:

The PFE Community of Practice (CoP) gathers experts and practitioners interested in learning and sharing knowledge and experiences related to urban planning, finance and economy. Members of the CoP are invited to participate in meetings occurring every two months formatted as either an experts’ round table, a dialogue, a training, or a co-creation session. The PFE CoP encourages the exchange of best practices and ideas from different units, country and regional offices of UN-Habitat, and supports the sharing of new methodologies, tools and outputs between colleagues.

As examples, recent past meetings included ‘Planning for Health Dialogue’, discussing strategies to integrate urban health in planning and design with interventions from special guests and the Ethiopia Country Office; and the ‘Dialogue Session on Urban Regeneration: Rebuilding Communities for an Inclusive and Vibrant Future,’ tackling the challenges and opportunities presented by the Flagship 1 Programme 1 (Inclusive, Vibrant Neighbourhoods and Communities) through in-depth analysis of existing tools, and examples of progressions with in situ specialists. 

The CoP offers its members the opportunity to find resources, learn, and interact independently with peers from different professional structures, using the ‘Open Forum’ and ‘Repository of Resources’ available on the CoP’s Microsoft Teams page. Summaries of past sessions with highlighted key points are also part of the resources made openly accessible on the Teams page. 

Focal points/ contacts:

Mariana Saraiva de Melo Pinheiro (Mariana.SaraivadeMeloPinheiro@un.org), Elin Andersdotter Fabre (Elin.Fabre@un.org), Salvatore Fundaro (Salvatore.Fundaro@un.org), and Jia Cong Ang (JiaCong.Ang@un.org) of the Planning, Finance and Economy Section (PFES)


Urban Basic Services

About the Urban Basic Services (UBS) Community of Practice:

As a practice-oriented open platform, the UBS Community of Practice (CoP) fosters collaboration and collective learning in the area of urban basic services, by encouraging UN-Habitat and partners to share and review tools and experiences generated on urban services. The CoP includes focus on four thematic areas: Water and Sanitation/ Water Operators, Urban Mobility, Solid Waste Management, and Urban Energy Solutions. A work plan is formulated annually. 

In addition to the thematic CoP meetings, special events, learning sessions, and webinars are also organized, with substantive exchanges with UN-Habitat country offices. As examples, past recent events include the ‘Special Event on Innovations Impact in UBS’ in collaboration with the Syrian, Lebanese and Egyptian Country Offices, and the ‘Successful Local Practices in SDG 6 Implementation: Examples of Building Local Ownership in Kenya and Jordan’ webinar.

The UBS CoP also provides further resources and information through its Microsoft Teams page (e.g.  funding opportunities, outcomes from past meetings), and members receive a regular newsletter –‘UBS Snapshots’ —with summarized information on urban services-related projects, updates on urban basic services work, funding opportunities and calls, and exterior learning opportunities. Additionally, for more detailed and specialized learning support, the CoP has a dedicated ‘UBS Resources Repository’ library centralizing all available publications, methodologies and tools produced by UN-Habitat on urban basic services. 

Focal points/ contacts:

 Veronika Sojkova (Veronika.Sojkova@un.org) of the Urban Basic Services Section


Land, Housing and Shelter

About the Land, Housing and Shelter (LHS) Community of Practice:

The Land, Housing and Shelter Community of Practice (CoP) aims to support the development of UN-Habitat’s normative capacity in the field of land, housing and shelter (LHS). To ensure that this goal is achieved, the CoP has set five objectives that articulate the CoP’s tasks: (1) Identify, monitor, assess and develop norms and standards in the field of land, housing and shelter; (2) Prioritize normative work in accordance with mandates and support the development of new projects and programmes; (3) Support the implementation of norms and standards at the policy level; (4) Ensure quality control in the application or implementation of norms at regional, country and local levels; and (5) Include colleagues from other branches and divisions, sister agencies and partners. 

The CoP has organised its internal mode of operation around four areas of focus, each with its own group of experts. Practice Area 1 is LHS Governance; Practice Area 2 is LHS Management; Practice Area 3 is LHS Rights and Protection; and Practice Area 4 is LHS Finance. LHS Governance focuses on the strategies and policies aspects of LHS solutions, looking at tools, methods and other means related to institutional structures. While LHS Governance focuses on producing the ‘what’, LHS Management looks at delivering the ‘how’.  LHS Rights and Protection supports the development of indicators and assessment tools for monitoring LHS rights violations and country-specific evaluations on allegations on forced evictions and relocations; and provides technical support to country and regional offices in drafting and implementation stages of projects dealing with LHS rights and protection concerns and issues. Finally, LHS Finance focuses on all relevant areas of LHS financial and economic policy and practice for the delivery of LHS solutions.

Each Practice Area has regular separate meetings, where topics more specifically related to the area are discussed, but all are housed within the Land, Housing and Shelter CoP and are gathered together in CoP-wide meetings.

Focal points/ contacts:

Overall Land Housing and Shelter CoP: Manka Bajaj (Manka.Bajaj@un.org) of the Land, Housing and Shelter Section (LHSS)

Climate Change

About the Climate Change Community of Practice:

The Climate Change Community of Practice (CC CoP) coordinates climate change related discussions about tools, past experiences, publications, programmes, and updates from regional and country offices. The meetings, taking place every two months, and serve as a time and space for members to learn from and to directly exchange with experts presenting the latest developments on projects involving climate change and the specific topics discussed in each meeting’s theme. As examples, recent past meetings focused on the themes of ‘Climate Change publications and tools’; ‘Overview of UN-Habitat 2021 Climate Action theme and updates’; ‘Climate Finance and the GCF Readiness Programme’. Each meeting is designed to include dedicated time during the session for in-depth presentations (‘deep dives’ into interventions from UN-Habitat internal experts working in different sections and part of other CoPs) as well as for open discussion for all attendees to participate in. 

The Climate Change CoP has a set up repository of resources available on its Microsoft Teams page where members can access resources quickly and be informed of the CoP’s activities.

Focal point/ contact:

Bernhard Barth (Bernhard.Barth@un.org) Cerin Kizhakkethottam (Cerin.Kizhakkethottam@un.org) Diana Carrillo Silva (diana.carrillosilva@un.org)  of the Programme Development Branch.


For further information

For further information on the Communities of Practice overall, or have questions on overall Community of Practice coordination or structures, please contact Selma Kerroux (selma.kerroux@un.org of the Urban Practices Branch.