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Urban Development

Asia's rapidly developing cities face inadequate basic services, environmental degradation, and increasing poverty. ADB works to support the transformation of developing cities in the Asia and Pacific region into safe, sustainable urban centers.

Contribution to Operational Priorities

To address operational priorities, ADB offers integrated solutions combining expertise across a range of sectors and themes. These solutions will be delivered through an appropriate mix of public and private sector operations that are best suited to the specific needs on the ground.

The following are urban development's contributions to ADB's operational priorities.

Addressing remaining poverty and reducing inequalities

  • Ensure equity of access for all, especially for the poor and disadvantaged, to affordable and reliable urban services by focusing on cost-efficient and high-quality infrastructure, considering life cycle costs.
  • Build the competitiveness of cities; create quality jobs in manufacturing and services, especially for the poor and disadvantaged, by supporting the creation of enabling environments, conducive policies, and critical infrastructure, and develop economic opportunities by supporting TVET and enhancing the competitive advantages of a specific city.
  • Ensure inclusiveness of urban projects by targeting the poor and vulnerable with clear targets toward full coverage of such communities.
  • Contribute to improved public health conditions, especially for the poor and disadvantaged, with increased access to treated and continuous piped water; improve wastewater service coverage by combining centralized and noncentralized systems, where appropriate; and ensure the quality of water and wastewater treatment using advanced technologies to face increased emerging contaminants and to protect human health.
  • Encourage social entrepreneurship and provision of an enabling environment to start small businesses, especially targeting women, youths, and vulnerable groups.

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Accelerating progress in gender equality

  • Support gender-sensitive urban design that takes into consideration the safety and needs of women in urban areas by promoting crime prevention through environmental design guidelines in public places.
  • Support the expansion of urban services to save women and girls from drudgery and lack of dignity and to better pursue livelihood opportunities, and provide services that are implemented and designed in a way that caters to women’s needs, particularly safety and security.
  • Promote inclusiveness of urban projects by specifically including women in urban planning, design, and implementation, with clear targets, resources, and mechanism to implement the required activities.
  • Enhance accessibility through inclusive urban mobility systems such as provision of accessways, and measures to prevent gender-based violence.
  • Support women’s empowerment in leadership and management positions in urban public service and governance bodies.
  • Explore more secure housing land tenure for urban lower-income households.

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Tackling climate change, building climate and disaster resilience, and enhancing environmental sustainability

  • Support cities in mainstreaming urban climate change resilience and disaster risk considerations in urban planning, policy development, and investment decision processes, possibly aided by information and communication technology and geospatial tools for better decision making.
  • Support the promotion of a transit modal shift including mass transport and nonmotorized modes as a way to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Support investments in urban flood protection systems as well as measures to climate-proof urban infrastructure utilities.
  • Generalize the use of smart technologies to improve city environmental performance, monitoring, and management.
  • Develop comprehensive disaster-resilient solid waste management systems from collection to disposal, including considerations for investing in waste-to-energy technologies.
  • Implement an urban water cycle approach to encourage water reuse and energy-efficient systems in wastewater management, as well as the use of nature- and eco-based solutions and recovery and reuse of biosolids.
  • Increase diversification of water resources and their improved management for cities to anticipate and minimize water crises.
  • Prioritize the use of renewable energy in urban services.

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Making cities more livable

  • Work on localizing global agenda on sustainable urban development and support cities to prepare and implement city-specific plans.
  • Formulate urban development projects and programs to support initiatives on integrating various sectors and thematic areas, infrastructure support with reforms, sovereign with nonsovereign operations.
  • Design initiatives to promote innovative technologies, use of information and communication technology, internet of things, and the fourth industrial revolution platforms.
  • Enhance urban governance, planning, finance, and help cites better engage with important stakeholders.
  • Promote new financing mechanisms from local, national, and international sources to support sustainable urban development.

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Promoting rural development and food security

  • Assist in rural revitalization and rural–urban integration by planning and implementing in rural areas high-level services that are generally provided in urban areas.
  • Assist with investments in decentralized water supply and sanitation systems, including innovative rural toilet systems that transform waste into fertilizer.
  • Enhance rural–urban connectivity through investments in connector roads from inner towns to main roads, and port and logistics facilities to strengthen access to country and regional markets.

Strengthening governance and institutional capacity

  • Strengthen urban institutional capacities by improving national and subnational public financial management systems and enhancing administrative capacities to plan, implement, and monitor transport programs and projects.
  • Contribute to the development and/or enhancement of institutional frameworks to mainstream urban development in national policy statements.
  • Identify fiscal and financial management opportunities and challenges to implementing urban strategies at national and subnational levels.
  • Increase citizens’ access to sustainable urban infrastructure services.
  • Encourage greater community participation in urban development projects and strengthen coordination among agencies involved in urban development.
  • Improve the availability of timely and quality data for sustainable urban infrastructure management.

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Fostering regional cooperation and integration

Support economic corridor development by investing in infrastructure and capacity building for small and medium towns located along the corridors. Support cross-border town development including the provision of regional public goods, the enhancement of logistics facilities, and trade policies for the seamless movement of people and goods. Promote cross-border tourism activities that will help provide livelihoods to residents of border towns while also promoting local culture and goods to regional and international markets.

Urban Operational Plan 2012-2020

ADB’s Urban Operational Plan fosters the growth of Competitive, Inclusive, and Green Cities to improve the performance of cities on the Economic, Equity, and Environment (3Es) fronts. It focuses on three innovative approaches to guide the development of livable cities, which is a long-term process, achieved only through integrated planning and implementation of investment. These approaches are:

Economic competitiveness

Livable cities are competitive cities. They attract investment and create jobs that reduce poverty and unemployment. As part of its City Cluster Economic Development agenda, ADB supports inclusive economic development by targeting assistance to the development of successful industry clusters through interventions in infrastructure, skills development, research and development, specialized finance, regional cooperation, and integrated urban planning. Competitive cities generate productivity gains by maximizing the advantages of their location and/or proximity to natural resources, efficiencies from the clustering of companies, and supporting infrastructure.

Green growth

Livable cities are green cities. To encourage the sustainable development of cities, ADB assists national and city governments to promote local land use and transportation patterns that encourage the development of zero or low-carbon transport, energy-efficient infrastructure, climate change and disaster resilience, and local government initiatives that encourage low-energy and zero carbon directions.

Social inclusiveness

Livable cities are inclusive cities. ADB is determined to make cities livable and inclusive by addressing the problems resulting from rapid urbanization and the limited capacity of basic service delivery systems to keep pace with growth. We support investments focusing on local basic infrastructure, community support facilities, urban transport infrastructure, habitat and shelter, and support for livelihood and commerce. To help cities become inclusive, ADB funding supports the planning and provision of quality, high-capacity public transport linking people to jobs and affordable, well-serviced, and high-density mixed-use development.

Livable Cities Funds

The Urban Financing Partnership Facility (UFPF), established in 2009, raises and utilizes development partner funds for investment cofinancing in urban environmental infrastructure projects and supports technical assistance to help lay the groundwork for such projects.

Target outcomes

The UFPF targeted outcomes are: 

  • 200 million people with greater coverage and access to improved infrastructure and services in drinking water, sanitation, transport, solid waste management, which will improve public health, provide upward mobility opportunities for employment, and boost economic growth;
  • 50 cities with investment road maps for sustainable development;
  • 10 countries with capacity to develop national sustainable urban development strategies; and
  • increased investments (including, private sector) in urban environmental infrastructure projects through upstream technical assistance, viability gap investment financing, and/or credit enhancement (guarantee) support for whole projects or components.


The UFPF is composed of two funds:

  • Urban Environmental Infrastructure Fund (UEIF) which is a multi-donor trust fund, where the Government of Sweden (Sida) has made an initial commitment of $14 million (and an additional commitment of $7 million in 2011) for investment cofinancing and technical assistance (and a guarantee facility of $ 70 million) for urban environmental infrastructure that benefits the poor.
  • Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) is a multi-donor trust fund that provides untied grants for components of investment projects, technical assistance, direct charges, and other activities that may be agreed upon between the contributors to the UCCRTF and ADB. It focuses on a systems-centered approach that supports climate change integration into city planning as a central element, linking this to the implementation of both “hard” (infrastructure) and “soft” (policy or institutional) interventions, and a strong knowledge, capacity building and, networking component. UCCRTF support is geographically specific and covers Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Viet Nam. Urban projects in other countries may be supported by UCCRTF but are subject to approval of the financing partners.

Achievements to date

As of 2014, the UFPF has a cumulative committed/allocated assistance amounting to $52.63 million for 26 projects. The UFPF has committed to support projects that cover the following categories: 

  • climate change adaptation and mitigation,
  • inclusive basic water and wastewater services,
  • solid waste management services, and
  • urban renewal.

UFPF supported projects are expected to facilitate the leveraging or catalyzing of ensuing investments worth $816 million in loans and investment grants.

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