Creation and support of urban observatories

Improving decision-making through participation

Definition, objective and added value

According to the definition provided by UN Habitat II, an urban observatory is a local network which brings together different partners in charge of collecting, processing and disseminating data on different municipalities. It consists of a certain number of indicators on issues of sustainable development. It uses information gathered by local actors in order to help deciding upon and constructing sound and strong-willed policies. Hence, the urban observatory represents a central element in urban control on both international and national level. It is often created within a municipal body, as part of an NGO or within universities.

Working methods

Urban observatories, therefore, are networks which direct local officials and decision makers in the implementation of more appropriate policies on the basis of a better understanding of the territory and its evolution.

An urban observatory can be considered as a tool of good local governance as it allows several urban actors to participate in the different stages of the production of data and information (collection, processing, analysis, summary and dissemination), and to influence decisions and policies according to the needs and priorities of the territory. The main purpose of an urban observatory is to permanently improve the living conditions of the residents of a certain city.


Implementation procedures vary across different cities and observatories. However, the will and implication of the authorities in charge of the management of local affairs is absolutely necessary for the project’s realization, its operationalization and the evaluation of collected data and information.

The initiative to create an urban observatory, however, can be taken by a local authority (e.g. the Arab Institute for urban development, as in the case of Kenitra), or by a member of civil society (as in the case of Salé), or even by a university or a research center.

Furthermore, it is also entirely possible to create thematically specialized urban observatories (e.g. concerning transport, education, health or environment) or one single observatory for a whole territory, and which is initially limited to a few focal areas and then expanded as new urban actors come and require information.

In sum, the observatory has 2 main functions:

  • Collecting, processing and analyzing information for improved management and decision-making,
  • Communication and dissemination of information to the population and the different local actors.

Website of the Arab Urban Development Institute
The urban observatory of Sénart (FR)
The urban observatory of Kénitra (AR, FR)

Reference documents in English


Reference documents in French and German