Mandate & History

UN-Habitat Mandate

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat, is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. The main documents outlining the mandate of the organization are the Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements, Habitat Agenda, Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements, the Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium and and Resolution 56/206.

In addition to its advocacy and monitoring functions, UN-Habitat plays an important role in providing technical assistance to countries and cities in the areas of urban governance, housing, environmental management, disaster mitigation, post-conflict rehabilitation, urban safety, water management and urban poverty reduction. UN-Habitat as part of its global mandate has an established Disaster Management Unit at its headquarters in Nairobi. This unit is resourced with specific expertise on vulnerability reduction as well as post-disaster reconstruction and recovery.

History of UN-Habitat’S Association with Sri Lanka

Cooperation between the Government of Sri Lanka and UN-Habitat has a long tradition, with UN-Habitat providing assistance through a range of national programmes and city-based projects.

  • Preparation and Implementation of the Master Plan for Colombo (1978-1983): This established a Slum and Shanty Unit, one of the first successful slum upgrading programmes in a developing country.


  • Assistance to the Million Houses Programme (1984-1989): A Training Programme for Community Participation changed the government’s role from a provider to a facilitator in a peoples housing process.


  • Assistance to the Million-and-a-Half Houses Programme (1989-1993): Institutionalized participatory Community Action Planning and Community Contracting approaches in Government housing agencies.