Reimagine urbanism for the 21st century with IPS 275

  • The Class

    UN HABITAT III: Bridging Cities & Nations to Tackle Urban Development (IPS 275)

    From climate change to refugee flows, the world’s cities have powered into a growing role in international affairs, working with national governments to address critical global challenges. At the same time, as billions more people move into towns, megacities, and informal settlements, urban conditions increasingly define human welfare.

    Stanford University engages with HABITAT III through an interactive, quarter-long class

    Every two decades, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (HABITAT) convenes to debate human settlement and collectively redraw our urban future. Using this year’s HABITAT III events in Quito, Ecuador as a lens, we explore urban growth and governance; technology, finance, and knowledge transfers; environmental and cultural sustainability; international negotiations; and multilateral/multi-sectoral cooperation.


    The twice-weekly seminar includes independent research project on HABITAT III and the New Urban Agenda. It can be taken for 3-5 units.

    Tue, Thu 1:30 PM - 2:50 PM (Building 50-51P)

  • Register

    Please fill out the following form to indicate your interest in taking the class.

    Be sure to also sign up on Axess for IPS 275.

  • Details

    What is HABITAT III?

    Every two decades, the world convenes at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (HABITAT) to debate urban growth and governance, the changing patterns of human settlement, and the face of future cities. The third, much-anticipated assembly, known as HABITAT III, will take place in Quito, Ecuador this fall—forty years after the inaugural meeting in Vancouver in 1976, and twenty years after Istanbul in 1996.

    Why should we care about cities?

    The United Nations predicts that by 2050, over two-thirds of humanity will live in urbanized areas.[1] As we pack 2.5 billion more human beings into vibrant town centers, crowded megacities, and dense informal settlements, questions about urbanization and the fate of cities are more important than ever. What form should cities take? What services should be provided? What are the rights and requirements for “urban citizenship,” and how do we manage and govern human settlements? Equally critically, how does the international community make collective decisions that shape cities for the future? These questions and more will be debated in the conference that defines the "New Urban Agenda" that will be agreed to at Quito.


    [1] UN World Urbanization Prospects, 2015 Revision

    What do cities have to do with international relations?

    The rise of megacities, with their vast resources and equally enormous demands, has powered municipalities into an expanded role in international affairs. During last year’s international climate negotiations in Paris, a coalition of cities, regions, and sub-national actors wielded substantial influence, lobbying for concrete action and proposing policy ideas independent of the negotiating position of their respective national governments.


    Recent headlines (“The city-state returns” “Nations are no longer driving globalization—cities are”) and new books (“If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities”) have also trumpeted this shifting terrain, in addition to observers of the COP21 in Paris last December. Habitat III continues this momentum, as mayors and their civil society partners play an increasingly active role in defining the global urban agenda, not only as supplicants to national governments, but as meaningful actors in their own right.

    What kinds of students can take part?

    Students from any department are welcome to apply to join the class. In particular, we are seeking graduate students or advanced undergraduates who have the capacity to carry out independent research and tackle questions about international cooperation and urban development.


    Our goal is to bring the HABITAT III themes to campus. You may consider independent travel to Quito during the conference itself, but whether you go or not will not impact your ability to take part in this class.

  • Instructors

    We're excited to get to know you!

    Kevin Hsu

    San Francisco, California

    Earth Systems, International Relations,

    Integrated Urban Infrastructure

    Caroline Nowacki

    Paris, France

    Management, Urban Economics,

    Sustainable Design and Construction

  • Part of the Human Cities Initiative family of classes

  • Contact Us

    Any questions? Be in touch!


  • Announcements

    Key announcements for our class will be posted here

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