Event 1

event title

Building a Strong Evidence-base for Policy Making and Action in Cities

delivered by

  • Chair: Ms Victoria Delbridge, Head of Cities That Work, IGC
  • Opening and closing remarks: Mr Peter Oborn, Senior Vice President, Commonwealth Association of Architects
  • Panellists:
    • Ms Astrid Haas, Urban Economist, African Development Bank, Uganda
    • Mr Omad Masud, CEO, The Urban Unit, Pakistan
    • Mr Matthew Adendorff, Data Lead, Open Cities Lab, South Africa


This is the first of three events in support of the Call to Action on Sustainable Urbanisation in the Commonwealth that has been developed jointly by the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the Commonwealth Association of Architects, the Commonwealth Association of Planners and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum, with support from the Government of Rwanda and The Prince’s Foundation. 

UN Habitat suggests that 65% of the 169 targets underpinning the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are linked to territorial and urban development. Faced with the complex challenges of rapid urbanisation, climate change and the recovery from Covid-19, this event brought together policymakers, academics and practitioners to consider (1) the importance of building an evidence base in fast-growing cities, (2) the kind of data and evidence that we need, and (3) how we can work together more effectively to help build a strong evidence base for effective policy making and action on the ground to help deliver sustainable urbanisation, leaving no one and no place behind.

This event was first broadcast on 05 July 2021 and was watched by over 129 participants from over 34 countries. The live recording of this event is available to watch at the top of this webpage.

key messages

  1. (why) An evidence base is important to tackle policymakers’ priority challenges – given the resource and climate constraints cities face, we need to address urban challenges with more urgency than before, and leveraging data and evidence enables us to progress faster and with greater accuracy.  
  2. (what) Data should be used to solve existing problems, rather than prioritising data first and retrospectively identifying problems that it can solve.
  3. (what) Data often exists but not in a usable format – we need to improve the storage, accessibility, quality and frequency of data for policy decisions.
  4. (how) It is important to create an interface between domain expertise and data – local officials provide domain expertise, such as industrial and city requirements, and data experts can ensure they use spatial data in a way relevant to the officials’ needs. 
  5. (how) A successful common evidence base between city stakeholders requires a consolidated, needs-driven structuring of information to achieve policymaking objectives. This requires common data principles (objectives, sovereignty of data, sharing mechanisms), gender and social inclusion focus (ensuring all residents are included), understanding of governance frameworks, and data taxonomy (structures, reporting) to ensure governance requirements are met. 

links to further information

IGC blog of the session can be found here

additional resources

A copy of Astrid Haas’s presentation can be found here.
A copy of Omar Masud’s presentation can be found here.
A copy of Matthew Adendorff’s presentation can be found here.