The Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning

Type: Specialist article Date 16 April 2021 Multi-level monitoring of urban development

Multi-level monitoring of urban development is already taking place in isolated cases, but is not institutionalised across-the-board as required by some guidelines (including New Urban Agenda, New Leipzig Charter). As a holistic and practice-oriented system the best way to create it is in a learning process – in an association of cities, regions, countries and the nation or an association of states.


Form follows function – this well-known postulate from the world of design also applies to multi-level monitoring: The function of such monitoring is to inform all levels involved, to formulate goals together and to define and review the necessary work steps. The form is a data language that is compatible and harmonised across the levels. In order for the overall system to work, it is also necessary that a respective level can classify its own position within the multi-level system: Where do you stand, for example, as a city in a region, a federal state and a nation or an association of states (based on the motto “think globally and act locally”)? With which territorial authority would you like to exchange ideas, nationally or internationally, about your own development paths and the achievement of goals in a profitable way? A multi-level monitoring therefore does not serve the binding ranking. At best, it should enable an intrinsically motivated and data-supported comparison among participants.


Multi-level monitoring of urban development is based on the following goals:

  • Spatial analyses, for example land use and population development, are created on the basis of the Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL), the Copernicus Land Cover is used and related supranational research results are referenced to depict for example urban growth at the city level.
  • Cross-level analyses are carried out at the local level as far as possible to ensure compatibility. In Germany these are municipalities or at least districts.
  • In addition to raster data obtained on the basis of satellite data, open source data are increasingly being used. Cities and urban regions alike come into focus.
  • Municipalities are the reporters of their development and should orientate themselves towards overarching frameworks at national or supranational level. They have to counteract a certain degree of scale blindness and empirical pitfalls. In terms of data technology, thinking and acting should be less horizontal than vertical. Goal-oriented horizontal networks can have a complementary effect. At the same time, support from the municipal level – for example from statistical institutions – is required.


BBSR (ed.): National Progress Report on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. BBSR-Online-Publikation 03/2021, May 2021
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BBSR (ed.): Multi-Level Analysis of Urban and Spatial Development. Informationen zur Raumentwicklung (IzR) 1/2021, April 2021
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New Urban Agenda of the United Nations: characterising, measuring and visualising the progress of its implementation across various levels
(General Departmental Research)
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