• Who we are

Community Involvement: Shelter

Arcadis and UN-Habitat contribute to one of the most urgent challenges in the world: sustainable urbanization. UN-Habitat’s mission is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities by improving the quality of life of citizens around the world. Arcadis supports UN-Habitat in facing these urban challenges by providing pro bono expertise through the Shelter program, a global partnership that makes a real difference.

The Shelter program 

The Shelter program, the partnership of Arcadis with UN-Habitat has been set up in 2010 with financial support of the Lovinklaan foundation. Over 100 missions, trainings and other Shelter activities have been organized in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and more than 2000 Arcadis experts from a range of disciplines have been actively engaged in the Shelter program by sharing their knowledge and expertise. This combination of expertise from a wide variety of backgrounds is aimed at improving living conditions in cities around the world, especially for the urban poor. Moreover, Arcadis is a main sponsor of the World Urban Campaign, an initiative of UN-Habitat designed to increase public awareness and to address the social, economic and environmental challenges of urbanization through the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

The challenge

As our towns and cities grow at unprecedented rates, urbanization is one of the most pressing challenges facing the global community in the 21st century. Making sustainable improvements to the urban environment is critical to delivering lasting results for all our communities. Arcadis is well positioned to support UN-Habitat and to address this urgent challenge.

The talent

Arcadis’ talents span the fields of infrastructure, water, environment, buildings and urban planning at the highest levels. Moreover, the partnership with UN-Habitat integrates fully with our strategic ambition to play a meaningful role in our communities and to use our services and expertise in ways that positively impact the world. By combining the global reach of Arcadis and the humanitarian mission of UN-Habitat, we can make a real difference in the world.

Our partners

UN-Habitat is the lead United Nations agency for housing and urban development. Its mandate is to promote socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable urban development and adequate housing for all. It is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.

Lovinklaan's mission is to promote the interests of Arcadis employees, to provide for the continuity of Arcadis and to stimulate employee ownership. The Shelter program is financially supported by the Lovinklaan Foundation, Arcadis’ largest shareholder.

The Promise of Shelter

Read The Promise of Shelter (2010 – 2020), created to celebrate ten years of UN-Habitat and Arcadis partnership in 2020 to improve quality of life in emerging cities. The book provides an overview of ten year Shelter Program with pictures of missions, workshops, academies, and personal stories of stakeholders and participants. Please be patient while loading.

Shelter program activities

The Shelter program activities focus on three main activities, the Shelter Academy, the Shelter missions, and the Shelter workshops.

Shelter Academy

The Shelter Academy is an annual program of a week in which high-level local officials from Asia, Africa, and Latin America will make an implementation and action plan looking at case studies on climate adaptation and mitigation in their region. They do this with the help of Arcadis experts, workshops and concrete examples of Arcadis’ projects worldwide. The Academy promotes learning and capacity building on the topic of cities and climate change and fosters a meaningful dialogue on how cities are responding to these challenges. The Shelter Academy is part of Arcadis’ commitment to the World Urban Campaign which is undertaken jointly in partnership with UN-habitat’s Research and Capacity Building Branch.

Picture: Shelter Academy participants of 2019. (click image to enlarge)

Picture: Shelter Academy locations of participants 2020. (click image to enlarge)

Shelter Missions

The shelter missions aim to address urban challenges that face world’s cities and help them to meet each challenge safely, securely, build their resilience and improves quality of life. Arcadis send experts to urban areas worldwide on request of UN-Habitat on missions in order to share knowledge, offer training, capacity building sessions, and provide theoretical and technical support to UN-Habitat projects.

Picture: Shelter missions around the world (2010 - 2020). (click image to enlarge)

Shelter Workshops

Arcadis is organizing many workshops each year to raise awareness, promote participation and generate knowledge on the implementation of the new urban agenda. The workshops are divided by three different workshops:

• Urban Thinkers Campuses (UTC’S): Arcadis sends experts to UTC’s worldwide to actively participate at those Campuses and to contribute in this way to the implementation of the new urban agenda. The Urban Thinkers Campuses are an initiative of the World Urban Campaign, an advocacy and partnership platform, which is organized by UN-Habitat and sponsored by Arcadis as part of the Shelter program. The Urban Thinkers Campuses are two- or three-day meetings where urban stakeholders gather to discuss problems and solutions for better cities.

• Shelter Arcadis workshops: the Shelter Arcadis workshops are organized internally by Arcadians focused on the best way to implement the new urban agenda in the city or region of the Arcadis office, promotion of the Shelter program and the opportunity to join the Shelter activities and/or to gather information for a Shelter mission. The Shelter Arcadis Workshops are lunch meetings.

• Shelter External Workshops: The Shelter External Workshops are organized on request of UN-Habitat with external parties. The Workshops are organized by Arcadians in order to share knowledge and expertise on topics related to the Shelter program.

Picture: Shelter workshops around the world (2010 - 2020). (click image to enlarge)


Shelter COVID-19 support

In light of COVID-19 Arcadis has supported UN-Habitat by setting up the Shelter Rapid Response Help Desk for UN-Habitat staff, UN-Habitat partners, and Shelter Academy alumni to provide instant technical advice on COVID-19-related issues in the areas of water, environment, buildings and mobility. Besides recommendations from a general urban planning perspective a special focus is put on urban areas with informal settlements and slums. The Rapid Response Help Desk has provided responses with short term recommendations how to deal with the current pandemic for topics ranging from access to basic services like water, food and energy, solid waste disposal to communication and finance. Shelter program has assisted with creating a checklist for the conversion of hotels and other buildings to medical facilities. Also, case studies have been developed providing in-depth understanding of successful approaches in the current pandemic.

The COVID-19 virus proves that cities should be planned and managed taken health resiliency and pandemics into account. The Shelter program has combined all valuable lessons learned from this crisis to help city administrations to be better prepared in the future, creating  a set of long term recommendations and guidelines for healthy pandemic resilient cities with a focus on urban planning, environmental issues, social issues and governance issues. This resulted in the Healthy Pandemic Resilient Cities report, which can be downloaded here.

On 21 October 2020 the Shelter program organized a virtual Urban Thinkers Campus to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Shelter program. The webinar focused on Healthy Pandemic Resilient Cities. Consult the recording of the webinar here to see the presentations of the speakers from UN-Habitat (Ms. Maimunah Sharif, Christine Auclair, Javier Torner, Cris Rollo) and Arcadis (Peter Oosterveer, Bert Smolders and Kairmein Deboo).

Please contact the Shelter team if you require any more information on the Shelter program and its COVID-19 support to UN-Habitat.


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Bert Smolders

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