Harmonised global definition of cities and settlements

Capacity building and training

Engagement and outreach



The tools developed and used by the GHSL to produce new global information that is contributing to new global findings together with our data mining technologies are openly documented and are freely available for the user and the scientific communities.


The GHSL image analytics framework has been tested with a large set of sensors including radar and optical, public and commercial missions. Read about the methodology of the GHSL.

Applying the Degree of Urbanisation

A methodological manual to define cities, towns and rural areas for international comparisons, 2021 edition

The Atlases of the Human Planet

Since 2016, the JRC and the GEO Human Planet Initiativelogo of the GEO Human Planet Initiative produce the 'Atlas of the Human Planet'. A yearly release of the new findings related to the human presence on Earth as compiled from the new global evidences gathered by the international scientific community.

Training program

Course details

The Degree of Urbanisation is a method to delineate cities, towns, suburbs and rural areas for international statistical comparison. It has been adopted by the 51st Statistical Commission of the United Nations. This training provides the necessary background to apply independently the Degree of Urbanisation method. We offer a multi-level learning experience across the various aspects of the Degree of Urbanisation, to help understanding what it is and how it can be applied to your own data. Applications include Sustainable Development Goals monitoring and breakdown by urbanisation class, disaster risk management, environmental and climate investigations, demography, development and cooperation.

Target audience

Statisticians, geographers, digital cartography technicians, administrative officers in the spatial planning domain, policy makers in territorial planning at national and subnational levels. Researchers in the domain of Earth Observation may also be interested.

The Degree of Urbanisation training course

Custom support for users

UN-Habitat together with the European Commission is committed to disseminating the Degree of Urbanisation worldwide.

The JRC is conducting dedicated training in many countries.

A map showing the location of the main training events (represented by the markers) and the coverage by geographical region interested by the training (shades of orange).
The map shows the location of the main training events (represented by the markers) and the coverage by geographical region interested by the training (shades of orange).

UN-Habitat also organised an expert group meeting to discuss this method in Brussels in 2017. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the global Strategy on Agricultural and Rural Statistics (GSARS) have presented the work at several forums that include the 7th International Conference on Agricultural Statistics in 2016, the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Food Security, Agricultural and Rural Statistics in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and at various meetings of the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) of GSARS. FAO and GSARS have engaged with seven countries to test and discuss in particular the level 2 of the Degree of Urbanisation: Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, France, Malaysia, Pakistan and the USA (GSARS 2018).

The European Commission has discussed this method with Australia, Brazil, Korea, Malaysia, India, South Africa, Turkey, the USA and Uganda.
The OECD has organised a bilateral workshop in Uzbekistan and in Kazakhstan in July 2019 and in Moscow in September 2019. It has also discussed this method with Morocco, Tunisia and Vietnam. The World Bank has discussed this work with Haiti, Jordan and Turkey.

This work has also been presented at multiple international conferences.
It was presented in a side-event during the last three meetings of the UN Statistical Commission and during the last two meetings of the UN Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM).
It was also presented during two UN World Data Forums, two World Urban Forums, the IAOS conference in 2018, the World Statistical Congress in 2017, the OECD World Forum in 2018 and the Inter-Agency Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goals in 2019.

Some of the most recent events

The Degree of Urbanisation
Hosted by the Union for the Mediterranean
for the Mediterranean & Middle East regions
Supporting Recovery and SDG implementation at local level: governance, tools and experiences
Hosted by the UNITAR, UN
Earth Observations Toolkit for Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements
Hosted by the NASA ARSET
for South America and Global coverage