Good urban policy and planning requires accurate information. The Monitoring Systems Branch runs the agency's Global Urban Observatory (GUO). Using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology, it helps cities get a bird's eye view of their situation and their needs. Photograph a city from space, magnify it, look at a few streets in any area, and then send in survey teams to fill in the blanks from the streets up - how many people live there? How many have access to water and sanitation? Are the roads in need of repair? How many people have AIDS or malaria? Which slums are the most overcrowded? Armed with answers to such questions it is far easier and cheaper to bring improvements. The information gathered and researched provides a database of statistics and indicators on the state of urban development around the world. The information provided enables UN-HABITAT to monitor implementation of target 11 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) to significantly improve the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2020.
The Branch also publishes the agency's flagship State of the World's Cities report every two years.