Al Madinah Urban Observatory Network

October 14, 2018

Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi in Madinah (Photo by: Mahmoud Ahmed)

UNDP's involvement made a difference:

During the period 2003-2008, UNDP supported the Municipality of Al Madinah Al Munawarah Region to establish Al-Madinah Urban Observatory Network (MOUN) – the first facility of its kind in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East Region as a whole.  UNDP’s support has contributed to the development of MOUN since its inception until its firm establishment currently as a leading facility for urban development planning.

In particular, UNDP supported the formulation of the mandate, the substantive focus and institutional structure, and the development of technical expertise within the observatory.

UNDP also supported the expansion of the urban indicators database beyond the minimum data set (composed of 23 key urban indicators and 9 qualitative data sub-sets) required for reporting on shelter and urban development as advocated by UN-Habitat.

MOUN was conceived within the national development plan, which prioritizes the notion of “spatial equity,” across the Kingdom. This approach entails ensuring equitable distribution of essential public goods and services as well as opportunities for economic investment and development. It also makes provisions for affirmative action in development planning favoring less developed regions.

MOUN has been instrumental in the formulation and execution of development plans for the entire Medinah Region home to more than 1.5 million regular inhabitants, in addition to around 7 million Pilgrims and transient inhabitants throughout. Such development plans have been multi-disciplinary surpassing the narrow confines of urban planning to include all sectors of economic and social planning.

Throughout its data gathering and analysis processes MOUN emphasizes broad-based participation from all sectors of society providing room for contribution in planning to the private sector, civil society organizations and particularly addressing the concerns of women.

Initiated by and housed in the Municipality of Al Madinah Al Munawarah Region to establish Al-Madinah, MOUN has established a comprehensive database of urban and development indictors based on the 23 key urban indicators and 9 qualitative data sub-sets required for reporting on shelter and urban development as advocated by UN-Habitat.

The indicator set has been expanded to include 107 indicators covering in addition to urban planning indicators (housing and infrastructure including roads, water, sewage, etc.), various aspects of economic, social and human development (education, health, poverty, labour, etc.). The set also includes 25 Madinah-specific indicators (addressing the uniqueness of the city as a major destination for Muslim pilgrimage) as well as the indicators for monitoring progress on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  The indicators are gender segregated and monitored to the lowest level of planning units.

Based on its regular monitoring on the agreed set of indicators, MOUN provides specialized analyses of social, economic, urban, demographic and environmental conditions in the Madinah region. It provides action oriented analyses geared towards decision support to development policy formulation, priority setting and planning.

The project was implemented during the period 2003-2008. Following the evaluation of success achieved in this phase a new phase of the project has been officially agreed for the period 2009-2011.

MOUN has become a recognized center of excellence and expertise in monitoring urban indicators, now providing experts consultations to all other sub-regional planning commissions in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well as within the entire Arab Gulf States region.

The project has been a great success in terms of informing the decision-making process at the provincial level of Al-Madinah. It benefits almost all sectors of the economy (strategic planning, health, labor market, education, etc.) and has all the population of the region (1.5 million persons) in addition to around 7 million Pilgrims and visitors throughout the year as its direct beneficiaries.