What is urban governance and why does it matter? This topic guide introduces the literature on urban governance and its relationship to growth and poverty reduction. It considers the key debates and issues, and sets out some implications for practice on specific urban governance challenges.The 21st century has been referred to as the first urban century. More than 50% of the world’s population live in urban areas. Rapid urbanisation has been identified as both an opportunity and a global challenge. Urban centres drive economic growth and offer economies of scale in productivity and public investment; they are social melting pots, centres of innovation and drivers of social change. However, cities can also be marked by inequality, poverty, conflict, violence and environmental degradation. Urban governance is the process by which governments (local, regional and national) and stakeholders collectively decide how to plan, finance and manage urban areas. It influences whether the poor benefit from economic growth, and determines how they bring their influence to bear and whether political and institutional systems, processes and mechanisms facilitate inclusive and pro-poor decisions and outcomes. It involves a continuous process of negotiation and contestation over the allocation of social and material resources and political power. It is not just about the formal structures of city government but encompasses a host of economic and social forces, institutions and relationships, formal and informal.