Cities Alliance

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Cities Alliance
FoundedMay 1999
TypeGlobal Partnership
Legal statusActive
HeadquartersBrussels, Belgium
LeaderDr Greg Munro, Director

Cities Alliance is a global partnership fighting urban poverty and supporting cities to deliver sustainable development. To manage its activities, the Cities Alliance operates a multi-donor fund with UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), as host and trustee. Different members provide direction, financing and advocacy. Cities Alliance aims to deliver solutions to urban poverty.

Cities Alliance Logo 2020


Founded in 1999 at the conclusion of the International Mayors Summit,[1] the Cities Alliance's initial members were bilateral aid agencies from the US, Japan, German, the UK, and Canada, in addition to four associations of local authorities.[2] From its inception, the Cities Alliance has been clear in its intention to exclusively "fund partnership-efforts of multiple stakeholders", with the intention of engendering cooperation across the government, NGO, international organization, and citizen advocacy divides to support active local governance, citizenship, and economic growth[2] These efforts implicate "regional staff members in Africa, Asia, and Latin America".[3]

The Cities Alliance has additionally "made transparency and access to information an important aspect of its decision-making process" in accordance with principle five of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.[2] This is one of several ways in which the Cities Alliance is in line with current thinking on the subject. Through their country programmes, for instance, they are strengthening "a framework to enhance cooperation between urban stakeholders, and public and private investments in urban communities", echoing the Paris Declaration's themes of harmonisation, alignment, and ownership.[4]

In addition to grant distribution and monitoring efforts, the Cities Alliance also serves as "a medium for information and experience sharing between various local governments", to encourage the development of best practices in urban planning, mapping, and service delivery, with knowledge exchanges taking place in various fora.[3] It was this same coordinating function that prompted the Cities Alliance Secretariat's location, first in Washington DC and then in Brussels, in order "to encourage close coordination between the technical assistance role to be promoted by the Cities Alliance" with the larger "urban project lending" function.[5] This move, from Washington DC to Brussels in 2013, corresponded with the departure of the Cities Alliance from the World Bank, at which point it fell under the auspices of the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), following a "partnership-driven selection process" to make it their secretariat and trustee.[6]


The basic practices of the Cities Alliance were outlined in their 2003 annual report, calling for "an attack on urban poverty by focusing on two areas: city development strategy (CDS), and citywide and nationwide squatter settlement upgrading".[7] This has since expanded to include other modalities but still forms the bedrock of Cities Alliance, which focuses on "the city and its region rather than on sectors", making it relatively unusual.[8]

City Development Strategies (CDS)[edit]

City Development Strategies are positioned "as a mechanism to create a shared vision of the city's future among all stakeholders".[7] They are "based on an assessment of each city's economic growth prospects and are aimed at enhancing its competitiveness" and focus on "improved urban governance, fiscal responsibility and the establishment for clear priorities for action and investment".[2] One prominent example of a Cities Alliance CDS programme can be found in the Philippines. In 1999, the "World Bank/Japan, concurrent with UNDP/ UN-HABITAT" supported the development of CDS in three cities.[9] Subsequently, "the Municipal League of the Philippines" expanded the project "to many more cities than initially included", due to the CDS’ capacity to aid leaders in understanding "the economic development of the city" and removing "constraints to its efficient functioning" to raise living standards of its citizens.[10]

Slum upgrading[edit]

Slum upgrading, or the delivering of "a package of basic services: clean water supply and adequate sewage disposal to improve the well-being of the community" and "legalizing and ‘regularizing’ the properties in situations of insecure or unclear tenure" was, and continues to be, one of the first focuses of the Cities Alliance.[11] Prominent slum upgrading projects undertaken by the Cities Alliance include:

  • A Community-Led Infrastructure Financing Facility in Mumbai[12]
  • The Shelter Finance for the Poor Initiative in Peru, India, Mexico, Ecuador, and Kenya,[13]
  • A National Slum Upgrading Strategy in the Philippines[14]
  • The Vietnam Urban Upgrading Project (VUUP)[15]
  • Barrio Legal Programme in São Paulo[16]
  • National Upgrading Support Program (NUSP) in South Africa[17]

Country programmes[edit]

Country programmes are considered the "fulcrum of its work program to longer-term, programmatic support".[18] They are a framework, including "national and local governments, urban poor communities, Cities Alliance members, investors and other partners" and funding for projects.[19] In their Uganda Country Programme, for instance, projects are targeted "not only where the bulk of urbanization is taking place, but also where capacity constraints, infrastructure backlogs, and affordability challenges are the most extreme".[18]

Catalytic Fund[edit]

The Catalytic Fund of the Cities Alliance is a fund for small grants ($50,000 to $200,000), intended to "catalyse urban transformation processes that promote inclusive cities" and advance collective knowledge "through learning distilled from project experiences" and are issued along selected themes.[20] The themes in question vary, but in years past, they have included "Know Your City"[21] and "Youth and the City".[22]


The Cities Alliance has had several high-profile advocates in its history, including:

  • Clare Short: A British politician, Short has been a member of the Cities Alliance's policy arm since 2006.[23]
  • Sheela Patel: The founder of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers (SPARC) is an alumna of the policy arm, stepping away from her position in 2007.[24]
  • Mary Houghton: The co-founder of ShoreBank, Houghten is reportedly a former member of the Policy Advisory Board from 2001 until 2004.[25]
  • Somsook Boonyabancha: The Cities Alliance website lists the Secretary General of the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) as having been active in the Policy Advisory Board from 2001 until 2004.[25]
  • Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi: The Secretary General of the UCLG - Africa is also a member of the Cities Alliance Policy Advisory Board.[26][27]
  • Richard Webb Duarte: The ex-president of the Peruvian Central Bank participated in the Policy Advisory Board.[28]
  • Juanita Amatong: The former Philippine Secretary of Finance was also a member of the Policy Advisory Board.[29]
  • Paulo Teixeira: This member of the Brazilian National Congress contributed to the Policy Advisory Board.[30]
  • Nicephore Soglo: The former president of Benin, according to the Cities Alliance's website, began his engagement with the Policy Advisory Board in 2007.[31]
  • Mark Hildebrand: The former Chief of the Technical Cooperation Division of UN-Habitat was also the manager of the Cities Alliance from 1999 until 2006.[32]


The Cities Alliance has been credited with several major developments in the field of urban innovation, dating from its inception. "Developed within the framework of the Cities Alliance", the "Cities Without Slums Action Plan", launched by Nelson Mandela, set an agenda and targets for improving conditions "of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020".[1] This was subsequently "endorsed at the UN Millennium Summit" and is reflected in Goal 7, Target 11 of the Millennium Development Goals.[33] In 2009, based on its track record, the Cities Alliance was further awarded a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to continue its work on slum upgrading in Burkina Faso, Ghana and Uganda through its country programs.[18] It has also created a number of notable programmes, including several urban forums and its Land, Services and Citizenship programmes. The latter "aims to support national and local policy dialogue to promote sustainable urbanisation, ensure the empowerment of local governments and reinforce the importance of active community participation" by aligning "urban development efforts at the national, city and community levels" in Ghana and Vietnam.[34]


The Cities Alliance has a broad range of members including local authorities, national governments, non-governmental organisations, multi-lateral organisations, private sectors, foundation and knowledge institutions. Current and past members include:

Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Das, Aparna (December 2006). "Slum upgrading and women's empowerment: The experience in Titagarh, West Bengal" (PDF). Social Change. 36 (4): 67–83. doi:10.1177/004908570603600404. S2CID 147388402. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Mukhija, Vinit (February 2006). "Challenges for international development planning: Preliminary lessons from the case of the Cities Alliance". Cities. 23 (1): 56–62. doi:10.1016/j.cities.2005.10.002.
  3. ^ a b "Supporting Learning Cities: A Case of the Cities Alliance" (PDF). uO Research. University of Ottawa. August 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 February 2015. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  4. ^ Li, Jun (2013). Foreign aid, urbanization and green cities. Leibniz: EconStor. p. 7. ISBN 978-92-9230-628-1.
  5. ^ Cohen, Michael (10 June 2014). "The City is Missing in the Millennium Development Goals". Journal of Human Development and Capabilities. 15 (2–3): 261–274. doi:10.1080/19452829.2014.899564. S2CID 153734189.
  6. ^ "UNOPS to support urban development partnership". UNOPS. United Nations. 17 March 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  7. ^ a b Frediani, Alexandre Apsan (March 2007). "Amartya Sen, the World Bank, and the Redress of Urban Poverty: A Brazilian Case Study" (PDF). Journal of Human Development. 8: 133–152. CiteSeerX doi:10.1080/14649880601101473. S2CID 14934410. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  8. ^ Multiple, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (2003). The Challenge of Slums - Global Report on Human Settlements 2003. New York: Earthscan/James & James. pp. 140–145. ISBN 978-1-84407-037-4.
  9. ^ "UPSCALING POVERTY-FOCUSED CITY DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES IN THE PHILIPPINES". UN-Habitat Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. UN-Habitat. Archived from the original on 24 February 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  10. ^ Gilbert, Roy (2004). Improving the Lives of the Poor by Investing in Cities: An Update on the Performance of the World Bank's Urban Portfolio. Washington, DC: The World Bank. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-8213-5540-4.
  11. ^ "What is urban upgrading?". Urban Upgrading. MIT. 2001. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  12. ^ Burra, Sundar (April 2005). "Towards a pro-poor framework for slum upgrading in Mumbai, India". Slum Upgrading. 17: 67–88. doi:10.1177/095624780501700106. S2CID 150366235.
  13. ^ Malhotra, Mohini (October 2003). "Financing her home, one wall at a time". Environment and Urbanization. 15 (2): 217–228. doi:10.1177/095624780301500211. S2CID 153328300.
  14. ^ "WB, Philippines Launch Formulation of a National Slum Upgrading Strategy". World Bank News. 19 December 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  15. ^ Baker, Judy L. (2012). Climate Change, Disaster Risk, and the Urban Poor: Cities Building Resilience for a Changing World. Washington, DC: The World Bank. p. 166. ISBN 978-0-8213-8845-7.
  16. ^ "CiudadFuturo" (PDF). UCLG. 27 April 2007. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  17. ^ Tissington, Kate and Lauren Royston. "Creating a Better Life For All Through Informal Settlement Upgrading". Afesis-corplan. Archived from the original on 23 February 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  18. ^ a b c Multiple, World Bank (2013). Global Monitoring Report: Rural-Urban Dynamics and the Millennium Development Goals. New York, USA: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank. pp. 115, 173. ISBN 978-0-8213-9806-7.
  19. ^ "COUNTRY PROGRAMMES". Cities Alliance. 2011-08-09. Archived from the original on 2015-02-09. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  20. ^ Belsky, Eric S.; et al. (November 2013). "Advancing Inclusive and Sustainable Urban Development: Correcting Planning Failures and Connecting Communities to Capital" (PDF). Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 10, 2017. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  21. ^ Admin (8 May 2014). "Know your city: Information for transformation. Cities Alliance now accepting applications for Catalytic Fund (CATF)". Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  22. ^ "Youth and the City Forms Focus of Cities Alliance Call for Proposals to the Catalytic Fund". Zunia Knowledge Exchange. 13 March 2012. Archived from the original on 24 February 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  23. ^ "GOVERNANCE -- OLD". Cities Alliance. 2011-08-09. Archived from the original on 23 February 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  24. ^ Multiple (2007). "Cities Alliance Annual Report" (PDF). Cities Alliance. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  25. ^ a b "ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURE: PAB FORMER MEMBERS". Cities Alliance. 2011-08-09. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  26. ^ "Jean-Pierre ELONG M'BASSI est le Secrétaire Général le CGLUA". Global Local Forum. Archived from the original on 24 February 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  27. ^ "The Cities Alliance" (PDF). Independent Evaluation Group. 28 June 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 February 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  28. ^ Duarte, Richard Webb (2004). "HOJA DE VIDA" (PDF). Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  29. ^ Remo, Michelle (7 January 2005). "For Amatong, liberating work overseas". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  30. ^ "Slum upgrading tops the agenda at Brasilia meeting, September 20 and 21, 2007". Zunia Knowledge Exchange. 2007. Archived from the original on 24 February 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  31. ^ "Cities Alliance Annual Report" (PDF). Cities Alliance. 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  32. ^ "Cities Alliance Annual Report" (PDF). Cities Alliance. 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  33. ^ Majale, Michael (2008). "Employment creation through participatory urban planning and slum upgrading: The case of Kitale, Kenya". Habitat International. 32 (2): 270–282. doi:10.1016/j.habitatint.2007.08.005.
  34. ^ Public Agenda (10 June 2014). "Prioritise spatial planning in national dev't". Ghana Web. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  35. ^ "BRAZIL". Our Members. Cities Alliance. 2011-08-09. Archived from the original on 2015-02-09. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  36. ^ "DFID support to the World Bank/Habitat Cities Alliance". DFID Project Record. DFID. Archived from the original on 20 February 2015. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  37. ^ "ETHIOPIA". Our Members. Cities Alliance. 2011-08-09. Archived from the original on 2015-02-09. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  38. ^ "Ghana". GIZ, GbBH. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  39. ^ "Advocating for effective housing policies on a global level". Habitat World. Habitat for Humanity International. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  40. ^ "French Alliance for Cities and Territorial Development" (PDF). French Alliance for Cities and Territorial Development. 2014. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  41. ^ Suleiman, Mustapha (26 October 2009). "Nigeria: Cities Alliance Approves Nigerian Report". Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  42. ^ "Partners". SDINet. Slumdwellers International. 2014. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  43. ^ Ngomba, Teke (2010). "Challenges of Urban Housing Provision in Lagos and Johannesburg". Africa Files. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  44. ^ "Cities Alliance Executive Committee". UCLG Africa. 7 April 2014. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  45. ^ "Urban Strategic Planning". Sustainable Urban Development. UCLG. 2014. Archived from the original on 7 February 2015. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  46. ^ "UNEP, Cities Alliance Outline Tools for Integrating Environment into Urban Planning". International Institute for Sustainable Development. 8 April 2014. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  47. ^ "United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT)". UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service. United Nations. Retrieved 23 February 2015.