Across the world, the rate of urbanisation is increasing at a rapid pace. As the areas in which the majority of people live and work, cities are increasingly acknowledged as the arena in which solutions to major societal and environmental challenges must be implemented. This rapid change has put many cities under significant strain. Local governments are struggling to meet the higher demand for services in fields such as energy, water, health, and transport prompted by the increase in population. The three-year International Urban Cooperation (IUC) programme aims to enable cities to link up and share solutions to common problems. It is part of a long-term strategy by the European Union to foster sustainable urban development in cooperation with both the public and private sectors. The IUC is separated into three distinct components:

I. City-to-city cooperation on sustainable urban

By pairing up EU with non-EU partner cities, the IUC boosts access to expertise in urban development policy, helping cities promote smart, green and inclusive growth. Working with like-minded partners, it fosters better ways to plan, finance, develop, govern and manage cities, and supports the New Urban Agenda decided in Quito.

II. Sub-national action under the Global Covenant of Mayors initiative

Cities consume two-thirds of the world’s energy. The Covenant of Mayors initiative promotes local actions to reduce harmful emissions, adapt to climate change and ensure access to clean and affordable energy.

III. Inter-regional cooperation on innovation for local and regional development

Cities and regions can generate growth by innovating and sharing expertise on clustering, global value chains and Smart Specialisation Strategies. This is important in Latin America where governments are trying to diversify their commodity-driven economies.

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The Knowledge Platform provides a space for IUC cities to connect virtually with their partner city, access resources on sustainable development, and share their own experience.

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IUC programme announces US - EU city partnerships

Following a competitive application process, five major cities in the United States have been selected by the IUC programme to pair with European Union cities. The paired cities will work together for at least 18 months to tackle mutual sustainable urban development challenges.

The following partnerships were established, based on mutual size, challenges and interests:

  • New York, New York - Barcelona, Spain
  • Boston, Massachusetts - Lyon, France
  • Baltimore, Maryland - Turin, Italy
  • Santa Monica, California - Varna, Bulgaria
  • Fort Collins, Colorado - Vila Nova de Famalicão, Portugal

The cities join an existing pairing between Austin, Texas and Bologna, Italy which launched in December 2017. "Cities today are the laboratories where many innovative solutions are emerging to address the biggest economic, social, and environmental challenges facing our societies today," said David O'Sullivan, the European Union's Ambassador to the United States. "The European Union is proud to support the IUC programme so that cities from the EU and U.S. can work together on sustainable urban development initiatives that will benefit citizens on both sides of the Atlantic."

As cities across the globe face rising challenges of migration, social inclusion, quality of life, climate change, and globalisation, the programme supports the pairings to build cooperation, share experiences, and exchange knowledge over a period of 18 months. At the same time, they are also part of a larger international community of peers and stakeholders engaging on sustainable urban development. The IUC contributes to the objectives of the UN 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals, the New Urban Agenda, the Sendai framework, and the Paris Agreement, enhancing quality of life in urban areas.

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