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 and facilitates city-to-city cooperation to reduce CO2 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.

Knowledge Platform

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 launches second round of city-to-city pairings

The call for applications for the second round of the International Urban Cooperation (IUC) programme’s city-to-city pairing initiative was officially launched today at the 2018 World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). The initiative will see European local governments matched with international counterparts facing similar sustainability challenges from China, Chile, India, Japan, Peru and the United States of America.

"With this announcement, no fewer than 25 new city-to-city partnerships for sustainable urban development will be created. In this way, the European Union is making a decisive contribution to the roll-out of the United Nations' New Urban Agenda across the world, keeping the promise we made at the Habitat 3 meeting just over 15 months ago," said Ronald Hall, Principal Adviser on International Relations at the Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission.

The first round saw 35 pairings established, including Frankfurt (Germany) and Yokahama (Japan); Bologna (Italy) and Austin (USA); Manchester (United Kingdom) and Montreal (Canada); and Almada (Portugal) and Belo Horizonte (Brazil).

Cities will be matched based on shared topical interest: for example, cities may wish to reduce urban poverty, raise gender equality, tackle the challenges of migration, or have a desire to switch to renewable forms of energy. Each local government will learn from one another’s approaches, and will develop Local Action Plans which set out measures to be pursued during their 18 month cooperation period.

The Local Action Plans will follow a common methodology, inspired by the EU-funded URBACT programme experience. Its development will involve a wide-range of departments within each city, as well as academia, businesses, other levels of government and the local community.

It is a requirement that the Local Action Plans include pilot projects that are capable of being realised in the short to medium term, with the potential to spur R&D market growth. Measures and actions should also contribute to achieving the objectives of the UN’s New Urban Agenda Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Urban Agenda for the European Union, the Sendai Framework and the Paris Agreement, enhancing quality of life in urban areas.

The IUC programme is funded by the EU's Partnership Instrument.

For more information, visit our City Pairings page.

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