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Driving sustainable urban development on a global scale

One of the most effective ways for cities to become more sustainable is to exchange with colleagues that face the same challenges. While the European Union provides local and regional governments in Europe the chance to share solutions, many innovative measures are put into practice beyond Europe's borders. To foster dialogue with cities outside of Europe, the EU has established the International Urban Cooperation (IUC) programme.

This three-year programme will see cities from Europe pair with cities in selected regions of the world, allowing both parties to cooperate, build connections and share knowledge. Representatives from each city will take part in study tours, staff exchanges, trainings and seminars.
In addition to city to city cooperation, the IUC programme has two other components: rolling out the Global Covenant of Mayors, and establishing cooperation between regional governments.

Giorgia Rambelli is the head of the IUC Coordination Unit and has the job of liaising with regional offices around the world to ensure a smooth roll-out of the programme.

"The programme is a joint effort between several of the European Commission bodies, including DG REGIO and the Foreign Policy Instrument (FPI), with input from DG ENER and DG CLIMA. It aims to bring together European cities with cities from five regions across the globe - Japan, India, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, and North America "“ to foster sustainable urban development solutions to common challenges," says Giorgia. "It also aims to enable cities to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda."

Under component 1, cities will be paired up based on area of interest. "They will be supported to meet their counterpart in the other region and will be asked to draft a local action plan, which sets out how the sustainable development measures will be implemented. This will include an assessment of what targets they want to achieve, an analysis of the baseline that they're starting from, and a business plan to make sure it's feasible. It should also include a stakeholder engagement plan to ensure local people are involved," explains Giorgia.

"Some cities may be working on water and sanitation, others on gender and social inclusion "“ the topical spread is quite wide. We put the cities in touch and provide them with a platform for exchange. They then decide what the focus of their cooperation is supposed to be, and they will shape the exchange according to their needs and the local context."

The pairing programme proved popular, with 89 applications from European cities for the first phase. "It shows that there's a lot of interest to cooperate with other partners around the world," says Giorgia. "To match the cities, we carried out a thorough analysis based on established criteria to ensure a quality check and fairness. When possible, we tried to match cities that have an interest in working with each other.

"The programme only covers some expenses such as travel costs, so it's up to the cities to really invest their energy and skills and their own resources into developing the partnership. Once cities have confirmed their interest in cooperating, they will kick off their partnerships, which are required to last for at least 18 months."

The second component of the IUC deals with the merge of the Covenant of Mayors and the Compact of Mayors. The two initiatives came together in 2016 through an agreement with Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, representing the European Commission, and Michael Bloomberg, representing the Compact partners. "They saw that these two initiatives were extraordinary examples of how local actors are driven to contribute to large scale sustainability objectives," says Giorgia. "A new Secretariat was set up in Brussels to manage the merge, in cooperation with the European Commission. The initiative's new name is the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. Its focus is climate mitigation, climate adaptation and access to energy.

"The Covenant of Mayors was kicked off in 2008 and was a bottom up, local initiative mostly driven by the European Commission, which aimed to capitalise on the efforts that cities were making in supporting local climate policy. The Compact of Mayors was kicked off by a number of international city networks (including ICLEI), in cooperation with UN Habitat and Bloomberg Philanthropies, with Michael Bloomberg the motor behind the development of this initiative in his role as UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change. It aimed to show that there's a committed push from the bottom up to reach the objectives of the Paris Agreement. It also showed that the local level is willing to work hand in hand with the national level."

Thousands of cities have already joined one of the two initiatives.
"It is a great opportunity to show that local action can move the world!" says Giorgia when asked what cities get out of joining. "They can help ambitious commitments to become reality. Cities are not only policy makers but administrators and service providers. Increasingly they see the challenges of climate change and they are suffering most of the effects. This makes them the perfect actor to cooperate with to ensure that actions have an impact on the ground."

The third component of the IUC brings together regions in Europe and Latin America and the Carribean (including Mexico) to explore how their economic output can be made more innovative, leading to new market opportunities. To this end, it is not just a cooperation between public sector actors, but it also involves the business sector and academia. Component three is the most business oriented, and looks into developing new markets and new trade opportunities.

For Giorgia, setting up the programme has been highly challenging, but also rewarding: "It's an incredibly complex programme, partially due to the variety of topics that it's trying to address - the three components are already quite confusing to explain to people as they're interlinked, but also quite different and specific.

"An added complexity is the fact that we're looking into different regions and different ways of dealing with topics, as well as the wide variety of mandates that cities have in terms of implementing sustainable development actions. There are also cultural complexities. We're working with colleagues in different parts of the world, following different ways of cooperating. It also means dealing with different time zones "“ that means that I spend most of my time on the phone from early in the morning until late at night!"

"But it is an incredibly interesting programme," she adds. "I feel that this is a great opportunity to kick-off something from the ground that will be useful around the global and for the future. Hopefully it will bring us closer to a more sustainable future."

For more information on the IUC programme, visit www.iuc.euImage copyright: Sourced from Pixabay more

» Publication Date: 30/10/2017

» Source: Iclei Europe

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