What is the Cities Alliance?An Overview

Within the next generation the number of urban residents will increase by 2.5 billion, the current urban population of the entire world. Ninety-eight percent of that increase will be in developing counties - and this entire increase will be in urban areas. Already close to thirty percent of the developing world's urban population lives below official poverty lines. Realizing the opportunities of this urban transition for economic and social development will largely depend upon our ability to improve the quality of life of the urban poor.

The Cities Alliance is a global coalition of cities and their development partners designed to achieve the promise of well managed cities. Launched in 1999 by Jim Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, and Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of UNCHS (Habitat), and the Alliance aims to improve the efficiency and impact of urban development cooperation in two key areas:

  1. Linking the process by which local stakeholders define their vision for their city, analyze its economic prospects and establish a city development strategy and priorities for action; and
  2. Making unprecedented improvements in the living conditions of the urban poor by supporting urban regeneration at citywide and nationwide scales of action.

As a multi-donor coalition the Alliance is committed to expand the level of resources reaching the urban poor by improving the coherence of effort among on-going urban programs, by catalyzing partners' efforts in ways that go beyond their individual programs, and by more directly linking grant-funded urban development cooperation with investment follow-up. The Cities Alliance will also serve as a global public policy forum to advance collective know-how and share lessons learned across regions and through networks of local authorities and their associations.

The Cities Alliance “Cities Without Slums” Action Plan calls for improving the living conditions of 100 million people over the next 20 years. This ambitious goal can only be achieved if the Alliance can draw upon the collective capacity of bilateral and multilateral partners and the private sector. President Nelson Mandela is the Patron of this initiative.

The governance structure of the Cities Alliance is currently being finalized drawing on the suggestions and recommendations made by partners. The Cities Alliance Consultative Group, composed of contributors to the Cities Alliance Trust Fund and representatives of global associations of local authorities, will approve the annual work program and budget of the Alliance. Its meetings will be preceded by a one-day global public policy forum which would include strong regional representation from client countries. The Consultative Group will be supported by a Policy Advisory Board composed of preeminent urban development practitioners.

The launching of the Cities Without Slums initiative and the first meeting of the Cities Alliance Consultative Group were held in Berlin on 16-17 December 1999. The highlight of the first event, hosted by Ms. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, was the participation of President Nelson Mandela, who committed himself to take an active role in serving as Patron of the Cities Without Slums initiative. The following day, representatives of fourteen governments and the political heads of the world's major international associations of local authorities reached consensus on most elements of the Charter that will govern the Alliance.

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