EU helps cities work together for a sustainable future

Cities are said to hold the key to worldwide sustainable development, and this is precisely why the EU launched the International Urban Cooperation programme (IUC) in 2016, to help Europe's cities work and share best practices with their counterparts elsewhere in the world. A win-win to tackle urban development challenges. The latest call for interest has been published recently and is open till 22 February.

​Within this round of pairings, European cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants will have the opportunity to cooperate with counterparts in Japan, China, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Chile and Colombia. Paired cities commit to cooperating intensively with their partner city for at least 18 months, developing a local action plan focused on a particular area of sustainable urban development. They will also become part of a large community of peers and stakeholders committed to enhancing sustainable urban development.

The challenges of urban growth

According to UN data, today about 55% of the world's population lives in cities, and this proportion is expected to increase to 68% by 2050. More urban dwellers may mean more wealth and activity, but it also means added strain on energy, water, health, transport and housing facilities. All this, in turn, produces adverse effects on the environment, and puts further pressure on climate change. The EU decided to launch the IUC programme in 2016 to promote international cooperation on tackling these sustainable development challenges. Financially supported by the Foreign Policy Instrument of the EU with a budget of over €20 million, the programme is coordinated in conjunction with DGs REGIO, ENER and CLIMA.

Today about 55% of the world's population lives in cities, and this proportion is expected to increase to 68% by 2050

City-to-city cooperation is one of the initiative's three components – the other two being sub-national action under the Global Covenant of Mayors initiative and inter-regional cooperation. One example among many others is the partnership agreements DG DEVCO has signed with local or regional associations working on city-to-city cooperation. A pair of cities for sustainable development

The IUC city pairing programme encourages cities and municipalities facing similar problems around the world to forge lasting partnerships and cooperate in working on any of the 17 sustainable development goals defined in the UN 2030 Agenda, such as 'no poverty', 'clean water and sanitation' or 'affordable and clean energy'. It provides opportunities for local leaders and municipal technical experts to connect and gain new perspectives on pressing sustainable development issues. Representatives from each city will take part in study tours, staff exchange, trainings and seminars, and will design a local action plan to help achieve the defined goals. Within the framework of the IUC programme, to date, over 60 pairings have been established between local governments in Europe and in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North America. Barcelona and New York City, Rotterdam and Surat (India), Rome and Yantai (China), and Almada (Portugal) and Belo Horizonte (Brazil) are among the established IUC pairings working together. Measures and actions implemented by cities taking part in the IUC programme will contribute to achieving the objectives of the UN 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals, the New Urban Agenda for the EU, the Sendai Framework and the Paris Agreement, enhancing quality of life in urban areas.

IUC city-to-city cooperation programme ; Q&A city-to-city cooperation