About Country Programmes

How Country Programmes work
The Country Programme approach
Where Country Programmes work
Outputs and activities of a Country Programme
Long-term impacts of a Country Programme
Country Programme partners

Initial results
Country Programmes Home Page
Download Country Programmes Fact Sheet in PDF Format
Country Programmes Guidelines (Standard Operating Procedures)

How Country Programmes work

Country Programmes target national government, local authorities and communities by developing two main components:

  • A framework to enhance cooperation among national and local governments, urban poor communities, Cities Alliance members, investors and other partners; and
  • Funding to complement Cities Alliance member and partner activities by filling action or knowledge gaps.

The Country Programme approach

Country Programmes are guided by a set of core principles that build on key lessons learned through years of global experience accumulated by the Cities Alliance. They are:

  • Long-term, pro-poor programming in which urban programmes are strategically developed to ensure that city governments can address urban growth and poverty reduction more effectively.
  • Collaborative programme design that engages and mobilises partners behind a programme of support that they have designed together. The programme links to past and current initiatives of Cities Alliance members and partners, and it also fosters client ownership.
  • A multi-sectoral, aligned approach that seeks to bring national government policies, city development processes and community activities across sectors into alignment in support of integrated urban development.
  • Building long-term institutional capacity by engaging and investing in national, regional, local and community institutional structures, including universities. This ensures that the national capacity exists to implement the programmes in the long term.
  • Engaging for systemic change and impacts at scale by supporting the emergence of an appropriate policy framework and the institutionalisation of dialogue between citizens and both local and national government, building on local knowledge and global good practice.

Where Country Programmes work

The Cities Alliance prioritises the development of Country Programmes with governments that are committed to – or are in the process of proactively addressing – the needs of the urban poor. These governments are also aware that this process must be undertaken in the context of citywide or nationwide reforms. For an effective Country Programme, the following elements are important:

  • National Government committed to urban reforms
  • Effective decentralisation and committed local governments
  • Demonstrated political commitment to the urban poor
  • Active local civil society
  • Engagement of Cities Alliance members
  • History of past Cities Alliance investment
  • Potential for investment leverage

The geographic focus for developing Country Programmes is primarily in low-income countries, with priority given to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. There are currently programmes in Uganda, Ghana, Vietnam, Mozambique and Burkina Faso.

Outputs and activities of a Country Programme

Country Programmes focus on achieving four main outputs – national policy frameworks, local inclusive strategies, building capacity of cities, and mechanisms to engage citizens. Each output is achieved through a series of activities that are determined by partners according to specific country context, with a thematic and geographic focus.

Some sample activities are outlined below for each type of output:

National policy frameworks developed and/or enhanced to address urban development needs Local inclusive strategies and plans developed and implemented Capacity of cities to provide improved services to urban poor strengthened Mechanisms to engage citizens in urban governance developed
Develop national urban policies Develop methodology for CDS and slum upgrading Enhance city management capacity Establish national, city and settlement level forum
Build capacity to train urban planners Develop CDS and slum upgrading plans in selected cities Establish city upgrading funds Support organisations of the urban poor
Strengthen city associations Profile and map settlements Consolidate linkages between planning and investment Building regional and national networks of the urban poor


Long-term impacts of a Country Programme

By moving away from shorter-term, one-time initiatives and adopting a longer-term, programmatic approach, Country Programmes aim to support sustainable impacts at scale. A Country Programme is expected to:

  • Improve governance and accountability through institutional reforms and dialogue
  • Improve management of urbanisation through long-term planning and inclusive policies
  • Strengthen the role and capacity of local government
  • Promote active citizenship and increased participation of the urban poor in urban development at the local and national levels
  • Improve access to housing and community services through the release of land and finance for community initiatives
  • Improve citywide service delivery through resource mobilization and partnership
  • Increase investment in local economic development

Country Programme partners

Country Programmes enable the development of an institutional framework that creates the space for joint dialogue, making it easier for all the partners to work together towards common objectives. It also allows donors to better coordinate and target their technical and financial support. Partners may include:

  • National and city governments
  • Urban poor communities
  • Local government Associations
  • Training institutes and academic institutions
  • NGOs
  • Private sector
  • Members of the Cities Alliance
  • Other development partners, such as international development agencies and foundations

Initial results

  • There are now active national urban fora in Uganda, Ghana and Vietnam formulating national responses to rapid urbanisation.
  • The Country Programmes have mobilised wide membership involvement, including AfD, GIZ, Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI), Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), UN-Habitat, and the World Bank.
  • In Ghana, alternative solutions to forced relocation of large settlements are being sought.
  • Slum dweller federations in Uganda are actively engaged in local level dialogue with government and other stakeholders.
  • In Uganda, local governments working with the Cities Alliance have released land for the urban poor.
  • Country Programmes have leveraged $700 million in investments from major development organisations for cities and services.


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