The Cities Alliance implements a performance monitoring system to measure the results and capture learning from its activities. Our highlight results detail our track record, tested solutions, and impact, achieved through 24 years of thematic and integrated approaches to sustainable city development and urban poverty.


Cities Alliance supports partner cities, local authorities, and communities to respond to, manage, and capitalise on the opportunities and contributions arising from migration.


Pioneering Census of Urban Refugees in Arua, Uganda

The Cities and Migration Programme pioneered a collaboration between the local government and the Central Bureau of Statistics to enumerate urban refugees. Arua Municipality estimates that self-settled refugees make up 24% of its total population. These migrants are not accurately documented by municipal authorities, and they are not included in the census.

This situation makes it very difficult for the city to adequately plan for all its residents at the municipal level and is straining Arua’s ability to provide services to its host communities. With accurate data, Arua can approach the central government for additional fiscal transfers to provide more adequate social services and opportunities for both migrants and host communities.


We need to have planned migration, not unplanned migration. Planned migration will make us organise ourselves and make sure host and migrant communities benefit from it. We are talking about refugees because normally they are not captured in our budgets, which limits the services we can provide to the refugees and the host communities ... A lot is being done for refugees in districts but not for those in cities. We need a deliberate effort to ensure that urban refugees are captured in our programmes. 

Mr. Isa Kato, Mayor of Arua


Almost all of the 13,000 targeted households were enumerated in 2020; 30 enumerators went door-to-door to collect data using tablets and transmitted the statistics directly to the online Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) information system. If urban refugees were properly accounted for, the municipalities in which they reside such as Arua could receive more resources from the central government to support their populations, including refugees. The amount of emergency support provided, such as food rations, could then reflect the actual number of those in need. Stronger health-care systems designed for the real number of inhabitants of municipalities, rather than just their citizens, could be created. And in turn the health and well-being of both urban refugees and Ugandans could be improved. The current pandemic highlights the need for the inclusion of urban refugees in censuses and government planning and should be a wake-up call to international NGOs to address the extreme vulnerability of those urban refugees so often deemed "self-reliant". Read more here.


Delivering Registration, Resource Centres, Work Opportunities and Healthcare for IDPs  in Adama, Ethiopia

As a result of the Cities and Migration Programme, a city-level centre is up and running with staff in offices at the Adama Municipality of Ethiopia. The city is financing six sub-city level desks to cover the entire city and so far, 700 migrants have registered and received services from the resource centres. The Adama Industrial Park and the Healthy Adama Company are partnering with the centres and offering jobs to IDPs.  An MoU was signed with the Ethiopian Family Guidance Association to provide basic healthcare services to migrants and IDPs in Adama. The Adama Model Clinic was launched in mid-2020, and 14 female and male IDPs were recruited and trained as health workers. The clinic also provided hygiene advice at IDP sites to combat COVID-19. Read more here.


Increasing Work Opportunities for Migrant Youth in Kairouan and Jendouba, Tunisia

Training for jobs in tourism for migrant youths. 118 youth (81 in Kairouan and 37 in Jendouba, 65% of them women) submitted proposals for small entrepreneurial projects. 60 were funded through the project, and the rest via the state employment agency and other microfinance programmes. A five-day training took place. Read more here.


Financial Education Formalises Savings for Remittance-Receiving Households in San Marcos, Guatemala

Through the Cities and Migration programme, a series of technical assistance products resulted in the mobilization of 6,000 remittance recipients and formalized savings. These included financial education materials and training manuals, credit product and coaching and follow-up materials in modules. The technical products resulted in formalized savings by remittance recipients amounting to $1,700,000. Read more here.


Diverse partnerships for the Social, Economic and Political Integration of Migrants

The 11 Catalytic Fund projects which completed in 2016 created diverse partnerships for the social, economic and political integration of migrants. They brought together national and local governments, civil society, academia, and the private sector to design and implement better support for migrants in their communities. The cooperation with local governments to initiate long-term policy change or institutionalise the developed approaches was evidenced. Read more here.


Cities Alliance supports local authorities, communities and women by driving urban initiatives that reduce gender inequalities and empower all women, specifically the most marginalised.

Women in Nepal and Woman in Uganda

Femmedina project achieves influence and scale in Tunis, Tunisia

The USAID-funded Femmedina project of the Cities for Women Programme piloted an approach to counter inequalities and promote women’s economic empowerment and safety in Tunisia through the creation of urban public spaces and services designed for and with women in the Medina of Tunis. The project was implemented between 2020 and 2022 and contributed towards the promotion of women’s leadership and participation in decision-making at the local level by placing women at the centre of the creation of public spaces. Femmedina succeeded in influencing both local stakeholders and international funders, contributed to institutional change at the municipal level and has attracted significant interest.

The project demonstrated that the Cities Alliance can achieve significant influence through pilot small-scale interventions and accompanying learning and engagement activities. The Mayor of Tunis personally supported the project and Femmedina gained high visibility in the media which attracted an increasing interest from other donors and stakeholders for further investments. Considering the pilot project’s success, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has allocated USD $1.6 million for the second phase to expand the intervention to four more municipalities. The strongest indicator of success is that the city of Tunis has adopted a gender budget for the maintenance of the newly created public spaces and eight additional cities in Tunisia and in the region  have demonstrated interest in replicating Femmedina. Read more here.

Femmedina is a project by women for women. The project’s participatory approach is crucial to us at the municipality, as we want the Medina’s women, who know its ins and outs, to suggest interventions that will improve their own participation in the urban space.

Souad Abderrahim, Mayor of Tunis


Enabling the Active Participation of Women and Girls in Urban Development

The Cities for Women Framework toolkit was developed in 2020 to support the active participation of women and girls in urban development. The Framework is a collection of participatory tools and approaches to support women and girls to engage in urban development and governance. During 2020, the toolkit was piloted in Nepal and The Gambia (in collaboration with UNOPS), and in Liberia. In The Gambia, the process and findings have influenced the drafting of the Banjul 2040 Digital Urban Plan, due to be completed in July 2021. The Cities for Women Framework also supported gender mainstreaming activities in Liberia and Tunisia. Read more here.


Addressing Urban Safety, Access and Inclusion of Women in the Covid-19 Context in Liberia 

In the framework of the COVID-19 response in Liberia, Cities Alliance conducted a gender analysis in three informal communities to gather women’s perception on urban safety, access to basic services and social inclusion. Subsequently, Cities Alliance developed a series of COVID-19 advocacy messages related to gender issues and has constructed water kiosks to ensure access to safe and reliable water and sanitation. Read more here.


Supporting Women’s Groups to Lead Covid-19 Response in Informal Settlements

During 2000, women’s groups in the Mathare and Kibera informal settlements of Nairobi have leveraged the networks they have formed over time with Pamoja Trust, through support from Cities Alliance, as well as skills they have acquired in past trainings, to undertake water, sanitation, and hygiene initiatives to lead critical Covid-19 responses. One focus of these WASH initiatives has been on the manufacture of liquid soap, the groups are also seeking out partnerships with non-governmental organizations to identify ways in which water tanks can be installed in their communities. Read more here


Through Future Cities Africa, Cities Alliance is encouraging us to reflect on how we strengthen ownership at the local level and how we develop cities with inclusivity, especially gender and those most disadvantaged, in mind.

Metropolitan Chief Executive of Tema, Ghana


Focus on women in the diaspora engagement strategy in Jijiga, Ethiopia

In Ethiopia in 2020, in the context of its Cities and Migration programme, the Cities Alliance guided the Jijiga city initiative to include special considerations for women diaspora in their diaspora engagement strategy. The strategy now puts an emphasis on the role of gender equality and women empowerment for effective and inclusive diaspora engagement in the Somali Region. Read more here.


Building Leadership Competencies in Gender-Sensitive Municipal Budgeting in Tunisia

In 2020, in the context of its Tunisian country programme, Cities Alliance delivered a capacity-building project on gender-sensitive municipal budgeting was implemented through the local nongovernmental organisation Aswat Nissa. The project undertook a preliminary analysis of the budget envelope of the municipalities of Béja and Médenine (two Country Programme partner cities), which revealed that women’s specific needs are not systematically considered in the allocation of annual budgets and that there is no strategy for gender-responsive budgeting. 350 women have been engaged in the analysis while 66 women working in the Municipalities have participated in a leadership-training programme. Read more here.


Enhancing Incomes, Empowerment and Opportunities for Women Domestic Workers in Bangladesh

The CityWorks project (2018) supported women domestic migrant workers to overcome economic and social exploitation, gender-based violence, and a lack of access to resources in 13 of Dhaka’s slum communities. The project, completed in 2018, provided training for the women to improve their livelihood skills and awareness of social safety and financial services. It established three enterprises which match domestic workers with employment, ensuring decent working conditions and payment. Approximately 500 domestic workers received skills training or were placed in jobs through the project and saw subsequent increases in their wages by 20-50% on average. Close to 300 opened bank accounts. The project established the National Domestic Workers Coordination Council as a common platform for domestic workers. Read more here.


Improving Refugees’ Access to Basic Services, including support for Victims of Gender-Based Violence in  Niamey, Niger

Niger has long been a transit country for migrants on their way to (or returning from) Europe and has seen a particularly large influx of Malian refugees fleeing from the terrorist group Boko Haram. This project, completed in 2018, aimed to improve refugees’ access to basic services and social inclusion in Niamey, Niger’s capital, which is host to 10 percent of the country’s entire refugee population. Its approach included research, capacity building, and support systems. In two years of project implementation, more than 4,000 people participated in community sensitisation sessions, 150 victims of gender-based violence were referred to support systems, and 1,000 children were closely monitored in their education. Read more here.


Safer Public Spaces in New Delhi, Bogota and Nairobi

The SafetiPin project (New Delhi, Bogota, Nairobi): SafetiPin is a technology platform, supported by Cities Alliance in 2018, that makes communities and cities safer by providing safety-related information collected by users and trained auditors through an easy-to-use app. Through crowdsourcing and other data collection tools, this platform increased awareness related to women’s safety in cities. It also had an impact on local policies through alliances with municipalities, which contributed to improving public lighting in New Delhi. Today, Safetipin is used by over 85,000 people in 12 cities, contributing to safer environments for women globally. Safetipin won the Dubai International Award for Best Practices and the Womanity Award, which recognises initiatives that protect women and girls around the world from gender violence. Read more here.


Cities Alliance supports activities that reduce the vulnerability of cities and communities by restoring and rehabilitating urban ecosystems, supporting resilience planning and developing local capacities to understand risks, and plan, finance and implement actions.  Cities Alliance promotes the urban poor as custodians of the urban environment and agents of resilience.

Fish market in Liberia and AdobeStock_295326025

Bolstering Local Initiatives in the Horn of Africa and the Bay of Bengal on Climate Adaptation and Resilience in Cities

Five projects in the Horn of Africa and the Bay of Bengal, two of the regions of the world most prone to the impacts of climate change, were selected to receive seed funding and peer learning support in 2020. The projects, in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Somalia, Uganda and Kenya, are implemented by grassroots organizations in informal settlements and cover topics such as heat mitigation, waste management and community-based disaster risk management. Read more here.


Digital Tech generates awareness on the needs and constraints for adaptation in informal settlements, Bangladesh

Local municipal authorities have lacked tools and methods for engaging members of vulnerable communities in the development of integrated climate resilience plans. At the same time, the additional challenges of the pandemic have placed additional demands on scarce city resources.  Through their innovative project, Climate Resilience Plans Development with Digital Maps in Bay of Bengal's Cities, Badabon Sangho, used a three-part approach to help address these evolving and complex issues. Overall, the project has improved city governance through climate resilience planning, as city authorities are more aware of the needs and constraints of informal settlements. At the same time, community residents have become aware of their rights, as well as of the roles of city authorities. Read more here.


Raising Community Awareness and Changing Behaviours around Solid Waste and the Environment in Liberia 

In 2019, the Liberia Country Programme organised clean-up campaigns, radio programmes, and a live television broadcast as part of outreach activities targeting the general population on solid waste management, the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle), and climate-smart behaviour. The TV broadcast was aired on Liberia’s national TV network LNTV, which has an estimated audience of 190,000 viewers. To mark World Coastal Clean-up Day local schools, and communities participated in a beach clean-up activity organised by the EU to make a visible statement in support of the environment. In addition, eight schools have established environmental clubs on climate change and the 3Rs, amplifying Cities Alliance’s broad approach to raising awareness of – and resilience to – climate change, especially among youth. Read more here.


​Voluntary Resettlement Guidelines Supporting Adaptation in Liberia

Cities Alliance has supported the participatory and gender-sensitive relocation of residents of communities in West Point, Greater Monrovia where the shoreline has moved 150m inland over the years, wiping away shelters. ​Read more here.


Giving Voice to Marginalised Communities and Supporting Officials to Integrate Local Knowledge through Urban Community Resilience Assessments in informal settlements

Urban Community Resilience Assessments (UCRA) help cities to identify differentiated needs for resilience planning and urban poor communities. UCRA’s improve the resilience evidence base, inform evidence base project planning for gender-inclusive operational plans, and influence policy and replication. WRI, with support from the Cities Alliance Joint Work Programme on Resilient Cities, developed the Urban Community Resilience Assessment (UCRA) in 2018, a tool for city planners to measure differentiated needs for climate resilience. UCRA was piloted in three low-income and vulnerable communities: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Surat, India, and Semarang, Indonesia.

Involving the urban poor in climate-resilient planning is key to ensure these strategies are implemented and reach all levels of a city. The UCRA tool links local knowledge from neighborhoods and individuals with broader city assessments. UCRA provides city planners with a clear method of collecting data that will enable them to assess how resilient cities are to the impacts of climate change. Read more here.


Knowledge Towards a Low-Carbon Urban Development Transition in Informal Settlements

Under the global programme Climate Change, Resilience and Informality in Cities, the CURB Informal Settlement Tool, developed by Cities Alliance with C40, identified the impacts of household fuel-switching initiatives as an effort to accelerate the transition towards a low-carbon urban development. C40 will use the tool to evaluate the potential for fuel-switching efforts in its member cities as part of their climate action planning efforts. 


Identifying Priorities for Cities towards Environmental Sustainability and Resilient Development

Cities Alliance in partnership with IIED produced a policy briefing under the grant Enabling Implementation and Tracking Progress Towards Environmentally Sustainable and Resilient Urban Development. The brief summarised the key challenges for localising the implementation of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) and major findings from a desktop-review and two regional participatory workshops. The briefing presented priorities for cities and their communities to begin to engage in implementing the objectives of the NUA for more sustainable, resilient and liveable urban futures. The brief outlines where support and resources are required, where there is scope for innovative partnerships, and provides examples of successful initiatives to narrow the urban data gap. Read more here.


Integrating Resilience through City Planning, Data Management and Expansion Planning

In addition to the established City Development Strategy, which includes the environment and climate change pillar, the Cities Alliance working in partnership with New York University has developed a planning methodology that enables Cities with few planning resources to focus on the big picture ensuring that land needed for future basic infrastructure is identified and secured. It also enables the mapping of vital eco-systems to be protected, such as coastal lowlands, wetlands, natural drainage lines, rivers and floodplains. Once the basic infrastructure lines and environmental protective measures are in place a better equilibrium can be achieved between formal planning and informal settlement enabling long term incremental upgrading.​ Read more here.

Sustainable Rehabilitation of Mangroves and Wetlands through Integrated Slum Upgrading in Alagados Bahia, Brazil

The upgrading of Novos Alagados was one of the first integrated slum upgrading projects supported by the Cities Alliance. It is a settlement located within the mangroves on the shoreline of Salvador de Bahia city where thousands of people lived in near total poverty within stilted shacks made from mangroves perched over a bay of fetid water. The project helped redefine the upgrading of slums from the narrow confines of land tenure and water and sanitation to include citizenship, economic and environmental dimensions.​ Efforts in Bahia took the form of an integrated process which combined the upgrading of informal settlements with an environmental planning objective, to restore local mangroves. With the agreement and participation of residents, stilt homes were relocated from highly-exposed areas. As a result, there has been a recovery of the mangrove swamp and related ecosystems which had suffered years of degradation. ​Read more here: Forthcoming Arup report​.


Partnership Building and Global Influence on Climate Change Action in Cities

Various global programmes on climate change have contributed to series of award-winning diagnostic work and partnerships, i.e. around the creation of the first GreenHouse Gas Standard in Cities, organising the IPCC Cities and Climate Change Science Conference, and championing for climate adaptation and informality along the UN "Decade of Action". Read more here.


Bringing Scientists and Practitioners Together to Discuss Solutions for Cities and Climate Change

Cities Alliance has long sought to bring together actors with different perspectives in order to further knowledge and understanding of issues related to cities. In March 2018, Cities Alliance co-organised the Cities IPCC Cities and Climate Change Science Conference – a ground-breaking event that brought together scientists, city representatives, and urban practitioners for the first time to discuss cities and climate change and to inspire new research. The Cities Alliance message on informality and informal settlements as a necessary part of research and action moving forward was resoundingly heard. The view of informality as an important issue when addressing climate change in cities was visible throughout the conference and in all the plenary sessions. The main outcome of the Cities IPCC was the Research and Action Agenda on Cities and Climate Change. Read more here.


The Cities Alliance supports local authorities and urban communities in their efforts to improve the housing conditions in informal settlements. Where supported by well-structured public policies and investment and aligned to planning, informal settlers use flexible, responsive and affordable housing processes that enable households to extend and improve their dwellings over time.

Informal Settlements_AdobeStock_130751603 and AdobeStock_134898914

Adoption of Innovative Voluntary Gender Responsive Relocation Policy Guidelines, in Liberia

In 2020, with the support of the Cities Alliance Secretariat, Habitat for Humanity International (HfHI) successfully completed the development of a Voluntary Gender Responsive Relocation Policy Guidelines (VGRRG) and the Guidelines have been approved by the National Housing Authority (NHA). The VGRRG provides an innovative framework of principles and practices to facilitate the voluntary relocation of slum communities in Liberia faced with life-threatening environmental hazards, risks and vulnerabilities that cannot be mitigated and, in many situations, are compounded by the effects of climate change. The guidelines embed engagement, coordination, and respect for human rights with the aim of ensuring a proactive and voluntary relocation process to protect vulnerable communities, particularly women, from environmental risks and hazards, and to prevent the loss of life and property. Read more here.


Improving Housing in Latin America through the Urban Housing Practitioners’ Hub (UHPH)

Launched in June 2018, the UHPH is an open platform for organisations committed to improving housing conditions for the urban poor in the Latin America and the Caribbean region. It combines a digital space with in-person interactions where people can connect and access information about housing in the region, linking policy and planning efforts with practitioners on the ground. The UHPH’s housing laboratories have created space for the development of direct and pragmatic responses to the region’s urgent housing challenges, and demonstrate the immense potential of innovation at the local level, and the scale achieved by removing legal barriers and designing frameworks more connected to LAC’s urban, informal reality at the national level.

The Cities Alliance has played a crucial role in establishing the UHPH and getting it off the ground. The hub makes a valuable contribution towards sharing LAC’s rich urban housing knowledge and supporting the implementation of the global agendas. It also helps maximise access to high-level technical expertise and communication channels to improve living conditions in the region. The UHPH is already having a wider regional impact and is serving as the housing pillar for an urban platform that is being established by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL). Read more here.


Supporting the Integration of Return Migrants into the National Housing Policy in Guatemala

In Guatemala, the Cities and Migration Programme through the Housing Laboratory framework (called LAVs from the Spanish Laboratorios de Vivienda), has contributed to governmental efforts to update the National Housing Policy and specifically the frameworks for integrating the effects of outmigration and return migration into strategies that reduce the housing deficit and ensure access to decent housing for the poor. Read more here.


Building Inclusive, Sustainable and Strong Urban Communities in Kenya with STDM 

This 2019 project scaled up STDM to help residents in Mashimoni, Nairobi County and Kwa Bulo in Mombasa County plan for a more secure future. One of the key outcomes is the certificates of occupancy issued to members of the Kwa Bulo community that enabled Mashimoni to be included in the Kenya Informal Settlements Improvement Project (KISIP), allowing the community to benefit from Kenya’s informal settlements infrastructural development programme. A housing bill has been prepared to use STDM to develop the Mombasa County housing information system and land inventory. The communities integrated STDM into the local women’s movement, creating space for women in leadership, planning, and participation. The project also established youth teams from Mathare 4B, Mashimoni and Kwa Bulo and trained them to use STDM to build future capacity and to advocate for tenure in their settlements. Read more here.


Most of us youths in Mathare 4B Settlement are computer literate. We were able to use these skills to help our community in the pursuit of security of tenure. Now, we can manage our community data on computers. STDM identifies the relationship that a particular person has with a particular space. In the instance where our space is threatened, the STDM process will help us engage stakeholders on an evidence-based basis.

Jackline, of STDM Team Mathare 4


Innovative Walk-In Centre Helps Clients Feel at Home, Makhaza, South Africa

The Centre for Affordable Housing Finance (CAHF) in Africa and 71point4 established a Transaction Support Centre (TSC) which provides direct assistance to residents with navigating the complex title-transfer process. The TSC has taken on 392 walk-in cases since first opening its doors in 2018. The 2019 Cities Alliance grant helped the TSC secure 26 title deeds for clients; another seven title transfers have been formally lodged, and 52 more are in process. The TSC team has also proactively identified 930 households across four sites in Makhaza that do not yet have the title deeds for their properties and began negotiating the transfer of the deeds for 656 of those properties. The TSC is currently in discussions with two commercial banks for a partnership that will extend mortgage loan services for low-income clients in lower value neighbourhoods – a market that is traditionally underserved by commercial lenders. Read more here.


Integrating Formal, Informal and Customary Land Rights - the Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM)

Security of tenure is one of the most critical challenges for sustainable urban development. The process of STDM provides an opportunity for the authorities and slum communities to initiate dialogues for inclusive planning, access to basic services and infrastructure, and ultimately to improve land access and records.

The STDM model is an innovative land information management system which integrates formal, informal and customary land rights, initially piloted in Mbale, Uganda. Combining the technology brought by UN-Habitat and GLTN with community engagement and participation from decades of experience by SDI proved not only possible, but transformative, and the STDM project formalised relations between communities and the local government. As a result, the communities are now recognised as legitimate development actors and not merely the beneficiaries of upgrading initiatives. The Municipal Council awarded the community several contracts for sanitation units, and the community implemented eight water point projects. Read more here.


Upgrading South Africa’s Housing Policy to include Informal Settlements

From 2008-11, Cities Alliance supported South Africa’s National Department of Human Settlements (NDHS) in developing its National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP). The resulting NUSP provides a policy framework for pro-poor upgrading that involves the affected communities. For the first time in South Africa, in-situ upgrading received the necessary political support for its inclusion at the centre of the national housing policy and was backed by a financial allocation of approximately $3 billion. By 2014, the NUSP had exceeded the stated target of facilitating in-situ upgrading of over 400,000 informal settlement households, through the provision of basic infrastructure, services and land tenure. Read more here.


Building Networks of Cities in Ethiopia and South Africa to Promote Knowledge and Policy Dialogue 

Cities Alliance supported the launch of the South African Cities Network (SACN) in 2002 to assist cities undertaking reforms following decades of apartheid policies promoting racial segregation. The network has been on the cutting edge of urban research and policy dialogue in South Africa, supported cities’ efforts to learn from each other, and helped build their capacity in strategy, planning and implementation. It has raised the profile of South Africa’s cities, provided data to improve decision-making, and fostered partnerships among urban stakeholders. Following the positive experience with city networks in South Africa, a group of Ethiopian urban leaders approached the Cities Alliance about establishing a similar network there. The Ethiopian Cities Network (ECN) was launched in 2009 to provide a platform for knowledge sharing and help cities and local governments implement national poverty alleviation and urban development programmes.  Currently, 31 Ethiopian cities are members of the ECN and are collectively working towards improving the living conditions of the urban Ethiopian population. Read more here.


Expanding Land Tenure and Reducing Risk in Brazil’s Poorest Communities

Between 2004 and 2008, a partnership between the Cities Alliance and Brazil succeeded in getting land tenure regularisation and risk prevention in precarious settlements included in the municipal urban development agenda. The partnership built the capacity of local agents involved in land tenure regularisation and risk prevention – notably through a very successful distance learning course that served as a model for other such courses on urban topics – and facilitated dialogue between the national and local levels on these issues. The activities prompted the government to allocate nearly $479 million to slum upgrading and land regularisation efforts from 2004 to 2006, while a new law allowed free land tenure registrations and an executive order sped up the process of securing land tenure on federal property. The programme assisted more than 2 million low-income families to gain property deeds. Read more here.


Pioneering Integrated Slum Upgrading in Bahia, Brazil

Between 2001 and 2006 Cities Alliance and the state government of Bahia supported an integrated upgrading programme in Alagados, one of Brazil’s largest slums in the city of Salvador. The partnership comprised the State of Bahia, the World Bank, the Government of Italy, the international development NGO AVSI and more than 70 local community associations. The project used a participatory and integrated approach that made a real difference in the lives of slum dwellers and set the process of scaling up in motion. For instance, household access to solid waste collection, sanitary facilities, water and sewerage connection all increased by close to 30% in Novos Alagados. This successful approach was incorporated into state policy and reproduced statewide. It was also replicated in Mozambique through trilateral cooperation between the governments of Brazil, Italy and the city of Maputo, where it had a substantial leveraging effect; for every dollar invested in Chamanculo-C, $2.2M was raised as leverage. Read more here.


Developing a National Housing Plan in Brazil 

The Cities Alliance supported the development of Brazil’s first National Housing Plan. The National Housing Plan was the first step towards a new subsidies model implemented through the My House, My Life (Minha Casa, Minha Vida) programme, which aimed to build one million houses for lower-income families. A benchmark for Brazil’s housing policy, the programme significantly scaled up the level of individual subsidies and availability of funding for subsidies and finance. Integrated and participatory slum upgrading projects were implemented in the States of Bahia (in the city of Salvador) and São Paulo (cities of Diadema and São Paulo), and the successful programme was replicated in Mozambique. By 2018,  approximately 2.2 million housing units had been constructed in Brazil under the programme. Read more here.


Cities Alliance supports local authorities and urban communities in their efforts to address the critical risks faced by the urban poor and exposed acutely during the pandemic, which result from inadequate infrastructure and exclusion from access to basic services. Cities Alliance leverages the community infrastructure model, and quick response mechanisms to provide immediate solutions, and strengthen planning, local capacities and civil society partnerships for a longer-term transformative recovery.

Basic Services

Delivering Impact for the Urban Poor in Greater Monrovia 

The Liberia Country Programme is supporting the government to deliver results aligned to the SDG’s through an integrated, multi-level approach The Liberia Country Programme (2016-2021) strengthened the capacities and empowered slum dwellers in Greater Monrovia, improved provision of slum upgrading and incremental housing solutions and improved access to basic services. An independent mid-term evaluation in 2019 concluded that the programme has fostered acknowledgement of the city’s vital economic role, increased recognition of slum dwellers as citizens, engaged municipalities, put informal settlements on the map, and leveraged funding from the European Union for additional projects.

A total of 458,844 residents of informal settlements in Greater Monrovia have improved critical access to water, sanitation, and other basic services through the construction of 69 Community Upgrading Fund projects constructed since 2019. At the household level, within the targeted communities a 4.5% increase was measured in 2021 in access to sanitation facilities for informal traders (91% to 95.5%); 4% improvement in household access to an improved water source (85% to 88.4%); 8% increase in household access to potable water; and 15% increase in households with improved sanitation facilities. 


The water kiosk has brought relief to the community. We used to pay 5 Liberian dollars for a gallon of water. Now, we just have to provide the same amount for 3 gallons of water to contribute as a community towards the maintenance of the water kiosk. 

Head of the Blamo town Community Block B


The Independent final evaluation (forthcoming) concludes that the programme delivered effective partnerships between slum dwellers and local governments: “a culture of dialogue that is underpinning urban development efforts and has already had significant impact. The development of four key policy frameworks i.e. NUP, CDS, Slum Upgrading and Affordable Housing Framework, and the Voluntary Gender Responsive Relocation Policy Guidelines, has helped to counter the eviction and exploitation of the urban poor”. The evaluation noted the impact on community resilience to Covid-19 through access to savings for savers and the provision of water points and hand washing stations. "The project adopted participatory and integrated approaches that made a real difference in the lives of slum dwellers and has set the process of scaling up in motion". Read more here.


Community Awareness Campaign Spurs Change in Households’ Solid Waste Management, Liberia

Through the Country Programme, more and more households are becoming aware of the importance of managing solid waste and how to do so safely. According to an independent evaluation of the Climate Resilient Solid Waste Management Services in Greater Monrovia, the Project has contributed to an increase in the proportion of households with planned forms of garbage disposal in Greater Monrovia, from 36% at baseline to 83% at mid-term. 87% of households sensitized by found the campaigns beneficial and have changed the way they manage solid waste as a result. Read more here.

Rapid Response to Urban Crises and Shocks Delivered to 17 countries across Africa, MENA, Asia and LAC

When the Covid-19 pandemic erupted in 2020, the Cities Alliance pivoted to redirect its efforts towards the global emergency. In fact, Covid-19 was immediately relevant to the context that Cities Alliance was operating in, as in informal settlements the lack of basic infrastructure and services made the guidelines that health authorities outlined for preventing the spread of the disease challenging, if not impossible, to follow. Furthermore, lockdown restrictions, in some cases, were fuelling a wave of political repression against urban poor and informal workers. 

As an organization that actively promotes the coherence of action in development assistance, the Cities Alliance response was initially centered on mobilizing its members active in this space, AVSI, WIEGO and UCLG, to coordinate action and disseminate relevant and practical information. 

In 2020, Cities Alliance rapidly mobilized support to 17 countries with immediate Covid-19 response and recovery activities. Support was targeted to cities that were unprepared to handle even modest disruptions to food, water, and energy supplies, and found the vulnerability of informal settlements and informal workers entirely exposed. In 2020, in response to the crisis, Cities Alliance focused most of its on-the-ground response initiatives on securing access to clean water and other hygiene facilities, providing timely and accurate information around prevention measures and enhancing support to slum dwellers.

> 60,000 residents and 4,800 informal traders in Greater Monrovia, Liberia with access to 225 hand washing units and six 1,500 gallon water poly tanks.

> 100,000 people living in 50 informal settlements in Greater Monrovia reached through awareness campaigns on measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.

> 2,000 residents provided with washing stations, securing access to clean water and other hygiene facilities, in Kampala, Uganda.

> 5,000 vulnerable residents in informal settlements and 158 community schools and clinics supplied with sanitary materials.

> 5,500 PPE items (protective suits, masks and sterile swipes) supplied to a national hospital in Guatemala.

Read more here.


Generating Grassroots Data and Empowering Communities with the Know Your City! Campaign

The Know Your City campaign (an initiative by Slum Dwellers International and United Cities and Local Governments and the Cities Alliance), focused on the power of community-driven data gathering initiatives to drive partnerships for collaborative planning and development. Know Your City demonstrated that the building of new alliances and partnerships contributed to bridging trust gaps and developing collective action to deal with complex social problems and resulted in improvements in service provision. Read more here.


Establishing and Consolidating the Urban Development Unit in Ghana

From 2011-2016, the Cities Alliance Ghana programme supported national and local governments working directly with urban poor communities to: Empower the urban poor to participate in planning; improve residents’ access to basic services; build capacity to better coordinate urban development efforts across the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA); and support national policy making. The institutional capacity of the Ministry of Local Governance and Rural Development in Ghana was strengthened through support for the establishment of an Urban Development Unit (UDU) within the Ministry, and by organising capacity development for the Unit’s personnel. The Institute of Local Government Studies – the main local governance training institution in Ghana – was provided with direct funding to support its core mission around training for local authorities and production of skill development materials on topics such as resilience, strategic planning and metropolitan governance. By 2016, the eight metropolitan assemblies in GAMA demonstrated improved capacity to coordinate for better service delivery, and 15% more households in slum or low-income neighbourhoods obtained regular access to potable water. Read more here.


Through Future Cities Africa, Cities Alliance is encouraging us to reflect on how we strengthen ownership at the local level and how we develop cities with inclusivity, especially gender and those most disadvantaged, in mind. 

 Metropolitan Chief Executive of Tema, Ghana


Capacity Strengthening for Inclusive Urban Development in Uganda

Launched in 2010, the Uganda Country Programme began with the Transforming the Settlements of the Urban Poor (TSUPU) programme. Working closely with the Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD), the programme produced a national urban policy to guide more inclusive development and formed active urban forums that provide the space for participatory urban planning and policy making at the national and municipal levels. The programme fostered strong partnerships and a culture of dialogue that is underpinning urban development efforts and has already had a significant impact. The percentage of city residents living in slums decreased by 10%; average municipal expenditures increased by 168% per person; and the average percentage of low-income households with regular electricity connections increased by 43% between 2013-2016. Read more here.


The (Uganda) Country Programme enabled vertical and horizontal cross collaboration to catalyse efforts. The Country Programme implemented several governance mechanisms as part of its activities in Uganda—across partner organisations and the national, municipality and community levels. These three mechanisms helped enable a participatory and collaborative approach, for example, connecting communities with ministries, and universities with municipalities.

Independent Evaluation, 2017


Promoting Resilient Cities with Future Cities Africa

Future Cities Africa (FCA) was a partnership initiative launched by Cities Alliance and the UK Department of International Development (DFID) that ran from 2014-16. One of the most ambitious programmes ever undertaken by Cities Alliance, it worked with 31 participating African cities/municipalities to develop tools for ‘future proofing’ themselves and assuring their resilience. FCA supported the cities to assess, anticipate and minimise future challenges across five dimensions: governance, economy, service, citizenship and environment. The FCA programme produced several influential knowledge products and toolkits and provided a foundation of valuable knowledge for Cities Alliance programming. Read more here.


The Cities Alliance assists cities in translating urban technical assistance programmes into longer-term infrastructure and public services improvements. Cities Alliance aims to build the capacity of local authorities and establish methods for their engagement with financial institutions and funds, as well as the local private sector. Cities Alliance also supports local informal entrepreneurs, producers and traders who are responsible for a significant part of the local economy, jobs and livelihood of the urban poor, identifying mechanisms for their protection and integration into larger value chains.

 Market in Kampala, Uganda (EEG)

Agreements between the City and Informal Workers Lead to Better Working Conditions in Greater Monrovia

Petty traders in Monrovia have long complained of police harassment and its impact on their ability to earn a living, and addressing this issue was an agreed priority to be addressed through the Country Programme. Through the Cities Alliance, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) has been working with the Federation of Petty Traders and Informal Workers Union of Liberia (FEPTIWUL) to negotiate improved working conditions with the city and national police, Ministry of Internal Affairs, and local government authorities. In 2018, Monrovia City Corporation and FEPTIWUL signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that stipulates a mapped area for traders to tend  their stalls and trade without harassment.


In FEPTIWUL, we have a body that represents the voiceless informal workers. Before the association was established, city authorities would routinely harass us, confiscate our goods because they didn’t want us to sell from the streets. The plan was that once our goods and merchandize is confiscated, we would have nothing to sell the next day so would not return to streets. City Police would take traders off the streets by force – harassing them. When the association (FEPTIWUL) was formed, our representatives started directly engaging with the city authorities. We ensured that we provided feedback to our leaders to take the message to city leaders. Our voices were heard, now we have where to trade from

Petty Trader, Liberia, Independent Evaluation 2021


This agreement is a clear sign of a new and positive approach from the city authorities towards the petty traders, viewing them as contributors to the economy rather than nuisances to be managed and moved on. The independent evaluation in 2021 measured a 42% decrease in informal traders (70% of whom are women) facing harassment by authorities, and a 50% decrease in informal traders experiencing theft of their merchandise. 4,966 informal traders have new secure trading sites as a result of the programme and 211 informal traders are now representing their interests in city wide negotiation forums. Read more here.


Influential, new thinking on How Soft and Hard Infrastructure Can Foster Equitable Economic Growth among Secondary Cities 

The book Connecting Systems of Secondary Cities, published in 2019, examines how secondary cities can work collaboratively to improve their development prospects, increase prosperity, and leverage public resources to support equitable sub-national economic growth. It argues for more systems-based thinking in how governments support the development of systems of cities, rather than a hierarchical approach. The publication received the Award for Planning Excellence from the Planning Institute of Australia, under the category of Cutting-Edge Research and Training, and generated high demand for additional dissemination from various institutions and events including the Ghana Urban Forum, the European Development Bank in Luxembourg, and the European Commission (EC) in Brussels. The book was also translated in Chinese and Spanish. Read more here.


A New Approach to Local Economic Development

The Local Economic Acceleration through Partnerships (LEAP) initiative aimed at addressing the obstacles to investment in rapidly growing cities in Uganda and Ghana by creating avenues for public-private dialogue and cooperation and connecting members and partners with industry leaders. A key result from this initiative was the outlining of a new approach to local economic development, based on three pillars of economic, social and infrastructure development. The publication outlines an approach to achieving the required reform of budgeting and infrastructure planning. Read more here.


Increasing Critical Access to Basic Services for the Urban Poor with Community Upgrading Fund Infrastructure

The Community Upgrading Fund (CUF) is one of the most impactful components of Cities Alliance programming. It provides financing for small infrastructure projects selected by the communities themselves, helping residents see tangible progress quickly while the longer-term objectives unfold. The Community Upgrading Fund finances small infrastructure projects selected by the communities themselves. Using the data collected through profiling, communities are placed at the centre and identify their priority needs, such as building toilet facilities, establishing water points, renovating a school, or projects to support adaptation to climate change. Once communities have agreed on priority projects, they are submitted to the CUF steering committee for approval and vetted for feasibility. The steering committee comprises representatives from all stakeholders including Cities Alliance, relevant ministries, local governments, NGOs and federations of slum dwellers and street vendors. The CUF then provides funding for the projects, which are managed and implemented by the community.


The shift to, and recognition of, community contracting as part of the Country Programme has led to a change in the mind-set of the government. It has shown governments that communities can responsibly own procurement processes, receive funds, purchase services and monitor delivery appropriately to reduce costs.  

Independent Evaluation, Uganda, 2017


The CUF model was first implemented in the Cities Alliance Uganda Country Programme, where communities implemented 123 upgrading infrastructure projects in 5 municipalities to the benefit of 523,185 inhabitants of urban poor neighbourhoods, at a cost of $848,395. In Liberia, 458,844 residents of informal settlements have improved critical access to water, sanitation and other basic services, through 69 projects. Indirect results, through the direct leveraging of infrastructure investments, have greatly scaled these results. As an illustration, $10.8M of Cities Alliance investments across 4 country programmes leveraged $600m in investment. These capital investments were identified and prioritised through the municipal and settlement level forums established by the Cities Alliance. Read more here.


The CUF demonstrated the efficiency of community-conceived and implemented slum upgrading initiatives, adopting community driven approaches to support slum communities to address priority needs identified through various approaches such as settlement forums, Saving Groups, and the profiling exercise. The CUF provided an alternative approach in which communities influence and shape how priorities are set and money is spent, particularly through the settlement forums… improved access to basic services…  and strengthened systems of local governance

Independent Evaluation, Liberia, 2021 


Local Partnerships, Strategies and Initiatives for Equitable Economic Growth in Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda

The issue of managing the development of urban centres to meet the development requirements of the growing population requires a comprehensive approach. Using the convening power of Cities Alliance, the Campaign Cities initiative acted as a platform which effectively brought together the different actors in the urban sector and assisted them to work as a coherent unit focused on achieving equitable economic growth. The city partnership methodology proved to be successful in promoting economic development, and the impacts generated are expected to last beyond the life of the campaign process, as the methodology triggered follow-up and spin-off initiatives. A diverse range of sectors were covered including: women’s economic empowerment, agro-processing industries, local economic development, medical waste management, public space management, integrating infrastructure, and markets and tourism development. The initiative demonstrated that proactive partner engagement ‘works’. Read more here.


Public Space for All: Supporting Informal Workers, City Authorities and Planners on Inclusive Management of Urban Space

In partnership with Cities Alliance, WIEGO produced a suite of resources to support regulated access to public space for the informally working poor was disseminated through events targeted at each of the three main audiences: local governments (at a session at the Africities Summit), association of informal workers (at WIEGO’s annual assembly) and development workers and practitioners (at a seminar broadcast online at the City University of New York). Resources disseminated include a discussion paper for urban planners, a toolkit for local authorities, and a manual for street vendors. Several recommendations from the studies were reflected in the final political statement endorsed by the delegates to the Africities Summit. In Uganda, the success of the report on public land and space spurred the development of an additional knowledge product adapted to a global audience. Read more here.


Cities Alliance facilitates peer learning at city, community and international levels and funnels evidence-based learning from field experience and delivers knowledge products and tools; advocacy and policy on emerging topics; and convenes dialogues to share learning and catalyse urban development at the global level.

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Enabling Cities to Better Manage Urban Growth and Land Supply through Urban Expansion Planning

The Ethiopia Urban Expansion Program started in 2013 as a collaboration between the Ministry of Urban Development and Construction and the Marron Institute of Urban Management at New York University to strengthen the capacity of four regional capitals—Mekele, Hawassa, Bahir Dar, and Adama—in preparing for their inevitable expansion. The collaboration was extended to fourteen additional cities in 2014 with the assistance of Cities Alliance. The active phase of the Program concluded in early 2016 with the completion of draft expansion plans by those fourteen cities and the beginning of successful plan implementation in the original group of four cities. 

Through 2020, Cities Alliance further raised the dialogue, knowledge sharing, visibility and uptake of Urban Expansion Planning, both within Ethiopia, regionally and globally through a series of events and conferences. Events included the 2020 World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi, the film documentary How they do it in Ethiopia: Making Room for Cities to Grow, and a regional dialogue on rural-to-urban migration and urban expansion planning to share experiences in the Horn of Africa and support replication of the approach. This dialogue was attended by the national ministries responsible for urban development in Ethiopia and Uganda, 12 secondary cities from Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia (nine of which are Cities Alliance partner cities), and development partners including NYU, SDC, United Cities and Local Governments Africa (UCLGA), and Jigjiga University. The Uganda Ministry of Housing and Urban Development is exploring the alignment or Urban Expansion Planning with the ongoing city status upgrading exercise. Read more here.


Coordinating Efforts to Respond to Covid-19 in Informal Settings


In the wake of the pandemic, the Secretariat launched a 12-month initiative in 2020 to strengthen the capacities of communities in informal settlements to respond to the crisis and enhance their resilience to future shocks. The project is supporting slum dweller federations, through SDI and the creation of a Global Programme on Informality and Covid-19. Comprehensive cross-national support was provided to national and local governments, urban stakeholders, and civil society organizations, to exchange experiences on the crisis response and recovery, focusing on informal settlements. Throughout 2020, the Informality and Covid-19 Programme brought city responses to Covid-19 in informal settlements and alignment of knowledge and approaches to a broad global audience of urban experts, national and local governments, practitioners, and academia.

The programme mobilised the Cities Alliance membership and other key partners to deliver transnational learning experiences, promote awareness among decision makers and support alignment of approaches to informality and Covid-19. During 2020, Cities Alliance hosted, facilitated, and participated in a series of Housing Laboratories (LAVs), decalogues, Urban Thinkers Campus events and a Live Learning Experience (LLE)27. The common purpose encompassed cross-national exchange of experiences related to housing, slum upgrading, and inclusive urban governance, in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, and was responsive to stakeholder demands on the ground. Country experiences more than 20 virtual events were convened in 2020, in collaboration with Cities Alliance members and partner organizations, on topics such as slum upgrading, housing and urban equity, as they intersect with Covid-19 across Africa, Asia and Latin America. The programme also distributed sanitation and health supplies in Uganda and Guatemala. Read more here.


Reframing the Agenda on Migration and Refugees – Influencing the UNSG High Level Panel on Internal Displacement

The Cities and Migration Programme continues in 2021 to deliver influential dialogue at local, national and international levels, through multiple learning global and regional events. The output of the ongoing dialogue is directly informing the UNSG High Level’s Panel recommendations to the UN member states on the management of internal displacement. The UNSG High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement invited Cities Alliance to facilitate testimony from its urban partners in Adama, Ethiopia, to inform the Panel recommendations.  At the national and local level, significant results from the Programme in Adama, Ethiopia, include the local government scaling up the piloted approaches, including migration desks, to support the inclusion of rural migrants. As a result the Ethiopian Diaspora Agency (EDA) in Jigjiga is considering integrating the regional diaspora strategies into national policy. In 2020, the theme of migration was introduced to the Urban Housing Practitioners Hub (UHPH) in LAC, and Cities Alliance and UN-Habitat co-hosted a three-part series as part of the Urban Thinkers Campus, which engaged UNHCR, IOM, UCLG, IIED, and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC), as well as representatives of local governments from countries such as Bangladesh, Kenya and Colombia. Read more here.


Delivering a Road Map for Local Governments Struggling with Informality 

Informality is a key contributor to successful emerging economies, but at the same time it drives socio-spatial inequality. Understanding and addressing the dynamics of informality is therefore strategic. In 2019, following the invitation from the UCLG Secretary-General, the Secretariat formulated the policy paper ‘Addressing Informality in Cities’ through a collaborative process with members the AVSI Foundation, Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI), Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI) and Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing & Organizing (WIEGO). This paper provides local governments with a road map to address informality through new urban partnerships between city governments, private sector and citizens. It also analyses the actual policy challenges and trends and provides specific policy priorities and recommendations to local and regional governments. ‘Addressing Informality in Cities’ was presented and discussed at the UCLG World Summit in November 2019. Read more here.


At the Cities Alliance, informal workers sit round the same table as large donors. Community activists, urban analysts and city associations come together to develop global agendas and local solutions. There’s no other organisation quite like it, creating urban connections, urging a coherence of effort between critical constituencies in cities around the world.  

Participant, 2016 Cities Alliance Assembly


Incubating Fresh Thinking and Approaches to Urban Challenges

Innovative solutions have been piloted by Cities Alliance on the following topics: Community-Based Adaptation, Secure Tenure in African Cities, Migration and the Inclusive City, Know Your City: Information for Transformation, and Youth and the City. These projects have catalysed urban transformation processes, created partnerships among urban development actors, and leveraged funding. Some are being scaled up within a country or integrated into national policies. Read more here.


Promoting Innovative Solutions for Youth Engagement in Urban Development

Since 2012, Cities Alliance has delivered innovative youth integration projects on vocational training, informal labour, urban planning school partnerships, safe public spaces, social and economic integration, resilience to climate change, promoting inclusion and equal employment in numerous countries including Chad, Uganda, Liberia, Ethiopia, India, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Nigeria, Kenya, Namibia, Zambia, Peru, Senegal, Nepal, and Tanzania. Specific results include the provision of vocational training and post-training support, professional integration, social integration through art and culture and community-media capacities. Read more here.


Improving Local Government Accountability through E-Governance in La Paz, Bolivia

An online platform that allows residents to send real-time feedback on municipal services improved the accountability and service delivery of the municipal government significantly. Read more here.


Utilising Drones to Improve Land Tenure and Empower Women, in DRC

This project by grantee Initiative Régionale de Documentation et d’Accompagnement Communautaire au Développement (IRDAC) showed how digital tools and participatory processes can help vulnerable communities formalize and protect their land and property rights, while reducing potential conflicts and modernizing land governance systems. Implemented in Kasangulu, a small city of about 28,000 people in the outskirts of Kinshasa the project used the technology to create a complete land registry plan covering 622,000 ha, extracting nearly 5,000 land plots from the drone’s aerial digital images. A customized smart filter app extracts individual land data from the land registry database that can be used to produce official land titles. The new technologies, tools, and methods streamlined the process for gathering land information. In addition to the technology component, the project brought together community members, customary leaders, business owners, and land authorities for a successful three-day dialogue to discuss land tenure insecurity and explore possible solutions. Read more here.


Increasing Citizen Awareness of Rights and Services through One-Stop Shops in Guinea-Bissau

This project introduced one-stop shops that have made it easier for residents of underprivileged neighbourhoods to access information on basic services and to contact local authorities. Their success enabled the organisation to secure follow-up funding from the European Union, allowing project activities to continue and additional one-stop shops to be created. Read more here.


Outlining Essential Steps for Local and Regional Government to Localise the SDGs

In 2018, Local and Regional Governments in the Follow-up and Review of Global Sustainability Agendas illustrated existing follow-up and review processes and provided recommendations on their further improvement and potential synergies. Better reflection of urban sustainability issues and substantial participation of local and regional governments and stakeholders in these processes are essential for effective implementation of these agreements. Read more here.


Improving Housing in Latin America through the Urban Housing Practitioners’ Hub (UHPH)

Launched in June 2018, the UHPH is an open platform for organisations committed to improving housing conditions for the urban poor in the Latin America and the Caribbean region. It combines a digital space with in-person interactions where people can connect and access information about housing in the region, linking policy and planning efforts with practitioners on the ground. The UHPH’s housing laboratories have created space for the development of direct and pragmatic responses to the region’s urgent housing challenges, and demonstrate the immense potential of innovation at the local level, and the scale achieved by removing legal barriers and designing frameworks more connected to LAC’s urban, informal reality at the national level.

The Cities Alliance has played a crucial role in establishing the UHPH and getting it off the ground. The hub makes a valuable contribution towards sharing LAC’s rich urban housing knowledge and supporting the implementation of the global agendas. It also helps maximise access to high-level technical expertise and communication channels to improve living conditions in the region. The UHPH is already having a wider regional impact and is serving as the housing pillar for an urban platform that is being established by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL). Read more here.


Drawing Global Attention to Cities and Urban Poverty

One of the first acts of the newly established Cities Alliance was to create the Cities Without Slums Action Plan in 1999, the first global initiative to set out specific actions and concrete targets to address urban poverty: The plan was endorsed by 150 heads of state, and became the basis for the “Cities Without Slums” goal reflected as Target 11 of the Millennium Development Goals.

In 2014, the Cities Alliance established its first-ever Joint Work Programme focused on advocacy to create and deliver a common set of priority messages to inform and influence the next set of global development goals.  The JWP participated in global negotiations as a coherent, dedicated group with a strong voice in support of the important role cities play in sustainable development. It supported the successful global advocacy movement to include a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for cities (Goal #11) and to recognise the importance of the local level in implementation.


Cities Alliance engages with national and city governments to improve governance and accountability through institutional reform and dialogue. The Cities Alliance aims to improve citywide service delivery through promoting the improved management of urbanisation and assists cities to become engines of economic growth. Building long term institutional capacity is a crucial pillar underpinning Cities Alliance Country Programmes and often cuts across all projects. Empowered, informed residents and the participation of the urban poor in urban development at the local and national levels are essential components of sustainable urban management. Cities Alliance works directly with civil society to help the urban poor build their capacity to engage with the local government to develop lasting solutions.

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National Urban Policies to Realise Social Inclusion, Economic Growth and Environmental Sustainability

Cities Alliance has supported the development of National Urban Policies (NUP) designed to help countries and cities to achieve economic growth, environmental sustainability and social inclusion in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Liberia, Mozambique Tunisia, Uganda and Vietnam. In all cases, national policy projects incorporate participatory approaches, grassroots involvement and integrated approaches.  The Cities Alliance, UN-Habitat and OECD created the National Urban Policy Programme which continues to support the development and implementation of NUPs globally.

In Uganda, as an example, regional and sector specific consultative workshops took place while building the National Urban Policy (NUP).  “As a result, the NUP addresses key issues faced by all levels such as urban poverty, urban service delivery, rural-urban migration, economic growth and regional balance”. Independent evaluation, 2017. The programme fostered strong partnerships and a culture of dialogue that is underpinning urban development efforts and had a significant impact. Read more here


Harnessing the Potential of Urbanisation: Strategic City Planning

The Cities Alliance aims to improve citywide service delivery through promoting the improved management of urbanisation, including long-term planning and inclusive policies. Through the City Development Strategy (CDS) process, Cities Alliance assists cities to become engines of economic growth. Cities are supported to become strategic about their investments, growth and environmental management; to engage citizens in planning and monitoring urban performance; and, to generate public and private sector investments in city development. 

A City Development Strategy (CDS) helps cities integrate a strategic development approach and a long-term perspective into their urban planning. A CDS in an integrated and inclusive planning methodology, which examines the city through five key dimensions: Governance, Economy, Services (basic and social), Environment and Climate, Citizenship.  The process of developing a CDS gives residents a chance to have a voice in the future of the place where they live. It is a way that they can participate in the process of shaping and realising a strategy for their city and subsequently monitor the government’s progress in achieving that strategy. Greater participation in the city development process is often accompanied by a greater sense of responsibility and a change in the  way residents view their city.


We realised we had to talk to the urban poor and include them in the planning. The urban poor had been neglected. We are now celebrating the urban poor. 

Ghanaian Ministry Official. Accenture Evaluation, 2017


Since 1999, Cities Alliance has supported 176 cities and municipalities (with a combined population of over 240 million) to promote stronger local economies, inclusive governance, improve citywide service delivery and reduce poverty through City Development Strategies. The CDS approach has been scaled and institutionalised in several countries, including in Uganda and the Philippines. Read more here.


Learning-by-Doing – Partnerships for Long-Term Institutional Capacity

Building long term institutional capacity is a crucial pillar underpinning programmes and cuts across all projects. Cities Alliance consistently applies a learning-by-doing approach with local counterparts. Capacity development involves the organisational development of national and local authorities; urban institutions and city associations; strengthening the role and capacity of local authorities, communities, universities and SMEs; and the development of effective practitioner materials. As an example, Cities Alliance supported local capacity for over 4,800 local government staff in Ghana, Uganda and Vietnam. In 2020, the Cities Alliance reinforced the capacities of 65 urban institutions and over 9,000 individuals. Including 570 people with increased capacity in migration management in Tunisia, Uganda, Kenya and Guatemala, and 1,244 individuals in Uganda trained in financial literacy, SME development, wetland protection and apprenticeship training. Read more here.


Saving Groups as the Basis for Social Cohesion, the Participation of the Urban Poor, and Constructive Partnerships between Citizens and Local Authorities in Liberia

In Cities Alliance programmes, savings groups form the basis of collective action in urban poor communities. 30 countries across Africa and Asia have slum dweller federations strengthened in enumeration, data collection, community empowerment and to partner with local governments and deliver collaborative solutions. 694 community savings groups have been mobilised by Cities Alliance across Ghana, Liberia, Uganda and Vietnam, with a total of over 20,000 members, the majority of which are women. Savings groups form the basis for collective action in urban poor communities, alongside strengthening individual and communities’ abilities to manage savings and support livelihoods. They also  play an important role by providing the urban poor with affordable loans in times of crisis or to start a business. 

In Greater Monrovia, 363 savings groups have mobilised close to 10,000 individuals, 87% of whom are women, and have formed the foundation for settlement forums.  These forums have been engaged regularly on the National Urban Policy development process, the Urban Development Strategy for Greater Monrovia and the Community Upgrading Fund mechanism. 

In collaboration with UN-Habitat, the Liberia Country Programme engaged citizens in regular forums during the National Urban Policy development. Federations of informal communities participated in the validation of the diagnostic note in 2020, alongside national and city government representatives. Citizens in Greater Monrovia were closely involved in and contributed to the Urban Development Strategy for Greater Monrovia, which was completed in 2020. The two Cities of Monrovia and Paynesville engaged slum dwellers, petty traders, civil society organisations in regular city-wide forums, which aimed to build active and informed citizens by providing a platform for regular engagement with responsive local authorities. The Community Upgrading Fund mechanism in Liberia provides an additional institutional, regulated platform for citizen and community engagement, through the CUF steering committee. At the community level, 31 settlement forums are convened quarterly for slum dwellers to prioritize and select projects for potential funding through the Community Upgrading Fund. The settlement forums are well established and provide the platform for discussion of other community issues, such as public safety. Read more here.


The impact of organising slum dwellers and the urban working poor as a critical mass to negotiate and advocate for improved quality and access to basic services is yielding great results with the voice of the urban poor playing a critical role in shaping resilient and inclusive urbanisation. 

Independent mid-term Evaluation of the Liberia Programme 2019


Institutionalising Participatory Planning, Active Citizenship and Dialogue in Uganda

Launched in 2010, the Uganda Country Programme began with the Transforming the Settlements of the Urban Poor (TSUPU) programme. Working closely with the Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD), the programme produced a national urban policy to guide more inclusive development and formed active urban forums that provide the space for participatory urban planning and policy making at the national and municipal levels. The programme fostered strong partnerships and a culture of dialogue that is underpinning urban development efforts and has already had a significant impact. The percentage of city residents living in slums decreased by 10%; average municipal expenditures increased by 168% per person; and the average percentage of low-income households with regular electricity connections increased by 43% between 2013-16. Municipal Development Forums, which were designed to bring all stakeholders into the urban development process, have been made statutory bodies in Uganda. Read more here.


Nationwide City Development Strategies in the Philippines

For more than a decade, the Cities Alliance supported a national City Development Strategy (CDS) programme in the Philippines. The programme focused on improving standards of living, economic competitiveness, sound financial management by local governments, and good governance.  Over 100 Philippine cities were enabled to design and implement their own strategic plans, including embedding the engagement of all city stakeholders in project planning, implementation and monitoring. The CDS implementation in the Philippines generated over 500 priority programmes and projects which targeted economic benefits and improved service delivery. On a policy level, the CDS has been incorporated into the national planning process and the CDS is widely recognized as one of the most effective tools for strategic urban planning in the Philippines. Read more here.


Strengthening governance through supporting local governments to use data for city management

Cities Alliance developed the Innovative Data Toolkit for City Management to help local governments to identify, collect, manage, analyse and use data so they can understand the city better and make evidence-based decisions, and become more resilient to unexpected shocks. The toolkit was the first resource of its kind for city officials. Read more here.

Cities Alliance strongly believes that strengthening the digital ecosystem and digital inclusion provides key opportunities for harnessing the potential of secondary cities and ensuring inclusive and sustainable urban development. Over the last decade, Cities Alliance has provided support to a multitude of innovative digital solutions from the city level where the need for data, data management systems and municipal capacities is acute, to the use of ICT by communities of the urban poor to map climate-related risks, critical infrastructure needs, and potential COVID-19 hot spots.


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Improve city governance through city management and mapping

The Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM) is a land information management system developed by UN-Habitat through the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) partners. It integrates formal, informal, and customary land rights – reflecting the realities on the ground in many poor communities. Unlike previous enumeration tools that related a person’s name and address to land, STDM can relate personal identifiers, such as fingerprints, to a coordinate point inside a plot of land or dwelling. The main benefits of STDM are that it is flexible, affordable, and easy to share. Communities can use the system to easily collect accurate, reliable information about themselves, analyze the data, and generate quick reports. They can also easily update the information as needed.

STDM was first piloted and replicated in Uganda with support from Cities Alliance. Years later, and given the success of the tool, Cities Alliance has also supported upscaling and institutionalization efforts in Kenya. Read more here and here


Harness digitalization for inclusion

In 2020, the Platform for Cities of Global South, (an interactive platform whose purpose is to identify good city practices for managing the spread of COVID-19 in informal communities, mitigate its impact on vulnerable territories, protect the informal sector, and promote the exchange of these practices among functionaries of different cities of the Global South), organized three thematic sessions, where successful cases of cities’ responses to COVID-19 were presented, the importance for attending vulnerable communities of multi-stakeholder collaborations and partnerships among cities, other institutions and communities were highlighted, and the role of data and ICT systems for generating efficient community responses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more here.


Improve city-wide service provision

RedACTES - Citizens Action Network for Safe and Efficient Public Transportation: The project worked towards a safer and more efficient public transport service for all citizens, and women in particular. Through a web-based platform and SMS service, users report incidents of crime, harassment, or overcharging. The project monitored and analysed the user reports to advocate improvements with service providers and local governments. The project encouraged women to raise their voices and report problems they face on public transportation, and provided them with legal aid and legal action.

RedACTES collaborated closely with the Human Rights Attorney and reached an agreement with the Municipality of Guatemala to use the collected data and take action accordingly. The RedACTES project demonstrates that technology can create more direct communication channels between citizens and authorities. Read more here