Cities Alliance Welcomes Swiss SECO to the Partnership

SECO sees Cities Alliance as an important strategic partner for networking, engaging global stakeholders, coordinating development initiatives, and obtaining knowledge on best practices.

The Cities Alliance is pleased to announce that Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) has formally joined the partnership. The Swiss federal government's centre of expertise for all core issues relating to economic policy, SECO also oversees Switzerland’s economic cooperation and international development activities. 

We asked the SECO team why they joined the Cities Alliance and how they hope to gain from – and contribute to – the partnership. In short, they see the Cities Alliance as an important strategic partner for networking, engaging global stakeholders, coordinating development initiatives, and obtaining knowledge on best practices. 

On an advocacy level, SECO also sees the partnership as a way to contribute more actively in policy dialogue at all levels, particularly in promoting a sustainable urban development goal.

On the importance of cities:

Cities are increasingly in the focus of the international development agenda. Urban areas have become the main drivers of local, regional and national economies. At the same time, they have an enormous environmental footprint. Cities in general and secondary cities in particular are where development challenges and solutions meet.  In fact, sustainable urban development has become a key topic to address poverty reduction in international cooperation and development.

On the partnership as a key forum for networking and policy dialogue: 

The Cities Alliance is one of the pioneering and most established actors in the urban sector and represents an important forum to engage in the policy dialogue around urban development. 

SECO sees the Cities Alliance as a strategic partner to strengthen governments' and cities' abilities to deliver improved services for the urban poor and build up climate resilience. 

Cities Alliance and SECO share the same goal of promoting equitable urban economic development with a focus on poverty reduction. The membership thus allows SECO to contribute more actively in policy dialogue at the global, country and city level. 

Through the partnership, SECO will also be able to gain access to important stakeholders in the field of urban development in order to further promote this common goal. Moreover, Cities Alliance offers an important networking place for SECO with donors, recipient country representatives, new donor governments, city associations, NGOs and multilateral organisations. 

On Cities Alliance activities and accessing best practices:

The number and range of urban activities within the Cities Alliance also provide the possibility to replicate and scale up best-practices. On a very concrete level, SECO hopes that spin-offs in the form of tangible infrastructure projects or projects on public finance management will be generated from Cities Alliance-funded activities. 

On promoting cooperation among development partners: 

Urban Infrastructure Development has become a main strategic pillar of SECO’s 2013-2016 Economic Cooperation and Development Programme. To operationalise this thematic domain, partnerships have been signed with the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA), the Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative (ESCI) of the Inter-American Development Bank, in cooperation with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), and with the World Bank (Multi-donor Trust Fund on Sustainable Urban Development). 

The Cities Alliance complements very well these other initiatives with respect to partners, thematic focus, approach and regions. SECO especially appreciates the focus on upstream work with a pro-poor and stakeholder participation approach. These aspects remain of special importance with respect to sustainability and need to be strengthened in the fields of urban development and infrastructure.

SECO is convinced that the potential of these four partnerships on urban development and infrastructure can only fully unfold if close cooperation between the different initiatives is assured. Therefore, SECO aims to promote the coordination among these initiatives by identifying synergies, areas of cooperation and ways of efficient coordination.

On the need for a standalone urban development goal: 

SECO's experience in urban infrastructure and public finance management shows the importance of sound policies and management capacities for a city's sustainable development.


The Cities Alliance advocates and is engaged in the post-Millennium Development Goal discussion for promoting a Sustainable Urban Development goal. SECO has been at the forefront in this discussion on the Swiss side. By cooperating more closely in the future, the Cities Alliance and SECO can jointly push the agenda on this topic.

On Swiss urban planning expertise: 

Switzerland offers a broad range of expertise and services in the field of urban management and planning, demonstrated by top ranking of Swiss cities in international surveys regarding city performance, for example in the quality of living index or regarding environmental performance. 

To a large degree, this performance stems from the decision-making authority of Swiss municipalities within a decentralised system and the latter’s capacities, ranging from administrative and financial (e.g. budget management) know-how to technical (e.g. public transportation) expertise. 

In terms of academic research, the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) and Lausanne (EPFL) have special research groups dedicated to urban development. Numerous engineering and architectural offices show specific skills and know-how related to city management and urban development. SECO can bring this Swiss expertise into the partnership. Moreover, SECO can contribute specialised knowledge and experience when it comes to Cities Alliance projects in SECO’s priority countries of international cooperation.

An example of SECO in action: Energy efficiency in Vinnitsa, Ukraine

SECO supports the city of Vinnitsa,Ukraine in its efforts to improve its energy efficiency in order to be fit for the “European Energy Award” (a quality management and certification system for municipalities committed to sustainable energy policy and urban development, climate and transport policies).  

Today, transportation is one of the main causes for the low municipal energy efficiency performance of the city. Accordingly, transport planning and land use principles have to be better coordinated to influence mobility behaviour in a sustainable way. 

The project examines the appropriate spatial development and determines actions and feasible measures on a conceptual level for both spatial (land use, landscape, urban design) and traffic planning. SECO finances this project with USD 150,000 and the city of Vinnitsa with USD 20,000. The project started in December 2013 and will be completed in December 2014.