UCLG and Cities Alliance: Working Together to Support Strategic Urban Planning

Over the past six years, the Cities Alliance has worked closely with UCLG on strategic urban planning, primarily through two Joint Work Programmes.
Over the past six years, the Cities Alliance has worked closely with United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) on strategic urban planning, primarily through two Joint Work Programmes.
The partnership, established shortly after UCLG was formed in 2005, was designed to strengthen the role of local government in the strategic planning process. It also sought to help cities build the necessary capacity to implement strategic planning initiatives that were aimed at reducing poverty.
One of the most successful results of the UCLG-Cities Alliance cooperation has been the establishment of city-to-city mentorship programmes.
Launched in 2009, the mentorship programme helps cities build capacity by sharing knowledge through close collaboration with peer cities that have faced similar issues. Unlike other twinning or partnership programmes, the UCLG initiative focuses on south-south cooperation. (Read more about the mentorship programme.)
They include partnerships between:
  • Johannesburg, South Africa and Lilongwe, Malawi. Through the mentorship, the Lilongwe City Assembly has improved its leadership enough to spearhead a city development strategy.
  • Rosario, Argentina and Ciudad Sur, Chile, which is seeking to improve joint service delivery, share a baseline and information system, and strengthen the political position of local governments and communities.
  • The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and Durban are providing hands-on advice on intergovernmental negotiations in the field of planning and local integrated development plans to Namibian cities and the Local Government Association of Namibia (ALAN).
The UCLG-Cities Alliance partnership has also supported the establishment of the UCLG Committee on Strategic Urban Planning, which has developed a global position of local governments on strategic planning and urban development. The Committee is presided over by the city of Rosario, Argentina, and the metropolitan municipality of eThekwini in Durban, South Africa.
The committee has been an active member in the Cities Alliance City Development Strategy Subgroup, an informal group established to create a conceptual framework that outlines the building blocks of a state-of-the-art city development strategy and is accessible to local authorities. The Cities Alliance Secretariat is expected to publish a discussion paper outlining the conceptual framework agreed on by the Subgroup later this year.
In addition, the Joint Work Programme has supported the development of a Policy Paper on strategic urban planning, which emphasises the role of local government in the planning process and provides valuable recommendations for a strategic planning framework crafted by the UCLG Committee.
Building on the Partnership with Learning Events
Building on the strategic urban planning activities undertaken through the Joint Work Programmes, UCLG has carried out workshops and learning events to facilitate existing mentorship programmes and pave the way for new partnerships. In June 2011, UCLG, the Municipal Institute of Learning (MILE) and eThekwini Municipality hosted the most recent learning exchange in the city of Durban, South Africa to capture the latest thinking about key issues.
Representatives from various cities in Africa, Europe and Latin America attended the event and shared their experiences related to five themes:
  • Vision, Inspiration and Leadership: Key Success Factors in Strategic Planning. Common messages covered as part of this theme included the need to move beyond short-term planning to a longer-term, strategic vision; the need for strong political and administrative leadership; the importance of partnerships among stakeholders; and the need for more knowledge sharing through city-to-city cooperation as well as dedicated institutional vehicles such as MILE.
  • Strategic Planning and the Social Inclusion Agenda. Presentations highlighted housing upgrading projects undertaken in Brazil, Malawi, and Chile with the goal of social inclusion. Strategic communication that builds a cohesive, collective understanding is especially important. Other key messages included the need for city planners to think about integrating large numbers of migrants and importance of cooperative governance.
  • Strategic Planning as a Tool for Economic Transformation. Through the diverse presentations, it became apparent that there is no clear understanding of economic transformation nor how it is measured. Other highlights included the need to deepen understanding of urban economies in order to enhance strategic planning; the benefits of multi-dimensional strategies; the importance of considering a city’s resilience, especially given the current global economic meltdown; and the need to distinguish between internal indicators for measuring cities and external indicators that focus on competitiveness.
  • Strategic Planning as a Tool for Spatial Transformation. There are three common sub-themes: urban renovation is fundamental, as creative quality living environments is an important precondition; regulation is an important notion in all cities, and having a documented plan is important from a donor point of view; and a reminder that planning shouldn’t be left exclusively to the planners – planners are there to advise, remind of technical issues, and create platforms for dialogue.
  • Strategic Planning and Financing Implementation. Five key areas were identified to unlock the value in cities. They are: every strategic plan needs a financial plan; cities need to prioritise the plan; cities need to know how to enhance funding options; creditworthiness is key; and, finally, the fact that growing informality cannot be escaped, and non-traditional solutions are needed.
In particular, presentations highlighted the learning potential from the Latin American experience with rapid urbanisation, especially Brazil, for African cities just beginning the process. One of the key messages Brazilian participants conveyed to their African counterparts was the importance of acting now to build inclusive cities. Brazil did not do so, and now finds itself in a situation where it has to retrofit many cities in an effort to include their poorest residents.
For more information about the learning event, please see the MILE website.