Promoting sustainable urbanisation and urban development around the world

Project details

Title: Sector Project Cities
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Global
Overall term: 2020 to 2023



Urbanisation is a global megatrend. Today, 55 per cent of the world’s population already live in cities. By 2050, this figure will have risen to more than three quarters – around seven billion people. Small and medium-sized cities in Africa and Asia, in particular, are growing rapidly. The speed and scale of urbanisation are especially challenging. 
It is assumed that 60 per cent of the infrastructure still needs to be built in order to shelter and provide for all urban dwellers by 2050. The related energy and resource consumption alone would produce about three quarters of the maximum global greenhouse gas emissions allowed under the Paris Agreement if we are to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

But towns and cities also offer a unique opportunity to overcome these challenges in an integrated manner. Even small changes in cities, be it climate change mitigation, fighting poverty or improving safety, can have a great impact and reach large numbers of people simultaneously. It is therefore essential to shape urbanisation with foresight and to promote sustainable urban development. Global development goals are only achievable with, through and in cities.


German development cooperation promotes socially equitable, climate-friendly and resilient urban development – especially in rapidly growing small and medium-sized cities.


The project provides advice to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) on mainstreaming sustainable urbanisation and integrated urban development in German development cooperation. It supports reforms within BMZ’s sustainable urban development field of action and develops core topics such as integrated urban development, sustainable building, municipal funding and climate change in cities. 

The project supports BMZ in the communication and dissemination of key ministry topics. To this end, it runs the URBANET blog where it reports on promising approaches, challenges and opportunities in sustainable urban development, local governance and decentralisation. It also stages the CitiesCHALLENGE 2.0 ideas competition, which identifies and tests innovative approaches to climate-friendly and socially inclusive urban development. The range of services also includes developing and providing advisory tools such as City WORKS. The project thus contributes to the integrated implementation of international agendas at the local level.

In order to implant a modern understanding of urban development in international processes, the project advises BMZ on climate negotiations and achievement of the development goals.

In doing so, it bases its work on the Ministry’s three major objectives:

  1. Cities have the capacity to take action and actively shape sustainable development.
  2. Cities are liveable for everyone.
  3. Urban development takes place within our planet’s ecological limits.

The objectives should be mainstreamed in German development cooperation as well as internationally. To this end, the project has for many years been collaborating closely with partners like the Cities Alliance, UN-Habitat, the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance and with the cities associations such as the ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainablity (ICLEI). The Netzwerk zu Nachhaltigem Bauen network, which develops cooperation opportunities with members of the German private sector and research, bears mentioning as well. The project also helps position Germany at international conferences like the World Urban Forum, the world’s most important conference on urbanisation and urban development.

Last updated: March 2021

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