Municipal and urban development in development cooperation

Project details

Title: Sector project on urbanisation, municipal and urban development
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Global
Overall term: 2017 to 2020



Tomorrow’s world will be urban. At the start of the 20th century only 10 per cent of people worldwide lived in cities; today this number has risen to 55 per cent, and by 2050 it will have risen to more than 75 per cent, i.e. around seven billion people. The speed and scale of urbanisation creates huge global challenges: There are currently some 880 million people living in slums. Of the 65 million-plus refugees worldwide, two thirds migrate to urban centres. Cities are responsible for producing three quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet, cities also offer solutions and opportunities for a sustainable world, from mitigating climate change and fighting poverty to improving safety and equal opportunities. There, even small changes can have a great impact and reach large numbers of people. This is why shaping urbanisation is crucial to achieving global development goals, particularly those of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and the New Urban Agenda. Only with, through and in cities are these goals achievable. However, cities often lack the resources and capacities to adequately address the challenges involved.


The German development cooperation for municipal and urban development successfully implements the internationally agreed New Urban Agenda with its partners, in line with the 2030 Agenda, and effectively promotes international dialogue on implementing global agendas in and with cities.


The sector project provides advice to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) on mainstreaming sustainable urbanisation, urban and municipal development in German development cooperation. It also supports the development and implementation of a new BMZ strategy based on the latter’s three major objectives:

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

The project prepares methodologies, guidelines, and practical, thematic papers for the BMZ strategy’s areas of activity. To encourage sharing of knowledge on good practice, challenges and opportunities for sustainable urban development and local governance, among others, the sector project implements the multimedia weblog URBANET on behalf of the ministry.

The project supports the ministry in positioning a modern understanding of urban development in key international development policy processes, such as climate change negotiations and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition, it has been collaborating closely with strategic partners for many years, particularly the Cities Alliance, UN-Habitat, the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA) and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.

Together with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, it implements the C40 Cities Finance Facility (CFF). The purpose of this partnership is to assist cities in project preparation and setting up financing for climate-friendly projects, particularly through the deployment of local experts and consultants. For example, the CFF supports finding financing options for a cycle highway in Bogotá and for developing a fleet of electric buses in Mexico City. With the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, additional key donors have been attracted alongside BMZ.


The provision of comprehensive advisory services on developing and implementing the new BMZ strategy is improving the capability of German development cooperation to systematically and holistically address cross-sectoral issues in urban areas. Effective approaches to sustainable urban development are being distributed through conceptual work and dialogue with German and international partners and experts.

The continuous and close cooperation with key stakeholders and civil society in main development policy processes is serving to consolidate vital cooperation networks. This also fosters recognition and involvement of subnational and civil society actors in international policy-making processes. Regular collaboration at the biannual World Urban Forum, the largest conference on urbanisation and urban development in the world, is of central importance in this regard. On behalf of the German Government, the project organised a stand at the ninth World Urban Forum in 2018. Just as in previous years, this was a popular focal point for professional and institutional dialogue.

Through cooperation with the Cities Alliance, the project encourages the mainstreaming of a pro-poor urban development policy. This strengthens the right of disadvantaged social groups to participate in and access urban development and policy-making processes.

Due to improved access to financing instruments for the partner cities of the CFF, the considerable potential of cities is leveraged to reduce environmentally damaging greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen urban resilience. This also serves as a model for other cities.