Developing cities and regions

Developing cities and regions – shaping the future

Cities and regions are where global change happens. They are the cultural expression of the people who live there; they provide a reference point for local, regional and national actors and a stage for political and administrative action; they are an economic zone and a living environment. Our future depends on their sustainable transformation. Political and social participation, resource-saving management, environmental protection and poverty reduction can only be achieved in and with cities and regions. They require competent promotion, steering and management, participation and negotiation, reliable services and responsible institutions.

The majority of the human race now lives in urban areas. We see the rapid process of urbanisation as an opportunity to design ways for people to live in decent conditions and in harmony with the environment. We promote regionalisation with the aim of aligning opportunities in different areas and harnessing development potential.

Our partners are government institutions at various levels, associations, civil society and the private sector. We work on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), draw on know-how from Germany and throughout the world and work with these partners to find effective solutions.

More about urban and regional development


Inclusive and safe cities

In urban agglomerations, large sections of the population are facing worsening social, political and economic exclusion. Social injustice and a lack of prospects, combined with political and economic discrimination against entire groups, are reinforcing structural poverty and creating a breeding ground for violence.

Inclusive urban development, understood as both a guiding vision and a process, fosters social and economic justice and effective political participation. Urban poverty is multidimensional, and encompasses not only a lack of income, but also limited access to public services, limited options for action, and exclusion from opportunities to participate and influence processes. The ‘inclusive city’ approach responds to this complexity. It systematically addresses the causes and mechanisms of social, political and economic exclusion, and aims to prevent violence in urban zones.

To formulate urban development strategies and prevent urban violence, GIZ advocates inclusive and cross-sectoral approaches. We support national and subnational partner governments in developing strategies to prevent and reduce violence. Together with our partners, we jointly design and implement appropriate measures at the local level.


Resilient and resource-efficient cities and urban regions

Cities and urban regions are characterised by a heavy concentration of production activities, and an intensive use of resources by the industrial, transport and household sectors. As a result, they both create atmospheric, water and soil pollution, and suffer its impacts. This problem is exacerbated by the strong demand for land, the over-exploitation of resources, and untreated solid waste and sewage. Over the last few decades, the number of disasters triggered by extreme natural events has increased sharply. Cities are the main sources of climate change. Yet they are also the main players for implementing measures to prevent and mitigate its negative impacts. Cities and regions located in coastal zones, and the inhabitants of informal settlements, are particularly vulnerable.

GIZ promotes measures to increase resource efficiency and resilience in cities and regions . Together with public and civil society actors at the local and regional levels, we develop strategies and measures to minimise the negative impacts of climate change, and boost the ability of cities and regions to adapt. We promote integrated environmental management that enables cities and regions to plan their development on an environmentally sound and resource-efficient basis. We support cities and regions in creating the legal frameworks they need in order to achieve this, and in developing solutions to key ecological problems.


Responsive and well-governed cities

Within their territory, city administrations perform a large number of state functions. Their central duty is to ensure that citizens and businesses have access to appropriate infrastructure and services that meet their needs. This includes providing appropriate basic infrastructure for water supply and sanitation, solid waste management, roads and street lighting, energy and transport, and delivering social services, housing and commercial spaces. To enable them to perform these tasks, municipal administrations are entitled to raise taxes, and levy fees and other charges.

GIZ supports city administrations in developing their performance and management capacities, with a view to guaranteeing needs-based and equal access to public infrastructure and services for all citizens. Effective urban management is also an important factor in creating the frameworks needed for the environmentally sound economic development of a city and its region.

Our cooperation with city administrations is guided by the principle of good governance. This includes

  • Transparent budgeting
  • Legitimate state action
  • Accountability of decision-makers toward citizens
  • Inclusive urban development
  • Effective participation by the urban population in the city’s decision-making processes.

We thus support local administrations in deploying resources effectively in order to meet the needs of the population and deliver economic benefits to them.



Sustainable development of metropolitan regions

The dynamism of urbanisation worldwide is leading to processes of major economic, political and social change. Ninety-five per cent of urban growth is taking place in urban agglomerations in developing countries. Cities are being transformed into metropolitan regions or areas. These metropolitan regions are becoming both a model for living and a space for action. As hubs of the national and (to some extent) global economy, and as a force for technological, social and cultural innovation, metropolitan regions make a key contribution to sustainable development. At the same time, they build links between urban and rural zones for resource management, food security, migration and infrastructure.

To meet the growing challenges in inter-municipal and city-region relations around the world, GIZ is supporting national and subnational administrations. We aim to enable metropolitan regions to do their bit to generate innovations for sustainable growth, and provide particularly the poor sections of the population who live and work there with easier access to services and income-generating opportunities. By increasing resource efficiency, we also aim to help heavy consumers of natural resources become the makers of efficient infrastructure and supply systems. Last but not least, metropolitan regions must become effective governance systems that both respond to the many complex challenges of development, and discharge political and institutional responsibilities effectively and democratically.


Productive cities and regions

A large share of global economic output is generated in cities. The density of information and knowledge, institutions and services, diversity and creativity, as well as markets and labour makes cities attractive locations for businesses, and creates jobs. Local and regional economic development activities aim to harness this potential, and protect and improve income-generating and employment opportunities. Cities, municipalities and regions face increasing competition, both nationally and internationally, with regard to their quality of life and public revenues.

GIZ supports representatives of territorial authorities, the private sector and civil society in pursuing forward-looking, socially sound and environmentally safe development paths, and safeguarding and improving opportunities for citizens to generate income and find employment.

One important aspect is ensuring that economic growth is inclusive, and that local potential is utilised. It is especially important to involve marginalised sections of the population, particularly those employed in the informal sector, in local economic development measures. More than half of all gainfully employed persons worldwide work in the informal sector. Measures must pursue locally appropriate approaches to safeguard these people’s jobs, improve their working conditions and develop their potential.

With GIZ support, cities and regions are providing infrastructure and services that meet people’s actual needs. They are establishing cooperation arrangements with business associations and chambers of commerce, and shaping working and housing conditions. In so doing they are turning themselves into more attractive business locations, and improving their capacity to safeguard and develop existing economic structures. GIZ advises its partners on developing socially and environmentally sound frameworks.


Regional structural policy and spatial planning

Regional policy and planning aim to ensure that people in different regions of a country enjoy similar living conditions and equal opportunities for development. Regional policy is a key instrument used by the European Union (EU) to reduce regional disparities and promote social, economic and territorial cohesion. National and transboundary spatial planning policy creates enabling frameworks for the development of specific regions, for instance by providing infrastructure. It protects the future sustainability of vital natural resources. A balance between economic, ecological and socio-cultural concerns within and between regions is achieved by coordinating local, regional and supra-regional planning activities. This requires corresponding processes of negotiation between the levels.

We advise public administrations at the national and subnational levels on fiscal reforms for regional policy and development, regional management, regional economic development and inter-municipal cooperation. To strengthen links between urban and rural zones we support special purpose and regional associations, and promote regional development strategies and sustainable land-use planning. Here we also make use of our cooperation with German and international institutions such as the Council of European Municipalities and Regions.

We explicitly support EU neighbourhood countries in establishing regional policy that converges with EU policy.

Examples of our work


Demographics and Development

Numerous examples show that the distribution problems with resources essential to life, such as water and land, will intensify. Besides climate change, the cause lies in demographic processes.

Read more


Dr. Ute Böttcher

Advisory and service portfolio

Here you will find an overview of the technical and methodological services we offer.



Platform to foster the international dialogue on urbanisation and sustainable development